The three big networks have been extremely resistant to credit Donald Trump with any policy success. So it was rather surprising to see CBS This Morning on Wednesday tout the President’s “huge impact” in filling the courts with “conservative powerhouses.” Reporter Jan Crawford explained a low key success that has been flying under the media’s radar.
Crawford marveled that, regarding the federal judiciary, Trump has “already made a lasting impact.” She added, “He's put one justice on the Supreme Court. Nearly two dozen judges on the lower courts and that is just in year one.”
Co-host John Dickerson laid out the stark difference in Trump vs. Obama on judges: “With help from the Republicans in the Senate, the President won confirmation for 23 federal judges including a Supreme Court justice, 12 circuit court judges and 10 district court judges.” Dickerson concluded, “That one year total is far more than the number President Obama appointed at this point his presidency.”
Crawford offered language usually reserved for when journalists are excited about a liberal accomplishment: “On the appeals courts, the new judges are highly credentialed conservative powerhouses.”
Another group not often mentioned by the networks is that of the conservative Federalist Society. Executive Vice President Leonard Leo is advising on judges. He noted, “The President made it very clear the kind of people he was going to nominate and that's what he's delivering.”
Of course, Crawford also included Democratic fretting from liberal Senators Chris Coons, Dick Durbin and Elizabeth Warren. Warren worried, “The goal is not to get just a few ultra-conservative judges on our federal court. It's to capture the entire judicial branch.”
But, on balance, the segment frankly acknowledged a presidential success. That’s something not often seen on the networks. On ABC’s Good Morning America, Wednesday, the network ignored parent company Disney giving out bonuses because of the Trump tax cuts.
A transcript is below:
CBS This Morning
CBS Graphic: Presidential Benchmarks: Judicial Appointments Leave Lasting Impact on Court System
JOHN DICKERSON: President Trump is already making a huge impact on the nation’s courts, just one year into his term. With help from the Republicans in the Senate, the president won confirmation for 23 federal judges including a Supreme Court justice, 12 circuit court judges and 10 district court judges. That one year total is far more than the number President Obama appointed at this point his presidency. Jan Crawford is outside the Supreme Court. Jan, good morning.
JAN CRAWFORD: Good morning, John. You know, a Supreme Court nomination, I mean, that can be a President's most lasting legacy. Although President Trump has had a contentious relationship at times with the federal judiciary, he's already made a lasting impact. He's put one justice on the Supreme Court. Nearly two dozen judges on the lower courts and that is just in year one. When President Trump nominated judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, he delivered on a key campaign promise, to replace the late justice Antonin Scalia with a solid conservative.
DONALD TRUMP: You've got to go for Trump. Supreme Court justices.
CRAWFORD: In 2016, 56 percent of Republican voters said the Supreme Court was the most important factor in their support for Donald Trump. But the White House is also making its mark on the lower courts where the president is looking to fill 145 vacancies nationwide.
LEONARD LEO (The Federalist Society Exec VP): What the President's doing with the courts is truly transformative.
CRAWFORD: Leonard Leo is an outside adviser to the President on judges and helps lead the conservative Federalist Society.
LEO: These are people who believe in self-government, that most of the big issues need to be decided by the people and their elected representatives.
CRAWFORD: There have been missteps at the district court level.
SENATOR JOHN KENNEDY: Have you ever tried a jury trial?
MATTHEW SPENCER PETERSEN: I have not.
CRAWFORD: Two of the president's nominees were forced to withdraw over questions about their qualifications. But on the appeals courts, the new judges are highly credentialed conservative powerhouses. What you'd expect from a traditional Republican president. Democrats say it’s not their qualifications, but their philosophy that could lead to a roll back Critics say it's their philosophy that could lead to a rollback of civil rights.
SENATOR CHRIS COON: An alarming trend of more and more extreme judicial candidates.
SENATOR RICHARD DURBIN: We’ve seen President Trump nominate people far outside of the judicial mainstream.
ELIZABETH WARREN: The goal is not to get just a few ultra conservative judges on our federal court. It's to capture the entire judicial branch.
CRAWFORD: Leo says the judicial battle show elections have consequences.
LEO: The President made it very clear the kind of people he was going to nominate, and that's what he's delivering.
CRAWFORD: Now, with Republicans in control of the Senate, filling those 145 vacancies, clearly it's within reach, but if Democrats take back the Senate, that could complicate things, especially if another justice retires while President Trump is still in office. Gayle?