President Trump on Wednesday unveiled a new slate of 20 potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees, pledging to nominate one of those names listed if the opportunity arises to fill a third and possibly fourth vacancy if re-elected a second term.
In the last-minute press conference Wednesday afternoon unveiling the names of his new judicial appointments, Trump called the nomination of a Supreme Court justice as "the most important decision an American president can make."
"Apart from matters of war and peace, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American President can make," Trump said in a brief remark from the Diplomatic Reception Room. "For this reason, candidates for President owe the American people a specific list of the individuals they consider for the United States Supreme Court."
"Over the next four years, America's president will choose hundreds of federal judges and in all likelihood, one, two three and even four Supreme Court justices," Trump added. "The outcome of these decisions will determine whether we hold fast to our nation's founding principles or whether they are lost forever."
Trump called on his Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden to publicly release the list of names of the "extremely far-left" picks he would nominate, so the American voters can "properly make a decision as to how they will vote" in less than 60 days.
"Joe Biden has refused to release his list, perhaps because he knows the names are so extremely far left that they could never withstand public scrutiny or receive acceptance," Trump said. "He must release a list of justices for people to properly make a decision on how they will vote. It's very important that he do so."
Biden has declined to unveil his own list of potential nominees, brushing this topic off in June by saying his campaign is compiling a shortlist of potential picks "who are qualified and have the experience to be on the court," but would not release their names "until we go further down the line in vetting them," while only promising to appoint a Black woman to the court.
"We look forward to Donald Trump releasing his tax returns in the spirit of his newfound appreciation for transparency," Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo said in response to Trump's announcement.
The president also warned of a "growing radical left movement" if able to be granted the majority of the Supreme Court would "fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress."
"Radical justices will erase the Second Amendment, silence political speech, and require taxpayers to fund extreme late-term abortion," Trump warned. "They will give unelected bureaucrats that power to destroy millions of American jobs. They will remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. They will unilaterally declare the death penalty unconstitutional, even for the most depraved mass murderers. They will erase national borders, cripple police departments, and grant new protections to anarchists, rioters, violent criminals, and terrorists."
The 20 names are additional nominees added to the original list that have been updated throughout the last three and a half years of Trump's presidency. The list was first created in May 2016 with 11 names shortly after Trump was declared the presumptive Republican nominee. A few months later, in September 2016 Trump added 10 more names to the list, including Justice Neil Gorsuch. After being elected, Trump the following year in November 2017 added another five names to the original list, bring the total to 25 names of potential prospects, including the two justices confirmed during his presidency, Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Among the potential nominees listed includes three sitting Republican Senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Josh Hawley of Missouri, as well as five current or former members of his administration. The list is mostly composed of federal appeals and district court judges that are mostly gender and ethnically diverse, with six of the 20 Trump named are women, two are Latino descent, and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, who is Black.
Cruz quickly issued statements, saying he was "grateful for the president's confidence in me," while Cotton wrote on Twitter, "It's time for Roe v. Wade to go."
However, Hawley declined the offer, tweeting he has "no interest in the high court," adding "I look forward to confirming constitutional conservatives."
"I appreciate the President's confidence in listing me as a potential Supreme Court nominee. But as I told the President, Missourians elected me to fight for them in the Senate, and I have no interest in the high court. I look forward to confirming constitutional conservatives," Hawley wrote.
The issue of a potential Supreme Court vacancy has been a mute topic throughout the 2020 campaign, despite the frequent health scares from liberal darling Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. However, a Pew Research Center poll released last month found that Supreme Court appointments ranked third as one of the top issues for voters in general, with 66 percent of Biden supporters saying they were "very important" to their votes and 61 percent of Trump supporters saying the same.
The full list of Trump's additional potential picks includes as follows:
Bridget Bade of Arizona, judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Daniel Cameron of Kentucky, that state's attorney general
Paul Clement of Virginia, former U.S. solicitor general
Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas
Stuart Kyle Duncan of Louisiana, judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Steven Engel of the District of Columbia, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice
Noel Francisco, former U.S. solicitor general
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri
James Ho of Texas, judge on the 5th Circuit
Gregory Katsas of Virginia, judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals
Barbara Lagoa, a judge from Florida on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Christopher Landau of Maryland, United States Ambassador to Mexico
Carlos Muñiz of Florida, justice on the Supreme Court of Florida
Martha Pacold of Illinois, judge on the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
Peter Phipps of Pennsylvania, judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals
Sarah Pitlyk of Missouri, judge on the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri
Allison Jones Rushing of North Carolina, judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals
Kate Todd of Virginia, deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president
Lawrence VanDyke of Nevada, judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.