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Donald Trump released a list of potential Supreme Court picks Wednesday following months of speculation over who he would nominate to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat should he win the presidency in November.

The list is widely seen as a strategy by Trump to placate the “movement conservatives” actively resisting his candidacy, by committing to place sufficiently right-wing justices on the court.

Trump has named a total of 11 possible candidates for the position, according to a list obtained by the Associated Press. Those candidates were: Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado, Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas.

Three of the candidates, Hardiman, Kethledge, and Pryor, were appointed to their seats by George W. Bush, a move that could be seen as an attempt to placate anti-Trump conservatives who claimed he was not really a conservative. Republican political donors and social conservatives who have so far been dismayed by Trump’s takeover of the party may hold their noses if he settles on an explicitly pro-life and pro-business pick.

Trump wasn’t always set on naming judges who could placate Republicans accusing him of being too liberal. Before Trump had to get serious about who he would nominate to the court — or, realistically, before he had to reassure conservative donors that he was really a Republican — infamous Trump surrogate Roger Stone said in March, “I can’t think of anybody who’d be a more fitting replacement for the late Judge Anton ‘Nino’ Scalia than [Fox News host and 9/11 truther] Judge Napolitano … I think that’s exactly the right spot for him.”

Trump also floated his sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, who is a senior judge in the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. “I would love to,” he said during an interview on Bloomberg. “But I think she would be the one to say, ‘No way, no way.'”

Two of the judges currently on Trump’s list, Pryor and Sykes, were previously named as potential nominees, and their judicial records show they would be a peace offering to conservatives opposed to Trump. Pryor is a stridently pro-life candidate who said Roe v. Wade allowed for “a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has also supported strict voter ID laws, which time and again have been proven to suppress the voting rights of minorities. Similarly, Sykes, the ex-wife of #NeverTrump radio host Charlie Sykes, penned a court decision that broadened religious objectors’ ability to deny women health coverage for contraceptives.

The National Review, a standard-bearing conservative publication home to many anti-Trump conservatives, is one in a chorus of conservative voices that have said Trump’s Supreme Court picks are just as important as his blatant nativism and racism.

“If there were a way to be absolutely certain that Trump would appoint two, three, or four Antonin Scalia clones during his presidency, a lot of Trump-skeptic conservatives might immediately see one giant reason to vote for him,” swrote Jim Geraghty on the magazine’s website yesterday. “If nothing else, they could rest easy knowing that the Second Amendment wouldn’t be effectively nullified or curtailed, that Citizens United would remain the law of the land, that voter-ID laws would be upheld, and that pro-lifers could continue to make progress in the courts.”

The Heritage Foundation, a right wing think connected to many deep-pocketed conservative donors, is said to have had a role in the list’s creation. Trump indicated in March that the think tank would have some role in picking his list, saying he had “authorized the Heritage Foundation to work on the list of names.”

Meanwhile, Trump has called upon Republicans to continue blocking Merrick Garland’s nomination hearing, ostensibly on the grounds that the next president should choose the ninth supreme court justice. “I don’t think so, no I think they should do what they’re doing,” said the likely Republican nominee on “Good Morning America.” “I think they should wait until the next president and let the next president pick.” He continued, “the ideal would be Scalia reincarnated.”

Landing on Trump’s list may have come as a surprise to at least one candidate. A year ago, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet penned a revealing poem on Twitter:

Blake Neff

Twitter screenshot

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

On July 10, CNN's Oliver Darcy reported that Blake Neff, the top writer for Tucker Carlson's prime-time Fox News show, had been anonymously posting racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and other offensive content on an online forum for five years. Neff used racist and homophobic slurs, referred to women in a derogatory manner, and pushed white supremacist content while writing for Carlson's show. Neff resigned after CNN contacted him for comment.

As Darcy reported, in an interview with the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Neff claimed anything Carlson read during his show was initially drafted by him. Darcy also found instances where there was "some overlap between the forum and the show," as sometimes the "material Neff encountered on the forum found its way on to Carlson's show."

During a 2018 appearance on Fox's The Five to promote his book Ship of Fools, Carlson mentioned Neff by name, calling him a "wonderful writer." Carlson also included Neff in the acknowledgments of the book.


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Before joining Fox News, Neff worked at The Daily Caller, a conservative news outlet that Carlson co-founded. The outlet has published a number of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and bigots.


Carlson has a long history of promoting white supremacist content on his show. His show has featured many guests who have connections to white supremacy and far-right extremism. Carlson has regularly been praised by Neo-Nazis and various far-right extremist figures, and he's been a hero on many white supremacist podcasts. Users of the extremist online message boards 4chan and 8chan have repeatedly praised Carlson.

The manifesto released by the gunman who killed 20 people in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 was strewn with content that echoed talking points from Carlson's show. Days after the shooting, Carlson declared that calling white supremacy a serious issue is a "hoax" as it is "actually not a real problem in America."

Carlson has been hemorrhaging advertisers following his racist coverage of the Black Lives Matters movement and the recent protests against police brutality. Now that we know his top writer was using content from white supremacist online message boards for Carlson's show, it is more imperative than ever that advertisers distance their brands away from this toxicity.