Monica Lewinsky connections, Twitter celebrity status, relaxed views on police-dog brutality, and comparisons of gay sex to necrophilia—Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court nominees has it all.
On Wednesday afternoon, the real estate mogul rolled out 11 names of would-be members of the highest court in the land, and it was a veritable dream team of conservative judiciary icons: Steven Colloton, Diana Sykes, Allison Eid, Raymond Gruender, Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge, Don Willett, Joan Larsen, Thomas Lee, William Pryor, and David Stras. (The list closely resembles one published in March by The Daily Signal, the news site of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation.)
The court has a vacancy, and President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, for the spot. Garland is widely characterized as a middle-of-the-road, moderate justice, and a consensus candidate with whom GOPers could theoretically have made peace. The Daily Beast’s Jay Michaelson notes that he is “relatively conservative on issues of criminal justice, relatively liberal on issues of administrative and constitutional law.”
Trump’s potential nominees? Not so much. One potential justice is an expert on Trump’s favorite conversation topic: the scandals of Bill Clinton. Steven Colloton, a George W. Bush appointee to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, got started in the world of conservative politicking when he was a lieutenant to Kenneth Starr on the independent investigation of the Clintons’ Whitewater investments. Starr found out about Bill Clinton’s sexual contact with Monica Lewinsky while that investigation was underway. The progressive group People for the American Way pointed out that Colloton dissented from a ruling that a city violated the Constitution by having its police dogs bite and hold suspects without warning.
Another name on the list is William Pryor, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Pryor was previously floated as a potential SCOTUS pick by the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. He is also the most likely name on the list to draw liberals’ intense ire. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer once called Pryor an “ideological warrior.” Pryor has stated that the right to have gay sex would lead down a dark path to legalizing bestiality and necrophilia. He has said that the government “should not be in the business of public education.” And he has called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history."
But it was Trump’s inclusion of Don Willett, a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas, that drew the the lion’s share of snarky takes on Wednesday afternoon. For years, Willett has been a conservative Twitter icon for his oft-goofy tweets. “His humor is sometimes corny and often funny,” The New York Times reported in 2014, profiling his Twitter feed.
And one thing he has really enjoyed doing lately is throwing shade at Donald Trump on social media. “Can’t wait till Trump rips off his face Mission Impossible-style & reveals a laughing Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” he tweeted in March, knocking Trump’s brand of conservatism.
When asked about his inclusion on Trump’s list, Willett simply told reporters that he would exercise “judicial restraint” on weighing in on the matter.
— Andrew Desiderio contributed reporting.