Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was sworn into office yesterday at a White House ceremony, and Donald Trump took a few moments to tell assembled guests how impressed he was with himself
"I've always heard that the most important thing that a president of the United States does is appoint people -- hopefully great people like this appointment -- to the United States Supreme Court. And I can say this is a great honor. And I got it done in the first 100 days -- that's even nice. You think that's easy?"
Trump's 100th day in office is coming right up -- it'll fall on April 29, two weeks from Saturday -- and the White House is reportedly feeling a little antsy
about how little this president has accomplished, especially compared to some of the historic first 100 days from some of the giants of American history. The fact that Trump is tying Gorsuch's confirmation to his own first 100 days is no coincidence.But the president's question need not be rhetorical. Trump believes he "got it done," and it wasn't "easy." Is that right?The fact that Senate Republicans had to use the so-called "nuclear option," changing the institution's rules in order to get Gorsuch onto the bench, obviously means this wasn't an easy process. Indeed, the fact that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had to execute a 14-month scheme, with no precedent in the American tradition, effectively stealing a high court vacancy from one administration in order to hand it to another, reinforces the complexity of this dynamic.But what rankles is the president's boast: "I got it done in the first 100 days." I'm sure it made Trump feel nice to say this, but let's not forget that Trump didn't actually do any real work
.Conservative activists helped the Trump campaign put together a list of possible justices before the election; the White House chose a name from that list after the election; and then Senate Republicans used their majority to do all the heavy lifting. As accomplishments go, the president spent vastly more time golfing and tweeting about stuff he saw on television than shepherding Neil Gorsuch through the confirmation process.As for the audience that heard Trump's curious boast, Slate
's Mark Joseph Stern had a good piece
noting one of the attendees at yesterday's event in the Rose Garden.
Neil Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court was made possible in part by the Judicial Crisis Network, which spent $17 million lobbying to keep Merrick Garland off the bench -- and to get Gorsuch on it. Where did all that money come from? We don't know, because it was almost entirely dark money, funneled through a Koch-allied conduit that keeps its donors secret. But the JCN isn't entirely anonymous: It has a public face in Carrie Severino, the group's chief counsel and policy director. Severino essentially served as Gorsuch's lobbyist, throwing money around to ensure his confirmation. Like many lobbyists, she enjoys the access to power that her job affords her.Indeed, Severino attended Gorsuch's swearing-in ceremony at the White House Rose Garden on Monday morning.Severino's presence at Monday's ceremony serves as a startling reminder that Gorsuch's path to the Supreme Court was facilitated by dark money.
The fact that Mitch McConnell is one of Congress' fiercest opponents of campaign-finance reform puts a nice little bow on the entire affair.