AP FACT CHECK: Trump proclaims he’s No. 2 on federal judges
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump likes to boast about record-setting accomplishments, even when they aren’t. Yet on one front — presidential appointment of federal judges — he’s quite proud to claim that he’s No. 2.
After all, no one is going to achieve a better record of seating judges than George Washington, who had a judiciary entirely made up of his choices simply because he was the first president. For Trump, if you can’t be the best at something, being second best is impressive when you are exceeded only by the father of the country.
“Sadly, we will never be number one,” Trump, who was actually not sad about this at all, told his rally in Cincinnati on Thursday night. “That’s one record we’re never going to beat.” Even so, “there’s only one person ... who percentage-wise has done better than me with judges.”
But that’s not true. He’s not No. 2.
He’s no higher than No. 5. He’s behind at least Presidents John Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon in modern times as well as George Washington.
Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and former deputy director of the Federal Judicial Center, has been tracking judicial appointments, analyzing data from the center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. He updated his analysis Friday at the request of The Associated Press. His ranking is based on the number of appointees at the start of the third-year August recess as a percentage of “authorized judgeships,” or the total judicial seats created by Congress.
Wheeler found that Trump has had 146 judges confirmed and seated (Trump said 148) and they make up 17% of total federal judgeships.
By this point in their presidencies, Kennedy had filled 30% of the federal judiciary, Clinton had filled 20% and Nixon had filled 25%.
Trump further claimed at the rally that “we’re going to be up to, within two months, 179 federal judges.” Wheeler does not put much stock in that. He said 25 nominees have had their Senate hearings or may be ready to be voted on soon, but that doesn’t mean it will happen.
“It’s a moving target,” he said.
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