WASHINGTON — Borrowing a tactic from former President Donald Trump, 2024 GOP Oval Office hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy released a list of conservative potential Supreme Court nominees Monday.
The roster includes two senators — Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah — former Solicitor General Paul Clement and a half-dozen of the nation's most conservative federal appellate court judges. Some of them have worked to limit abortion and transgender rights.
Ramaswamy also named seven judges, from various federal district courts, the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, as a pool from which he would select U.S. circuit court nominees if he is elected.
"We were looking for diversity of vantage points on the Constitution, but without a diversity of commitment to the originalist understanding of the Constitution," Ramaswamy said in an interview with NBC News.
In May 2016, as Trump locked down the Republican nomination, he thrilled conservatives by announcing his own list of 11 people whom he might name to succeed Antonin Scalia. None of them were Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump actually nominated and who now sits on the high court.
Ramaswamy said he may add to his pool later. But for now, it consists of Cruz, Lee, Clement and these six judges: James Ho, Lawrence VanDyke, Lisa Branch, Thomas Hardiman, Justin Walker and John Bush.
Ho and Branch have said they won't hire law clerks from Yale and Stanford as retaliation for what they describe as the "cancel culture" at those universities. Ramaswamy, a businessman and author, holds a law degree from Yale.
A gifted public speaker who rails against "woke" Democrats, Ramaswamy has generated modest buzz within Republican circles but typically polls in the low single digits in national surveys of the GOP field.
Few issues are as important to Republican primary voters as the composition of the court, and candidates often try to reassure those voters that they will pick conservatives justices.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running second in national polls, recently said the three justices Trump put on the Supreme Court don't meet the "gold standard."
"We'll do better than that," DeSantis told radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Ramaswamy, whose list includes several Trump appointees, said the former president's nominees have been "outstanding" at the Supreme Court and lower federal benches.
“It’s not only a misplaced criticism,” Ramaswamy said. “It borders on bizarre.”
He said his decision to release lists of judges was not originally driven by Trump's use of the maneuver during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns. But by the time he put out his own list Monday, he was well aware that Trump had made similar moves.
Ramaswamy's pool for seats on the U.S. circuit courts is also comprised of conservative stalwarts: U.S. district court judges Martha Pacold, Sarah Pitlyk, Kathryn Mizelle, Matthew Kacsmaryk and Brantley Starr, as well as Stephen Alexander Vaden of the U.S. Court of International Trade and Ryan Holte of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.