Federalist Society's Leonard Leo Predicts One Or More Supreme Court Vacancies Before 2020


Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the constitutional originalist Federalist Society, joins 'FOX News Sunday' host Chris Wallace to discuss the role his organization played in helping President Trump make judicial nominations, including Neil Gorsuch.

LEONARDO LEO, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, "THE FEDERALIST": The job of a judge is to enforce the Constitution as it's written.

WALLACE: Leonard Leo is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, which advances the cause of limited constitutional government. In Washington he's known by a different name.

WALLACE (on camera): You have been called President Trump's Supreme Court whisperer. How do you plead?

LEO: I don't remember ever whispering. And I know he's never whispered.

WALLACE (voice over): Leo may be back in the spotlight this week if a justice on the aging Supreme Court retires at the end of the term.

Anthony Kennedy is 81. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85.

WALLACE (on camera): Do you, given your role, do you think to yourself, we're headed into the regular season now?

LEO: Every June we think about that. Yes, absolutely.

The odds are high that over the course of the next couple of years, several years, you're going to see a couple of vacancies.

WALLACE: Better than 50/50?

LEO: Yes.

WALLACE (voice over): If President Trump gets to nominate another justice, that will move a court that's often split over two solidly conservative.

Leo has already helped get four justices on the court. He organized conservative support for Clarence Thomas and John Roberts and Sam Alito, but his role increased dramatically when candidate Trump asked him to draw up a list of potential nominees.

LEO: What you see in that list of 21, now actually I think 25, is probably the best and brightest, you know, individuals on the bench.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline.

WALLACE: Just days after he took office, President Trump nominated Federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was on Leo's list.

JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH, SUPREME COURT: I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution laws of this great country.

LEO: It's always been a point of contention.

WALLACE: Leonard Leo has been pushing his originalist philosophy for more than a quarter-century. The idea that the words of the Constitution should be interpreted as they were commonly understood when it was written.

Outside his office there's a photograph of the Supreme Court's chambers of Justice Antonin Scalia, the prime mover of originalism over the last half-century.

WALLACE (on camera): Is this the inner sanctum of originalism?

LEO: That's why it's hanging here outside of my office, because this is the place -- this is the originalist temple.

WALLACE (voice over): Leo is modest about what his role will be if there's another vacancy on the court, saying it's up to the White House. But there's little doubt if President Trump makes another nomination, Leo will be at the center of the action, and he could not be more committed.

LEO: This is really at the core of his legacy. You're dealing with fundamental transformation in the federal bench. It's about as inspiring and motivating as anything has been in my professional life. It's like nothing I've ever experienced, Chris. It's really incredible.

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