There are few things that really drive the point just how crucial the 2016 election was than to look at what Trump has accomplished with the judiciary. In just under three years, President Trump has, the Washington Post notes, “remade the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative tilt for decades and cementing his legacy no matter the outcome of November’s election.”
In addition to having two nominees on the Supreme, Trump nominees now make up 1 of every 4 U.S. circuit court judges. Thirteen district court judges were confirmed by the Senate in the past week alone. Trump has succeeded in revamping the infamously liberal 9th circuit, which is now, as PJM’s Jeff Reynolds noted, “a whisker away from” from having a majority of Republican-nominated justices. Three circuit courts have flipped to conservative majorities under Trump.
In all, there are 187 Trump-appointed judges in the judiciary.
The 13 circuit courts are the second most powerful in the nation, serving as a last stop for appeals on lower court rulings, unless the case is taken up by the Supreme Court. So far, Trump has appointed 50 judges to circuit court benches. Comparatively, by this point in President Obama’s first term, he had confirmed 25. At the end of his eight years, he had appointed 55 circuit judges.
Trump’s appointments have flipped three circuit courts to majority GOP-appointed judges, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York. The president has also selected younger conservatives for these lifetime appointments, ensuring his impact is felt for many years.
While Senator Mitch McConnell is technically the architect of this conservative takeover of the judiciary, he should share credit with former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who, in 2013, nuked the filibuster, and changed the rules preventing Republicans from filibustering judicial nominations.
“You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think,” McConnell said about the rules change. And boy was he right. Republicans won control of the U.S. Senate in 2014, and still have that majority.
If Trump wins in November, there are two potential vacancies that could occur during his second term, both Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer are Clinton-appointed justices who are over 80 years old. Ginsburg has had a series of health issues recently that have raised doubts about how much longer she’ll be on the court.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis