While much of the nation is focused on the health of ailing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump’s more immediate and unending concern is the notoriously liberal U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
“Everything goes to the 9th Circuit,” Mr. Trump complained Friday in a bit of hyperbole. “Everything.”
Senate Republicans’ padding of their majority in the midterm elections will allow Mr. Trump to move forward with his goal of reshaping the 9th Circuit, as part of his record-setting push to put more conservative judges on circuit courts. The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up five more of Mr. Trump’s judicial nominees Tuesday, including one appeals court judge.
The 9th Circuit’s actions on a single day last week illustrated why Mr. Trump wants to change the ideological makeup of the sprawling appeals court, which covers nine Western states and two territories.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit ruled on Thursday that Mr. Trump cannot stop an Obama administration program that protects young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation.
On the same day, a federal district judge in Montana — part of the 9th Circuit — blocked construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying the Trump administration ignored the project’s impact on climate change. The judge, Brian Morris, is an Obama appointee.
Mr. Trump signed an executive order on his second day in office approving the Keystone pipeline, which had been blocked by President Obama. The energy project became a symbol of Mr. Trump’s “America First” economic resurgence.
“It was a political decision made by a judge,” Mr. Trump lamented Friday. “I think it’s a disgrace. It’s 48,000 jobs. I approved it; it’s ready to start.”
He knows where the case is headed in the appeals pipeline.
“I guess they’ll end up going to the 9th Circuit, as usual,” Mr. Trump said pessimistically.
The appeals court, based in San Francisco, is authorized for 29 judges, and it has six vacancies. Of the 23 current judges, 16 were appointed by Democrats and seven by Republicans.
That means if Mr. Trump fills all the vacancies, the 9th Circuit’s balance would be 16 Democratic appointees and 13 Republican — not a flip in ideology, but closer to partisan parity. The president has three nominations pending.