Donald Trump, President of the United States from 2017 to 2021, entered office with a significant number of judicial vacancies, including a Supreme Court vacancy due to the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016. During the first eight months of his presidency, he nominated approximately 50 judges, a significantly higher number than any other recent president had made by that point in his presidency. By June 24, 2020, 200 of his Article III nominees had been confirmed by the United States Senate. According to multiple media outlets, Trump significantly impacted the composition of the Supreme Court and lower courts during his tenure.
As of February 3, 2020American Bar Association (ABA) had rated 220 of Trump's nominees. Of these nominees, 150 were rated "well-qualified," 61 were rated "qualified," and 9 were rated "not qualified." Seven of the nine individuals rated as "not qualified" have been confirmed by the Senate. According to Vox's Ian Millhiser, "based solely on objective legal credentials, the average Trump appointee has a far more impressive résumé than any past president’s nominees."
As of July 2020, the judges appointed by Trump are "85% white and 76% male; less than 5% are African-American,” as a result of which the federal judiciary has become "less diverse" compared to previous administrations, according to an analysis by The Conversation.
Supreme Court of the United States
- Neil Gorsuch (of Colorado): Trump announced the nomination of Judge Gorsuch on January 31, 2017. The nomination was formally transmitted to the Senate on February 1, 2017. Judge Gorsuch's confirmation hearings started on March 20, 2017, and lasted four days. On April 3, the Judiciary Committee approved Judge Gorsuch by a vote of 11–9, a party-line vote. During the last day of committee hearings, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced from the Senate floor that he would filibuster the nomination. Democratic opposition focused primarily on the complaint that the vacancy on the court was created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia during President Barack Obama's administration, and therefore should have been filled by President Obama's nominee for the vacancy, Judge Merrick Garland. In response, Republicans hearkened back to November 2013 when Democrats invoked the nuclear option to fill three vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. To counter the filibuster, Republicans invoked the nuclear option, ending debate with a simple majority vote and extending the rule that a simple majority could invoke cloture on all presidential nominations, including Supreme Court nominations. The Senate confirmed Gorsuch on April 7, 2017, by a vote of 54–45, with all Senate Republicans present voting to confirm along with three Democratic senators from states that voted heavily for Trump: Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).
- Brett Kavanaugh (of Maryland): Trump announced the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh in July 2018. The nomination was formally transmitted to the Senate on July 10, 2018. The Senate confirmed Judge Kavanaugh on October 6, 2018, by a vote of 50–48. Except for Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), all Senate Republicans voted to confirm Judge Kavanaugh and except for Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), all Senate Democrats opposed him. Murkowski announced her opposition to Judge Kavanaugh, but instead of voting no, she voted present in order to pair her vote with Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), who was attending his daughter's wedding.
- Amy Coney Barrett (of Indiana): On September 26, 2020, weeks before the 2020 presidential election, Trump nominated Judge Barrett to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. On October 26, 2020, the Senate voted 52–48 to confirm her nomination. Democrats rebuked Republicans as brazen hypocrites for violating the precedent they established in 2016 when they refused to consider Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland more than nine months before the end of his term. The 35 days between the nomination and the presidential election marked the shortest period of time between a nomination to the Supreme Court and an election in U.S. history.