CNN Host Badgers Trump SCOTUS Adviser, Picking ‘Right-Wing Extremists’

With just a couple hours before President Trump announced his nomination to the Supreme Court, CNN’s Erin Burnett brought on SCOTUS selection adviser and Federalist Society head Lenard Leo to discuss the criteria for the pick. Of course, she only focused on their positions regarding Roe v. Wade and parroted Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who proclaimed all the possible candidates as just “right-wing extremists.”

As she was introducing Leo to the audience, Burnett by fanned liberal suggestions of the nomination being farmed out to a shady fringe group:

I want to go to now, as promised, to the outside adviser to the President for judicial selection, Leonard Leo. The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Leo calls you, quote, “the conservative activist who plays a critical role in Supreme Court picks. The L.A. Times says, you are the man to see if you aspire to the Supreme Court. The fourth pick you've played a key role in: John Roberts Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch.

You have played, obviously, a crucial role here. And I just wanted to play for you-- Senator Bernie Sanders was just on, by the way, he says he's going to oppose any of the picks if they come off the list of 25,” Burnett told Leo. “He called them ‘right-wing extremists.’ And he said that part of the reason they're there is you, people like you.

 

 

After playing a clip of Sanders’ irate ramblings, she again echoed the Senator’s hyper-partisan rhetoric about the political leanings of the candidates: “He called them ‘right-wing jurists,’ referring to people like you recommending them and he called all 25 of them ‘right-wing extremists.’

Leo responded by expertly explaining how seriously the people on the list took the responsibility of being on the Supreme Court:

Well, first of all, these are some of the most extraordinarily well-qualified people on the federal bench, period. They're the best of the best. Secondly, what you can say about all of these people on the list is that they know what makes a judge most fair is the idea that you're going to interpret the constitution and the laws according to their words and their text.

They understand it's the duty of the court to enforce limits on government power. They understand it's important not to be outcome based in the way they do their jobs as judges,” he added.

She then proceeded to harangue Leo about how much of requirement it was for the candidate to overturn Roe v. Wade and his own personal desire to do so.

A judge has no business inserting their personal preferences. None. That's been my view and the view of the conservative legal movement for decades,” he schooled her. “So what we think personally about abortion or any other issue is not something that we ought to consider in terms of judicial selection or in term of decision-making from the bench.

 

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CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront
July 9, 2018
7:32:52 PM Eastern

ERIN BURNETT: I want to go to now, as promised, to the outside adviser to the President for judicial selection, Leonard Leo. The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Leo calls you, quote, “the conservative activist who plays a critical role in Supreme Court picks. The L.A. Times says, you are the man to see if you aspire to the Supreme Court. The fourth pick you've played a key role in: John Roberts Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch.

And Gorsuch actually told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his whole journey started, Lenard, when, quote, “when I was contacted with Leonard Leo, who was working with the President-elect's transition team regarding the Supreme Court vacancy. Here we are then, Leonard. The final countdown. We’ve got a final two, maybe four contenders. Obviously you know things you're not going to be able to share right now, but what was the hardest part of choosing here in these final hours?

(…)

BURNETT: You have played, obviously, a crucial role here. And I just wanted to play for you-- Senator Bernie Sanders was just on, by the way, he says he's going to oppose any of the picks if they come off the list of 25. He called them “right-wing extremists.” And he said that part of the reason they're there is you, people like you. And here is what he said.

[Clip]

BERNIE SANDERS: That list of 25 is not just an arbitrary list. These are people who have been assembled by right-wing jurists and they have views on Roe versus Wade, they have views on workers' rights, they have views on the environment which in many cases are well known. So, this is not just any old person. I would not say that, you know, any person should be summarily rejected, but if they're a member of that list, they should.

[End clip]

BURNETT: What do you say to that, Leonard? He called them “right-wing jurists,” referring to people like you recommending them and he called all 25 of them “right-wing extremists.”

LENARD LEO: Well, first of all, these are some of the most extraordinarily well-qualified people on the federal bench, period. They're the best of the best. Secondly, what you can say about all of these people on the list is that they know what makes a judge most fair is the idea that you're going to interpret the constitution and the laws according to their words and their text. That's really what these people are all about. They understand it's the duty of the court to enforce limits on government power. They understand it's important not to be outcome based in the way they do their jobs as judges.

BURNETT: When we talked last week, Leonard, you told me you had not discussed abortion or Roe versus Wade specifically with the President and, in fact, you said the candidates were not asked about it either. Of course, you received the distinguished leader award from the Susan B. Anthony list last year, its mission is to explicitly end abortion. Ed Whelan, a former clerk for Justice Scalia wrote, quote, about you, “No one has been more dedicated to the enterprise of building a Supreme Court that will overturn Roe versus Wade than the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo. Given all that, did abortion really never really come up with these candidates? Maybe because you already knew they would vote to overturn it or do you truly not know how they would vote?

LEO: Those of us who are in the conservative legal movement, what drives us is the idea if you really want to protect freedom and dignity and prosperity in this country, you need to have judges who are going to respect and enforce the limits put on government contained in the constitution.

(…)

LEO: I think if you look at the writings of all four of these finalists what you find is people who really work hard to figure out whether precedent should be upheld or not. They keep an open mind and they're fair about it and don't predetermine results before they hear a case.

BURNETT: I just want to make sure I understand, because so many people care deeply about this issue and it matters when it comes to getting the Republican votes that are going to be necessary to get this person through. It is going to come down to Roe v. Wade. It's an issue you do feel passionately about. You wrote—I’m sorry, you were quoted in a New Yorker article last year saying, quote, “it's an act of force,” this is about abortion, “it's a threat to human life, it's just that simple.”

That's how you feel personally. Professionally would you still keep the precedent yourself and support someone else who would keep that precedent?

LEO: A judge has no business inserting their personal preferences. None. That's been my view and the view of the conservative legal movement for decades. So what we think personally about abortion or any other issue is not something that we ought to consider in terms of judicial selection or in term of decision-making from the bench.

(…)

BURNETT: You've been open about those personal preferences. When you shed them, when you try to do that, when you advise the President, do you think Roe versus Wade should be overturned?

LEO: I'm not the president. I'm not the one making these decisions.

BURNETT: But he listens to you. You're important to him.

LEO: I've never discussed it with him. And the reason: because I don't think that's a relevant consideration. I think the most important thing is to have candidates for judicial selection who understand their limited role.

(…)

BURNETT: Look, you're saying a lot of very thoughtful things, but I do just want to say, Leonard, this is an issue you know a lot about, you've thought a lot about, right? It doesn't seem that hard for you to answer the question of, do you think Roe versus Wade should be overturned or not?

LEO: Again, it’s not relevant. I’m not the President.

BURNETT: But it is relevant!

(…)


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