Back road drive, secret flight brought Trump’s court pick to Washington

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By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON A secret meeting at a neighbor’s
house, a drive through a back country road, and a clandestine
flight on a military jet marked Judge Neil Gorsuch’s journey to
the White House this week after U.S. President Donald Trump
chose him as his Supreme Court nominee.

Trump, who took office on January 20, called Gorsuch on
Monday to inform him that he had prevailed among a handful of
finalists to succeed deceased Justice Antonin Scalia on the high
court.

That decision set off a rapid and secretive process to get
Gorsuch to Washington without alerting journalists and other
Supreme Court watchers of the president’s selection.

After Trump called the Colorado-based judge, a team from the
White House counsel’s office flew to Denver and then drove to
Boulder, roughly 45 minutes away, to meet with Gorsuch and his
family.

They met at a neighbor’s house to avoid detection.

Then the White House staff spirited him though a “back farm
road” to a waiting military plane to transport him to
Washington, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on
Tuesday night in the White House East Room.

Gorsuch stayed at a friend’s residence before being brought
to the White House for the Tuesday evening announcement.

The secrecy continued up until the last minute.

When Trump, a former reality television star, entered the
East Room, he came alone, addressing the cameras and the waiting
crowd, which included Scalia’s widow, at a podium before calling
on Gorsuch and his wife to come in.

Trump’s decision came after he narrowed a list of 21
candidates down to six, including Thomas Hardiman, William
Pryor, Amul Thapar, Diane Sykes, and Don Willett.

Then President-elect Trump interviewed Gorsuch, Hardiman and
Pryor on Jan. 14 in his New York residence. He also interviewed
Thapar.

“He finalized the decision recently,” after considering all
21 candidates “very deeply,” said Kellyanne Conway, a senior
adviser and counselor to the president.

White House counsel Don McGahn informed Hardiman, Pryor and
Thapar that they had not been chosen, Spicer said.

The White House was determined to keep the president’s
Supreme Court selection a secret and make the announcement of
his choice a success after the botched rollout of his refugee
executive order contributed to confusion and worldwide criticism
last weekend.

The strategy to get Gorsuch confirmed will kick off right
away, Spicer said, with former Senator Kelly Ayotte serving as
the “sherpa” to help steer the nominee through the Senate
confirmation process.



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