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How Trump is making a lasting impact on nation's courts

Trump's impact on courts
Trump's lasting impact on nation's courts 02:48

One year into his term, President Trump is making a significant impact on the nation's courts despite his at-times contentious relationship with the judiciary. With help from Republicans in the Senate, the president has won confirmation for 23 federal judges, including one Supreme Court justice, 12 circuit court judges and 10 district court judges.  

With lifetime appointments, a Supreme Court nomination is perhaps a president's most lasting legacy, reports CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford. When Mr. Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, he delivered on a key campaign promise: to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia with a solid conservative.

In 2016, 56 percent of Republican voters said the Supreme Court was the most important factor in their support for Mr. Trump. But the White House is also making its mark on the lower courts where the president is looking to fill 145 vacancies nationwide.

"What the president's doing with the courts is truly transformative," said Leonard Leo, an outside adviser to the president on judges. He helps lead the conservative legal group, The Federalist Society.

"These are people who believe in self-government -- that most of the big issues in our country need to be decided by the people and their elected representatives," Leo said.
There have been missteps at the district court level. Two of the president's nominees were forced to withdraw over questions about their qualifications, including Matthew Peterson who testified he had never tried jury or civil trials. But on the appeals courts, the new judges are highly credentialed, conservative powerhouses – what you'd expect from a traditional Republican president.

Democrats say their shared philosophy could lead to a rollback of civil rights and protections for everyone from gays and lesbians to blue-collar workers. Delaware Sen. Chris Coons has called it "an alarming trend of more and more extreme judicial candidates," and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin has said, "We have seen President Trump nominate people far outside of the judicial mainstream."

On the nomination of Judge Amul Thapar to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said: "The goal is not just to get a few ultra conservative judges on our federal courts. It is to capture the entire judicial branch." 

Leo said the judicial battles show elections have consequences.

"The president made it very clear the kinds of people he was going to nominate… and that's what he is delivering," Leo said. 

With Republicans in control of the Senate, filling those 145 vacancies is clearly within reach. But if Democrats take back the Senate this year that could complicate things, especially if another justice decides to retire while President Trump is in office.

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