In May 2016, amid questions raised by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz about whether Trump was actually a conservative, Trump released a list of 11 names that he would consider appointing to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who had passed away that February.
“He was a Justice who did not believe in legislating from the bench and he is a person whom I held in the highest regard and will always greatly respect his intelligence and conviction to uphold the Constitution of our country. The following list of potential Supreme Court justices is representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value and, as President, I plan to use this list as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices.”
(Worth noting: Trump’s eventual pick to replace Scalia, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was not on his initial list of 11.)
Trump’s gambit worked: The list of judges was extremely well received by conservatives. The air went out of Cruz’s balloon — and within a month or so it was clear that Trump would be the Republican nominee for president.
At another point in that debate, asked point blank whether he wanted to see Roe v. Wade overturned, Trump said this: “Well, if we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that will happen. That will happen automatically in my opinion.”
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, one of the names on that list, said he was “honored” to be mentioned, and added: “It’s time for Roe v. Wade to go.”
Given all of that, it’s not an exaggeration to say that without his promises on the court, it’s possible that Trump never makes it to the White House — and never gets the chance to appoint three justices who fundamentally reshaped the ideological composition of the bench.
What can be said, without question, is that the Roe decision will be the defining legacy of Trump’s four years in office — and will likely be at the heart of his appeal to conservatives if/when he runs for president again in 2024.
In a statement Friday, Trump took credit for the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe.
“Today’s decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said. “It was my great honor to do so!”
“I’m pro-life, but I changed my view a number of years ago. One of the reasons I changed — one of the primary reasons — a friend of mine’s wife was pregnant, in this case married.
“She was pregnant and he didn’t really want the baby. And he was telling me the story. He was crying as he was telling me the story. He ends up having the baby and the baby is the apple of his eye. It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him.”
With the court’s decision on Friday, the first paragraph of every history book dealing with Trump will include the Roe ruling.
This story has been updated with additional information.