Remarks on Federal Judicial Nomination Milestones
The President. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. We have another big record stock market day and another record in the stock market in the history of our country, which, to me, means jobs and a lot of other things. We're doing really well, and I just wanted to let you know. I think it's the 119th day that we've set a record. So that's good stuff.
So, good afternoon, and thank you all for being here as we celebrate a profoundly historic milestone and a truly momentous achievement. Thanks to many of the people here today, my administration and Republicans in Congress have now confirmed more than 150 Federal judges. And, to be honest with you, it's substantially higher right now than that, Mitch. It's about 159. And we should have, within the next short period of time—like 2 months—we should have about 182 Federal judges. How's that? [Applause] Good? Good?
And I say often: Percentage-wise, you'll never beat one man. And we know who that is, right? George Washington. One hundred percent. [Laughter] But in terms of, I'd like to say, quality and quantity, we are going to be, I think, just about number one by the time we finish—number one of any President, any administration. So I want to thank all of you for the incredible job you've done. That's really fantastic. Thank you very much. That's a big statement.
And they will uphold our Constitution as written. These distinguished men and women are some of the most gifted scholars, respected jurists, and finest legal minds ever placed on the Federal bench. Together, we are restoring American freedom, defending American justice, preserving the extraordinary vision of our Founding Fathers.
We are delighted to be joined on this special occasion by Vice President Mike Pence. Thank you, Mike, very much. Thank you, Mike. And Attorney General Bill Barr. Thank you, Bill.
I want to thank some real friends of mine too—and warriors, I have to say. Warriors. We have a lot of great warriors in our party. And it's—[laughter]—I think it's necessary, frankly, to be a warrior. [Laughter] If you're not, you've got a problem, right?
But I want to thank Chairman Lindsey Graham. Lindsey, thank you very much. Great. A very special man, a man that's so popular in his State, I don't even think they're going to run anybody against him anymore—they've given that up—Chuck Grassley. Right, Chuck?
And also with us are Senator John Cornyn. I looked at your polls. Nobody is beating you, John. Nobody. [Laughter] And you don't have to worry about Beto anymore, that's for sure. [Laughter] From Texas. He doesn't like guns, religion, or oil. [Laughter] He knocked out all three categories. Somehow, in Texas, that won't work. I don't think that works anywhere, Josh. What do you think? That doesn't work anywhere. Good.
John Cornyn. Mike Lee. Mike, thank you very much. Senator Ted Cruz—also Texas. Thank you, Senator. Thanks, Ted. Senator Thom Tillis. Thom, thank you very much. Senator Ben Sasse. Ben. Great. Great to have you, Ben. And Senator Marsha Blackburn. Marsha, thank you. Great job you're doing. And Josh Hawley, our young star. He's a young star. Thank you, Josh. Thank you. Great job, everybody.
In addition, the Nation owes an immense debt of gratitude to a man whose leadership has been instrumental to our success. It's so important to him. And that's—he always mentions it—number-one point. I've always heard, actually, that when you become President, the most—single most important thing you can do is Federal judges. They say Supreme Court judges, but we have them too. But Federal judges. And you know, based on that, I think there's nobody that's done a better job ever than Senator Mitch McConnell. [Applause] True. True. Stand up, Mitch. Stand up. Come on. Stand up.
You know, I always get up, and I talk about the economy, the economy. I'm always talking. They never write about it, but that's okay. [Laughter] The people get it. But Mitch will then follow me; he'll talk about judges, always. And it's great what you've done. Incredible. The impact is truly amazing. Thank you very much.
We also, as you know, we have two great Supreme Court judges, so that's in addition to what will be 182 judges. And then, we go by what I call normalization, after you get 182. But our Supreme Court judges are great gentlemen. It was so easy to get them confirmed, right? [Laughter] One in particular. Nobody has ever had to go through that. And I have great respect for both of them. So we appreciate it, Mitch. Great job.
Generations from now, Americans will know that Mitch McConnell helped save the constitutional rule of law in America. It's true. It's for a long time.
I also want to thank Pat Cipollone and his phenomenal team at the White House Counsel's Office, along with our Office of Legal Policy. Where is Pat? Where is Pat? Stand up, Pat. Come on. He's the strong, silent type. Strong. He's very strong, silent. Great job you've done. Very great. I'd always—I always wanted to be the strong, silent type, but it never worked out for me, Lindsey. [Laughter] Never worked out. I wanted to be, but it doesn't seem to work that way.
But the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice and the many friends and legal luminaries who have supported all of those nominees and to all of the rest of you in the room—some incredible people in this room, great friends.
In their great wisdom and genius, the Framers of the Constitution separated Government power into three branches. Congress writes the laws. The executive enforces the law. And the judicial branch provides an impartial interpretation of the law as it applies to any case before them. This system was designed to protect citizens against the unjust concentration of governmental power.
And I do say, I think we're going through a very interesting time right now, if you must know. More interesting than at most other times. When judges assume the role of a legislature, the rights of all citizens are threatened. The great English jurist, William Blackstone, warned that if the judicial power were "joined with the legislative, then life, liberty, and property . . . would be in the hands of arbitrary judges whose decisions would be then regulated only by their opinion, and not by any fundamental principles of law."
In other words, the impartial and objective judge, who is a faithful servant of the law, is essential to the survival of American liberty. So it's really something. It's really something that you've all done. This is such a big moment in our history.
And I think what I'm going to do is, as we go along, I'm going to ask a couple of you to say a few words, if that's okay, because I think it's appropriate. It wasn't in the schedule, but I think it's very appropriate to have a few speak. You have to promise it's going to be very quick and short—[laughter]—because the media won't stand for anything else. [Laughter] But I would like to get your views. I think it would be very interesting for all of us.
In recent decades, our system has been under relentless attack by the left-wing activists who want to take the powers of the elected branches and give that power to unelected Federal judges. They want to impose by judicial decree what they failed to win at the ballot box. Does that sound familiar to anybody? [Laughter] That's really familiar. When judges write policy instead of applying the law, they impose sweeping changes on millions of Americans without the benefit of legislative debate, public rulemaking, or the consent of the governed. As a result, these highly political rulings inflict painful damage on our security, society, and economy, imposing unworkable edicts on businesses, workers, families, and law enforcements, really, alike. They give many, many bad nights to many, many people, including Presidents. [Laughter] Including Presidents. But we power through it. We have no choice.
I will do everything in my power to halt judicial activism and to ensure the law is upheld equally, fairly, and without political prejudice for all of our citizens.
So I'd like to—before going any further, I'd like to maybe start off—I think it would be appropriate if we start off with Mitch to just say a couple of words and how he feels about where we are and what we're doing.
And we're going to go through a couple of our friends, if you don't mind. And to me, it will be very interesting.
Mitch? Mitch McConnell. Thanks.
Senate Majority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell. Well, Mr. President, I'm reminded of election night, when I realized that not only had you won, but we had taken the House, we'd held the Senate, and this was going to be one of those unusual periods where Republicans had all three branches. To show you how unusual that is, you go back 100 years, only about 20 of the last 100 years has our Party had all three.
So we got a chance to set the agenda, a chance, an opportunity to move the ball in the right direction. What's the most important thing? Clearly, it was the Supreme Court. You had been helped enormously by a decision that I made—and these guys will back me up—not to let President Obama fill that Scalia vacancy on the way out the door.
And, boy, you didn't blow it. Neil Gorsuch is an all-star, isn't he?
The President. Great.
Majority Leader McConnell. And the President alluded to that easy confirmation we had with Brett Kavanaugh. You made a great choice, Mr. President. And it's not just that. The Circuit Courts, where 99 percent of litigation stops, are full of bright, young men and women who believe in the quaint notion that maybe the job of a judge is to follow the law.
And so, Mr. President, this is one of the many ways you're helping to make America great again. Thank you so much.
The President. Thank you very much, Mitch. You know, it is true, when I first came to office, because of what I said before, that I've always heard how important it is the choice of judges and the number of judges. And in my first day, I said to one of our assistants: "How many judges do I have to pick? How many are there?" And I figured I'd hear none or one, maybe two. They said, "Sir, you have 142." I said: "No, no, no, tell me truth. I want the truth, not a"—[laughter]. That was it. And I say: Thank you, President Obama, very much. [Laughter]
But it was 142 empty slots. And nobody can believe that, and I couldn't believe it and didn't believe it. But now I believe it because now we've got so many approved, and we're going to hit that magic number. And then, it's going to be a lot more from there, because you do have a lot of, through normalization, leaving and other reasons; retiring. I never want to mention the "D" word. The "death" word. I won't mention death. [Laughter] But that happens too. But we're going to be picking up a lot.
A man that I have a lot of respect for and everybody does, in the Senate: Chuck Grassley. Come up and say a couple of words, Chuck. Come on up here. Senator Charles E. Grassley. Now, like I tell my colleagues: If I yell, I'm not mad at you. [Laughter] If I—let me say what set the stage for this, before any of us had anything to do with this.
You ran on a platform that no other President has run on, to tell the type of people that you were going to put on the Supreme Court and name 20 or 25 people, and that list is still out there, and it's made up of just the kind of people that Mitch McConnell has talked about—you've talked about—people that are constitutionalists. And you kept your word. And 20 percent of the people voted for you based on the proposition of the kind of people you were going to put on the Supreme Court.
So a lot of candidates for any office run on a platform, but they don't stand on that platform. And I think what's important about not only the judges that you have appointed—along the lines of what you promised the people you were going to appoint—but also a lot of other issues that you stand for. And the people of this country ought to be complimented that we have a President that said he was going to run on a platform and he stands on that platform. And you have particularly done it with judges.
The President. He's great. Thank you. You know, he's got this fierce way about him. He's tough even when he's trying to be nice. Like now he's—[laughter]—but I heard that voice.
I shouldn't say this, but he looked—during one of the big events in the United States Senate—he looked at a guy named Comey. He said, "Did you leak?" And he was being nice. [Laughter] And Comey choked. He didn't know what to say. He was so frightened of this guy. [Laughter] He choked. I want them to start looking that stuff up, by the way, please. Please, look it up. A lot of choke there.
Another man who's been incredible and he's been a friend of mine for a long time. We actually competed against each other. He wasn't at all nice during the campaign. [Laughter] And who would have thought we would have become good friends, right? Who would have thought? But we did. And I can say the same for Ted, right? Well, we were good friends and then really bad. [Laughter] They said, "When will it get bad?"
The media—it's like the Academy Awards; look at all the media—before, when it was successful. It died when they went after us, okay? The Academy Awards. Regular—just a regular program now.
But I said, "Ted and I get along good." In fact, he was having a big event near the White House, and he wanted to get more people, so he invited me. He said, "Can you come?" I said, "You know, we're running against each other." This is true. And the press said, "Well, you two guys are actually campaigning together, and yet you're fighting each other for the nomination?" And I said: "That's right. We like each other. We get along great." I think he's great. We both had a—this incredible relationship. I said, "But, don't worry, it will end." [Laughter] "And when it ends, it will be really bad, probably worse than normal."
And it was vicious for about 4 months, but then we have a great relationship again. It was a pretty bad one for a little while, right? [Laughter] They didn't even think how bad it would get. But it has been; it's been great, Ted.
Lindsey, I'd like to have you come up and say a few words. You've been terrific. Thank you very much.
Senator Lindsey O. Graham. Thank you. Well, in theory, at 4 o'clock, we're going to vote on two more judges. [Laughter] So I'll move this thing forward. [Laughter]
So after I got beat like a dog—which he likes hearing—he called me over to the White House and said, "I'd like you to help me." I said, "I'd love to help you be a great President, because you're now my President." And he says, "I don't have your phone number." And I said, "There's a reason for that." [Laughter] So the highlight of my campaign was when you gave out my phone number. If I did as well as my phone number, it might have been a different story. [Laughter]
To the committee, thank you. The Judiciary Committee is not for the faint of heart. Our Democratic friends are tough. They believe in their causes, and we have to fight hard for our causes.
But one thing I want to say about President Trump: The defining moment of your Presidency, for me, was the Kavanaugh hearing. This room would be empty if we had failed Brett Kavanaugh. Brett Kavanaugh lived a life we should all be proud of. He worked hard. And the way he was treated was the worst experience I've had in politics. A lot of people would have pulled the plug on him. Mr. President, thank you for not pulling the plug on Brett Kavanaugh.
And let me tell you why I support it. Who would have been, after Brett—if he had went down—what conservative, young lawyer would want to go through this if we had failed Brett Kavanaugh? So Chuck was right: When you run and you get reelected a year from now, one of the main reasons is that people in the conservative world believe that you fight for judges. God bless you.
The President. Thank you very much. Very nice. But we can say that for everybody here. We had—I don't think any of—look, I know you all very well. I don't think anybody had any thoughts of doing anything different, at least in this group, I will say. And that includes Mike. At that time, we didn't know Bill. He wasn't involved. Came into—you came at a good time, Bill. That was a tough time. [Laughter]
But you know what? Nobody in this group—I will say though—and you know this and Mitch knows this—there were plenty of other people that were saying, "Let's go to, maybe, another choice." And they didn't say it so nicely. And they're people that you know very well. They're people that you work with every day. But I can tell you—I know every one of you very well, and there was nobody that, I think, even thought about it in this group, right? So not anybody.
And that starts with Mitch, because you never gave me the call and said, "Maybe we can do it an easier way." But I told Brett Kavanaugh, I picked him. And he was—10 years ago, they were talking about him. I would hear that he would be someday a Supreme Court Justice. That was before I was in this wonderful life of politics. [Laughter] I could enjoy my life and think about all sorts of things. And they would say that Brett Kavanaugh is going to be a Supreme Court judge.
And anyway, he was on the list. Leonard Leo, thank you for being here. We had a list that you worked on very hard and others. And it did have an impact. It really did have an impact on the election, if you think about it, because people knew me very well, but they didn't know: "Is he liberal, conservative? Who are the judges or not?" I hear so much about, "But who are your judges?" And I did come up with an idea to pick 20 and 25 people. Ultimately, it was 25. And we put great people on. And we have great people on there right now. We have 23 left, right? Great people. Every one of them is terrific.
But I went with this list. And at first, I said: "I will take this list"—gave the names—"and I will pick people. I will pick people"—do you remember this, Lindsey?—"that are like these people." And I got nowhere. Nobody believed me. They said, "What does that mean, 'like these people'?" I said, "No, they'll be like these people." And I was being hammered. They said: "Say it. Say it, President"—to a potential President. I said, "Okay, it will only be these people." And that's what we have, and that's where it is. And they were just so respected as a group and still are. That's an incredible group of people. I could take anyone, literally. And that had a big impact.
But I said to Brett Kavanaugh—I said: "So, Brett, you're the one. You're the one." He was so honored. He said, "Sir, this is the greatest day of my life." And I said: "I just want to congratulate you. It's an amazing thing that I'm doing it and that you're receiving it." He said, "Sir, thank you very much." I said, "Brett, let me tell you something: This approval process that you're going to go through will be so fast and so easy." [Laughter] "You're perfect. Perfect life. Perfect family. Perfect education. Top scholar. Best schools. Brett, this is going to be so easy." Little did he know. [Laughter] Little did he know.
But I'll tell you what: It really represented something. It represented unfairness. And some of those people that came forward—to my way of thinking, all of those people that came forward—I thought it was disgraceful what happened. And I want to thank all of my Republican colleagues for standing up tall for a man who really didn't deserve what he went through. Nobody could have believed a thing like that could have happened to a man like that, and you could almost say to anybody, because nobody has ever seen anything—nobody has ever seen anything like it.
But he hung in strong too. He also hung in strong. You know, there were plenty of people, I'm sure, that say, "You've got to cut yourself loose." He didn't want to do that.
So it was a very important day, Lindsey. And you were a big part of it. I think your ratings went from about 50 to about 82, as I see them now, Lindsey. Eighty-two with one little speech that lasted—he made one speech, Bill. One little, few remarks that lasted for about a minute, and they were historic. They really were. They were historic. The delivery, the words, the whole thing was very important. And what you did was something very special. So thank you very much. So important.
From the beginning of my campaign, I promised to appoint judges who will adhere to the true and original meaning of our Constitution. This afternoon that promise was made, and that promise was kept, and I think many times over.
Later today the Senate will vote on our 158th new judge. And that's why I'm let—I'm going to let you get out of here so quick. [Laughter] Of course, if you're not there, I guess, Mitch, nothing is going to happen, so it doesn't matter, right? So I'll keep you a little bit long.
But we will have confirmed, as I said, 112 judges to the Federal district courts, 44 judges to the Federal Circuit Courts, and 2 outstanding judges to the United States Supreme Court. And that number is rapidly rising.
Now, one out of every four circuit judges currently on the bench was appointed by this administration. And that number has now exceeded that by quite a bit. No President in history has confirmed as many Circuit Court judges even close—not even close—in such a short period of time. The average age of my newly appointed Circuit Court judges is less than 50. They're young, smart. That's 10 years younger than President Obama's nominees.
The pace of appointments is only accelerating. It's going very quickly. And then, it—you know, at some point, we're going to have to slow it down, because we're not going to have any—any openings. You know that. But we'll find them. [Laughter] We'll find them. We'll find them. Would you like to add a few judges? That wouldn't be a bad idea. How about adding another hundred or so? [Laughter] We'll be able to fill them.
But we're on track to have more judges confirmed this year than in the prior 2 years combined, for us. And it will be a record in history—a record, the number of judges that we're getting in just a short period of time. Once all pending nominations are confirmed, I will have appointed about 219 judges. And that number will go up very substantially from then.
But the more gains we make, the more aggressive the hard-left has become. I probably shouldn't even be making this speech right now. I'm just driving them crazy. They'll go back, and they'll have even more craziness than they've had in the last 3 years. Can you imagine? Three years, already. It's 3 years. Who could believe it? Almost. In fact, in 2 days less than a year, we'll be fighting an election. And we actually had a very big night last night. We had some tremendous results last night. And I'll be leaving for Louisiana. I think we're going to have a great result in Louisiana.
But one of their favorite new tactics is the nationwide injunction. This very destructive practice enables any one of 673 district judges to single-handedly invalidate critical executive actions and stop the enforcement of duly enacted law. We've had it many times, especially when it comes to our border. And when you see what's going on on the other side of the border, people are starting to say: "You know, maybe he is right about the wall. And maybe he is right about having a very strong border."
The other side wants open borders, which brings tremendous crime. And now people are starting to see it. A lot of people have told me that over the last couple of days. They're starting to get the border thing. The activist left only needs to find one partisan "resistance" judge anywhere in the country to agree with them.
On perhaps no issue have these District Court injunctions been more brazen and damaging than in the area of immigration. In case after case, judges are prohibiting us from enforcing the plain letter of the law. And you know that better than anybody, the people in this room.
For example, Federal law authorities expedited removal of illegal aliens apprehended within two years of entry, but a District Court judge declared the law could only be applied to illegal aliens caught within 14 days. That's a tiny group of people. Just a small fraction of what the law expressly allows.
In the words of the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia, whose son—thank you very much for the approval—Gene is now our Secretary of Labor. He's a great, great young guy. "A good judge must suppress his personal views and must decide each case as the law dictates, not as he would have resolved the matter if he had drafted the law." We have a lot of them looking at it as if they had drafted the law; let's create brandnew law.
Justice Scalia was correct: If Federal judges want to write the law, they should run for Congress. Let them run for office. You think this is easy? It's not easy. It's not easy. It's not easy, fellas, is it? Huh? It's nasty. [Laughter] Nobody told me it was going to be this nasty. But that's what they have to do. Let them run for office, and let them do what they're supposed to do. Let them do the job the way it's meant to be.
In recent years, the left-wing assault on our Constitution has also become a personal assault on the nominees themselves. It's nasty out there. And you're right, Lindsey: One of the reasons it was so important was that people watched this, and they don't want us giving up on them. They don't want us, "Oh, let's take the next one down the pike." That would have been easier, by the way. It would have been much easier. But they don't want to see that.
Nominees have been attacked in hearings for their religious beliefs. Our entire Nation was stunned by the cruel campaign of lies and slander and abuse that was hurled at Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But we refused to cave in. And the left-wing mob—we will never, ever allow that to happen, where we give up, where we cave in, even if it's, by far, the easy decision to make. When it comes to defending our freedom, Republicans will not back down. We will never, ever give up. While I'm your President, we will continue to nominate highly qualified judges who truly love our Constitution. And I know that Leader McConnell and Chairman Graham are absolutely committed to getting them confirmed quickly. And they have been going quickly. Of course, I'd like to get some other people confirmed too, please. [Laughter] Some of the other people. Mitch would say, "Well, we've got to do the judges first." And I always agree with him. I have a lot of people waiting over there, but he says, "I want those judges." And I agree with him.
Every judge we have placed on the bench will hear thousands of cases over their careers. They will ensure equal justice for every party before them, regardless of age, race, income, religion, beliefs, or background. And they will safeguard the birthright of liberty that belongs to every man, woman, child in our land.
But it is not merely their responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution. It's our responsibility as well. Every American shares that glorious duty we have inherited as citizens of the greatest and most exceptional country the world has ever known. And we have to keep our country as the greatest the world has ever known, because that great title can end if we are foolish and if we make mistakes. You see what's happening. You see what's going on. You see the statements that are made and the ideas being put forward. It would no longer be a great country, certainly not for very long.
For the sake of our families, our children, and generations of Americans yet unborn, we will fight with all of our heart and soul to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States and the immortal rights given to us by Almighty God.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 3:28 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to former Rep. Robert F. "Beto" O'Rourke; James B. Comey, Jr., former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation; Leonard A. Leo, executive vice president, the Federalist Society; and Ketanji Brown Jackson, judge, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Sen. Graham referred to Danielle J. Hunsaker, nominee to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and William J. Nardini, nominee to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks on Federal Judicial Nomination Milestones Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/335017