Less than 48 hours before Neil Gorsuch was introduced as President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, he was traveling in secret down Colorado back roads to a military aircraft as part of a White House operation to keep his selection under wraps.
While the Trump White House has seen its inner battles aired in the media during its first days in office, administration officials showed Tuesday they can keep a secret when they want to. While White House officials had strongly signaled to lawmakers that Gorsuch was a contender, the administration wanted Trump’s pick to come out on his terms — in front of a live, prime-time television audience — and they succeeded.
Gorsuch, a 49-year-old federal appeals court judge in Denver, was informed that he was Trump’s choice in a Monday phone call from the president, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, describing the measures employed to preserve secrecy. Shortly after the call, Gorsuch — who lives near Boulder, Colorado — went to a neighbor’s house and waited for White House staff to arrive.
Since he was already widely reported as a front-runner for the job, White House staffers drove back roads to make sure they wouldn’t be spotted with him. They ferried him aboard a military jet from Colorado to Washington, where he stayed with a friend rather than at a hotel to avoid being noticed.
Throughout the selection process, the president’s team managed to keep its deliberations out of the public eye. Trump interviewed a total of four candidates and met with Gorsuch and two other candidates — federal appeals court judges Thomas Hardiman and William Pryor — on Jan. 14 at Trump Tower. The judges sneaked past a crowd of reporters who were staking out the building’s lobby elevators.
Members of Congress were informed of the decision about an hour before it was announced from the White House East Room to a nationwide television audience. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee that will oversee the nomination, said he didn’t know Trump’s decision for certain until about 45 minutes before the announcement, when select members of Congress were invited to the White House.
“They can keep a secret,” Graham said.