Cipollone, Meadows Lead White House Effort to Confirm Barrett to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON—President Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. But his White House’s work is just beginning.

While the decision to confirm Judge Barrett rests with the Senate, the job of vigorously defending her to reassure those lawmakers—and keep an already-accelerated process on track—will fall squarely to the Trump White House.

The West Wing will have help. The president’s robust re-election team, which has raised more than $1 billion and occupies three floors of a Washington-area office building with multiple TV studios and scores of staff, has been prepped to support the nominee. A coterie of conservative issue groups and public-relations firms are mounting their own $20 million marketing campaign.

But the tip of that spear remains Mr. Trump’s West Wing, which must overcome its own internal divisions, a dearth of deep relationships in the Senate and a mixed record of achievement on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Trump has replaced nearly all of his senior staff since Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed on April 7, 2017, and most of the top aides who helped with the last Supreme Court nominee, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed on Oct. 6, 2018.

Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, are both new to the job since Mr. Kavanaugh was confirmed. Their partnership will determine the success of the White House confirmation team, officials said.

President Trump with Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House nomination event on Saturday.


Shawn Thew/Zuma Press

The White House team for Ms. Barrett’s confirmation has been slow to coordinate on messaging with its Senate counterparts, according to people familiar with the process. But others said it is on track, pointing out that Judge Barrett started filling out a lengthy Senate questionnaire ahead of the nomination, and much of her background vetting has been completed.

But the White House’s legislative-affairs office, which played a key role in previous confirmations, has seen its role diminished in recent months as Mr. Meadows, a former House member from North Carolina, has taken on some of those lobbying duties. The office is currently run by Amy Swonger, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been operating with the title of acting director, even though the position doesn’t require Senate approval.

“What they’re up against is a very determined opposition and tight time frame,” said Jon Kyl, a former Republican senator from Arizona who helped guide Justice Kavanaugh’s intense confirmation process.

If Mr. Trump is successful in his push to install Judge Barrett before Nov. 3, he would be the first president in nearly 50 years to have a third Supreme Court nominee confirmed before facing re-election, according to Senate records. It may also stand as either the final significant achievement of Mr. Trump’s first term, or—depending on the outcome of the election—his last major act as president.

So far as president, few of Mr. Trump’s accomplishments have been marked by the kind of rapid and polished execution he

Read more