In an apparent effort to placate conservatives back before he locked down the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Donald Trump said he would release a list of 5–10 potential Supreme Court within the next week. That was 51 days ago.
In an interview with Fox News Thursday evening, Trump pushed out this deadline even further. After host Bret Baier asked if Trump would release his list before the Republican National Convention in July, the real estate mogul offered a noncommittal response. He now says that “I think” the list will be released “before the convention.”
It’s a fairly minor flip-flop, but it fits a pattern that emerged almost immediately after Trump appeared to clinch his party’s nomination Tuesday evening. On his first full day as the presumptive Republican nominee, Trump reversed his position on the minimum wage and said that he is “not necessarily a huge fan” of his own tax plan.
During his bid for the nomination, the elusive judge list was a major enticement Trump offered to conservatives worried that he would appoint justices who are insufficiently committed to moving the law to the right. Trump has even said that he is delegating much of the task of drawing up the list to the conservative Heritage Foundation, a position that he reiterated in his interview with Baier. He’s also said that anyone he names to the Supreme Court if elected president will come from this yet-to-appear list.
The GOP candidate has, however, offered some names of potential nominees in a Trump administration. Early in his candidacy, Trump said that his sister, a left-leaning Clinton appointee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, would be a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice. Some time after that comment triggered predictable outrage from conservatives, Trump named federal appellate Judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, both very conservative judges who are in line with the sort of Supreme Court nominees a Republican president would ordinarily consider, as potential nominees.
So it would be useful for voters to know whether the Trump that admires judges like his sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, or the Trump who prefers judges in the vein of Pryor and Sykes — or perhaps a third incarnation of Trump that has yet to show himself — will be choosing Supreme Court justices if Trump is elected. For the moment, however, Trump himself is not telling which one is the real Donald Trump.