Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s forever-tainted pick for the Supreme Court, is embarking on a speaking tour of conservative groups that looks an awful lot like a victory tour to thank his biggest supporters.
As The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, the newest Supreme Court justice spoke today at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel for a conservative legal scholarship group—wading into the ethically murky territory where the president’s business interests intersect with the government. The head of the group, the Fund for American Studies, said the venue was an apolitical choice made before Trump was elected. Yet Gorsuch’s talk was also introduced by a member of Trump’s administration, Bureau of Legislative Affairs staffer Mary Elizabeth Taylor, according to a Politico reporter who covered the event.
But that isn’t the only shady part of Gorsuch’s activities. Just this morning, the Supreme Court announced it would again hear a challenge to mandatory union fees for public sector workers. The Court split 4–4 on an earlier, separate case about the same issue before Gorsuch’s arrival. With him installed, though, the Court’s conservative wing has a chance to rule against the unions and deal them a potentially existential blow.
As it would happen, the new case, Janus v. AFSCME, is being funded by the Bradley Foundation—which, according to New York Times labor reporter Noam Scheiber, is also a financial supporter of...the Fund for American Studies, whose event Gorsuch was addressing today.
(The justice praised the fund’s work during his remarks, along with some banal conservative remarks about the survival of the republic and civility, Politico reported.)
If that weren’t enough, Gorsuch recently traveled to Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state, for a speech in a building named after the senator on the University of Louisville campus. There, McConnell declared, “President Trump simply could not have made a better nominee.” The two men also spoke at the University of Kentucky College of Law in Lexington.
This is all very questionable given the oversized role McConnell played in Gorsuch’s confirmation. As you may remember, the Majority Leader declared before the late Antonin Scalia’s body was even cold that the Republican-controlled Senate wouldn’t be voting on any nominee of President Obama’s, and held that line when Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland—who’s hardly a bleeding heart liberal—for the court. McConnell was also critical in pushing Gorsuch through the Senate confirmation using the so-called “nuclear option,” a rule change to override a filibuster by Democrats to block the nomination.
This is, in one way, politics as usual, where there’s almost certainly a return on every investment. It’s just especially alarming when it involves a Supreme Court justice.