WASHINGTON—Donald Trump and Mike Pence rallied Christian conservatives at the Values Voter Summit (VVS) in the nation’s capital last week, with the Republican nominee warning that when it comes to the Supreme Court, if a president were to “pick the wrong people, you have a country that is no longer your country. It will be a disaster.”
Speaking last Friday, Trump characterized the Court as an “issue that will define the future of this country for generations to come.” Lamenting the loss of Antonin Scalia, whom Trump lauded as a “great justice,” the New York businessman noted that additional justices are very likely to leave the bench during the four years of the next presidential term.
Including Scalia’s seat, the total number will “probably be three,” Trump guessed—consistent with Court experts’ predictions that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy will likely leave the bench by 2021. But Trump also allowed that the number could be as high as five justices, which would actually be a majority of the nine-member Supreme Court.
In addition to hot-button issues like the Second Amendment and Obamacare—which Trump deftly mentioned, showing that he understands the broad array of VVS attendees’ interests—the GOP standard-bearer emphasized his promise that his judicial nominees will uphold “Americans’ religious liberty.”
Declaring (correctly) that issues like religious liberty and the Second Amendment are tied “essentially… four and four” among the current eight justices, Trump touted his list of 11 potential Supreme Court replacements for Scalia—described by some as “a conservative goldmine”—announcing that Scalia himself was “the ultimate example of what we’re looking for,” evoking enthusiastic applause from the audience.
“This will determine whether or not we remain a constitutional republic, frankly,” he continued, pledging “to appoint judges who uphold the Constitution… and apply the law as written.”
Trump continued that the American people must “reject judges who rewrite the Constitution to impose their own personal views on 300 million-plus Americans,” warning that Hillary Clinton would pick “extremist judges” that “would allow her to completely take over American health care, the American economy, and Americans’ religious liberty—not to mention your Second Amendment, which is on very thin ice right now.”
The next day, Gov. Mike Pence gave his own rock-star performance at VVS, beginning with his trademark line that he is “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” to the wild approval of the assembled crowd.
The vice presidential nominee concluded his Saturday speech by highlighting Trump’s same theme of shaping the nation’s highest court. Pence enjoys a long and unblemished conservative record on judges, culminating with appointing Justice Geoffrey Slaughter to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Pence began this final part of his VVS speech with, “And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when it comes to life and all of our liberties, is that Donald Trump will appoint justices to the Supreme Court of the United States who will strictly construe the Constitution of the United States in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”
As a public leader who has consistently pushed for originalist judges and who also reveres President Reagan, Pence immediately invoked the Gipper on this subject, adding, “Ronald Reagan said it well: The importance of judicial restraint, the belief of our Founding Fathers that the role of judges was to interpret the law, not preempt the rights of the people and their legislatures by making law, is central to our nation.”
Highlighting his speech earlier in the week at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the vice presidential nominee offered his highest praise to Trump on this issue by comparing him to his hero Reagan, telling the VVS crowd, “Let me tell you emphatically, it would be more accurate to say that when it comes to the Supreme Court of the United States, Ronald Reagan’s views and Donald Trump’s views are identical.”
“We must ensure that the next president making appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is President Donald Trump,” Pence declared, to thunderous applause.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter: @kenklukowski.