After already appointing two Supreme Court justices in his first term, recent rumors suggest President Donald Trump might have the opportunity to make a couple more nominations to the highest court in the nation.
Conservative columnist Robert Costa stoked speculation this week with an opinion piece in The Washington Post containing the rumor that Justice Clarence Thomas could be pursuing retirement.
“The most likely to retire”
Costa wrote that Thomas, a “conservative appointed by George H.W. Bush,” is mentioned as “the most likely to retire this year” among those in Trump’s inner circle.
If that happens, one presidential adviser reportedly told Costa that 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amul R. Thapar is said to be a leading candidate in the eyes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
The source noted that “you’ve got a lot of people around this process ready to support Thapar” with the knowledge that McConnell would push the confirmation through.
When asked last year what he would do if there were an opening on the Supreme Court before the 2020 election, the majority leader promised that “we’d fill it,” as TIME magazine noted.
Regardless of the rumors, there has been no statement or indication from Thomas himself that he has any intention of leaving his lifetime appointment. In fact, one left-leaning blogger thinks there is another more likely candidate for retirement.
“A replacement value player”
Joe Patrice argued in an article for Above The Law that “Thomas is very much an ‘I alone can fix it’ kind of guy” with a reputation as “an outsider” even among ideologically similar justices.
On the other hand, he noted that Justice Samuel Alito “is 70 and much more likely to see himself as a replacement value player” than Thomas.
“They print Alito clones by the hundreds at law schools around the country and he can easily hand over the keys,” Patrice continued.
Few pundits are pointing to either scenario as a likelihood ahead of Election Day, however, and Patrice said those who speculate about them are engaging in “conservative wishcasting.”
Nevertheless, federal court appointments have been a central point of pride for the Trump administration. It is clear that an opportunity to name another Supreme Court justice would help cement the president’s place in history regardless of the election outcome.