In a move that should surprise no one, President Donald Trump is reportedly bringing the two expected finalists for Justice Antonin Scalia’s Supreme Court seat to Washington to create a sense of intrigue ahead of Tuesday’s primetime reveal.
Or “to build suspense,” as CNN’s Pamela Brown put it in her report on Tuesday.
“This is all an extraordinary measure ... to keep the selection private ahead of tonight’s announcement,” Brown said of what increasingly looks like a piece of political theater.
Finalists Neil Gorsuch and Thomas Hardiman ― both of whom are highly respected in conservative circles ― are either in Washington or en route for the 8 p.m. announcement, according to CNN. Trump has already said he’s made his choice. So is the purpose of this arrangement to give the president one last sit-down with the nominee just to make sure?
Under normal circumstances, a president’s choice for the Supreme Court is shrouded in secrecy. The chief executive meets with the candidates in the days leading up to the nomination and may not make a decision until moments before the announcement.
But there’s no precedent for this kind of spectacle, and no apparent reason for bringing both candidates to town for the announcement. The White House has announced the event will be broadcast live on Facebook.
Some observers have compared the former “Apprentice” star’s theatrics to another popular reality show:
The next Supreme Court justice will have big shoes to fill ― Trump’s promise to nominate someone in Scalia’s mold may have helped propel him to victory. But this latest development suggests the president and those in his circle may not be taking the process as seriously as they should be, and reflects poorly on the presidency, the high court and the two candidates.
Will Trump make Gorsuch and Hardiman stand in front of live cameras so he can choose one and dismiss the other, for all America to see? For the sake of the institution ― which could be a big check on his presidency ― God forbid.
UPDATE: Feb. 1 ― Trump ended up announcing Gorsuch as his Supreme Court pick on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, CNN said unnamed White House sources acknowledged “they left the impression with reporters that [Hardiman] was coming to Washington,” but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he didn’t think Hardiman had even made it out of his home state.