Trump’s Actual Record on Judges
In his recently disclosed interviews with Bob Woodward, President Trump bragged about his record appointing judges to the federal bench. The Washington Post reports:
In a mid-December interview with Woodward, Trump boasted that he and McConnell “have broken every record” on judges, saying the issue is the majority leader’s top priority. . . .
In January, the president bragged that he had installed 187 judges to the federal bench — making 1 in 4 circuit court judges a Trump appointee — and two to the Supreme Court.
“The only one that has a better percentage is George Washington, because he appointed 100 percent,” Trump told Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Post associate editor. “But my percentage is, you know, like, ridiculous.”
President Trump has certainly been successful at appointing a great many jurists to the federal bench—214 total as of last week. But President Trump is totally wrong when he claims that he’s appointed a significantly greater percentage of sitting federal judges than did his predecessors.
Russell Wheeler at the Brookings Institution has crunched the numbers, and he finds that (as of Sept. 8), Trump had appointed a grant total of 203 judges, representing 23 percent of federal judges in active service. That’s a significant proportion of federal bench, but it’s a smaller percentage of sitting federal judges than had been appointed by Presidents Carter (37%), Nixon (36%), and Clinton (24%) at an equivalent point in their first terms. (The combination of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had also appointed a greater percentage of the federal bench by Sept. 8, 1964.) George W. Bush had also appointed 23 percent of the federal bench by Sept. 8 of 2004 as well.
Of course there are more seats on the federal bench than there were in the 1970s, so does that make a difference? A little, as Trump has appointed more judges than Nixon (187) or Bush (200) had, but Trump’s 203 appointments by Sept. 8 matches the number of Clinton, and is still well below Carter’s total of 248.
While Trump’s record is not quite what he claims, there is no question his appointments have shaped the federal bench. When Trump took office, only 44 percent of federal circuit court judges had been appointed by Republican Presidents. By September 8, the proportion appointed by Republicans had climbed to 55 percent. That is certainly a s
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