HH: So pleased to welcome Marc Short, White House Director of Legislative Affairs. You can follow him on Twitter, @MarcShort45. Mr. Short, welcome, great to have you on the program.
MS: Hey, Hugh, I’m still here.
HH: Okay, good, there you are. I heard you there. Good to have you this morning. First question, what have you heard, if anything, about Justice Kennedy’s intentions?
MS: Hugh, we don’t hear anything on that front. We, he’s served America greatly, and we’ll see what his plans are, but we don’t have much information on that front.
HH: So you don’t have any indication, and there are no lists being prepared, no pre-clearances underway?
MS: Well, Hugh, I think that as the President said during the campaign, he had a list of 21 judges from which to choose from, and that list is constantly maintained if and when there’s ever a vacancy. But we are pleased that we’ve confirmed more Circuit Court judges than any administration to date, and obviously very excited about the Neil Gorsuch confirmation. And if we’re given another opportunity, I think the American people will see the President address is in the same manner and bring forward another conservative justice who respects the rule of law.
HH: And it would be from that list of 21, Brett Kavanaugh added to the existing list, the only one, I believe?
MS: We would certainly start with that list, Hugh.
HH: Oh, that’s not, but you wouldn’t necessarily stop with that list?
MS: I think that, look, that list was developed two years ago. I think that there’s probably additional conservatives that have drawn the attention of our administration that we would want to add to that list. But I think that the American people, in light of what we’ve put forward as far as Circuit Court judges and Neil Gorsuch should have a level of confidence and trust that we’ll go through this process the right way and produce another great candidate.
HH: Oh, I do, but it is news if, for example, Paul Clement were eligible. That was one of the people who was left off, and people said oh, I wonder why Paul Clement’s not on there. So you’re saying that list is not exclusive?
MS: I am, but I’m also, I know where you’re trying to go, Hugh, and we’re not going to start speculating on who’s added or not at this point.
HH: All right, let me play for you what the President said to Brian Kilmeade, my friend, this morning and get a couple of reactions from you. Here’s the President talking to Brian.
BK: Some breaking news while you were in there. The NFL has made a decision on something that means a lot to you and a lot of other Americans. The NFL has voted, the owners have voted unanimously to approve a new National Anthem rule that says if you’re not going to stand, stay in the locker room. If you go to the field, you have to stand. If you have a protest, your team’s going to get fined. This is the first time you’re hearing this. What’s your reaction, Mr. President?
DT: Well, I think that’s good. I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms. But still, I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the National Anthem or you shouldn’t be playing. You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.
HH: Marc Short, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country has raised eyebrows. Was the President suggesting the use of any sort of governmental coercion or governmental punishment of people who refuse to stand for the National Anthem?
MS: No, he’s not, Hugh. But also, I think that additionally in that interview he’s asked if this is a victory for the President. And he said no, this is a victory for the American people. And as certainly someone who loves the NFL and watches as many games as I can, I think I agree. This is the reality, is what the American people wanted, is what the fans wanted. And that’s why the owners made the change, is because they were understanding that this is hurting their fan base.
HH: As a Browns fan, I never really stopped buying my tickets. I’m a season ticket holder when the Browns took a knee. But the key here is when the President said maybe they shouldn’t be in the country, and you’re telling me he meant nothing by that involving government force?
HH: All right. Let’s go back to judges. I wrote about it in the Post yesterday. We do not have any nominees from California for the 9th Circuit. Are we going to get some, Marc Short?
MS: We are. We have, as you’ve covered on your show, faced incredible amount of obstruction in the nominees that we’ve been trying to put forward. And to date, there’s been 92 filibusters of nominees we’ve put forward, in many cases, judges that were confirmed 100-0 or 96-1. And to put that into context, Hugh, in the first entire terms of the last four presidents, 16 years of the presidency, there were 32 filibusters altogether. In 16 months, we’ve had 92 filibusters on judicial nominees and appointments into our administration.
HH: Now I am probably the biggest cheerleader for what you have accomplished with the Majority Leader and Senator Grassley and the Senate GOP. But the 9th Circuit remains this big sinkhole. And not one district court judge nominated because of the blue slip still applying to the district courts. When are we going to break this, Marc Short, because California doesn’t deserve to be exiled from the rule of law.
MS: You’re 100% right, and I think at some point, we will break the blue point, and hopefully, at some point, say we’ll begin to just advocate for justices that we think merit consideration on that court.
HH: Marc Short, the President entertained governors for dinner this week. Among them was Doug Ducey, who is one of my heroes for coming up with STOP orders in the Safe Arizona Schools, which are the ability to have administrators, principals, law enforcement, sometimes parents, concerned people, raise an alarm and have a judicial process by which a student is examined. Does the President support some version of STOP orders at the state level?
MS: I think that, Hugh, we really didn’t cover that at the dinner. Our conversation in there was more focused, these were a selection of governors who were providing National Guard to help us secure the border. That is an issue that the Department of Education is looking at, and Secretary DeVos is researching, so we hope to have an answer for you on that soon. But it wasn’t really covered at dinner the other night.
HH: All right, now the President also at one time endorsed the 21 year old age limit, which Rick Scott endorsed and I endorsed, and many people do. Has he stuck by that, Marc Short, or has he backed off of that?
MS: No, he hasn’t changed. He hasn’t changed his viewpoint on that, Hugh, but I think there were a couple of things in the omnibus bill that we were, we did believe were significant steps. One was school hardening that has been tried since the Sandy Hook tragedy that we finally got through Congress. And secondly was Fix NICS legislation on background checks. Both were supported by the NRA. And at this point, we’ve seen some of the school hardening measures and the resources available have not made it down into the schools. But I think the administration will continue to look at ways that we can address it. But I think the President also had, here at the White House, other conversations as you’ve seen with the video game industry to talk about violence in our culture and ways that we need to address a larger problem rather than just trying to address the symptoms.
HH: Now Marc Short, the President’s legislative agenda, he has ticked off the repeal of the Obamacare mandate, the tax cut and reform, he got rid of most of Dodd-Frank yesterday. He’s done quite a lot of what he promised. The only thing that he promised explicitly that hasn’t been put forward is a plan in writing for a 350 ship Navy. He got rid of the sequester, God bless him, with the Congress’ help. But we do not have in writing a plan for a 350 ship Navy – when they’re going to be produced, what’s going to be produced, the ship mix, the ship count, the field. When do we see that? That was a promise by him in Philadelphia and on the deck of the Ford.
MS: It is a promise, and it’s one that we’re continuing to have conversations with the Department of Defense. But Hugh, as you know, what we did include was the largest military funding increase since the Reagan era. And the reality is it’s the largest pay increase for our troops in over ten years. And on the legislative agenda this week alone, Hugh, we’re signing into law not just the Dodd-Frank repeal, but also being sent to the President’s desk will be VA choice to provide more choice for veterans as well as right to try legislation. So often there’s a narrative in a midterm election year they’re going to get less accomplished legislatively. We’re continuing to keep our foot on the pedal and do as much as we can to advance the Making America Great agenda.
HH: Let me press this, though. He could order the Pentagon to come up with that ship mix plan tomorrow. He hasn’t done so, yet. Why not? When are we going to see the actual plan?
MS: Hugh, I am, probably have to have a conversation with the Department of Defense to give you an exact timeline on that, but it is a conversation he’s continued to have with Secretary Mattis. I don’t know when it’s due back to us.
HH: All right, last couple of questions, do you think this North Korean thing’s going to happen? I mean, they were taking shots at the Vice President today. And frankly, I don’t know if it’s worth doing it with a ping pong regime like this that goes back and forth.
MS: Well, we still remain encouraged. I think that the President has said that if it doesn’t happen on June 12th, that’s okay. We’ll find a time when North Korea’s ready to actually come to the table to dismantle its nuclear arsenal. And I think that there’s been some encouraging steps. We have yet to see what the reports were from last night to get them verified. And that’s one of the things we’re asking for. It’s not just that there’s going to be reports of blowing up a certain nuclear site. It’s actually okay, when can we get investigators in to confirm that you’ve actually done as you’ve said. And so the administration’s going to stay hard on this, and we’re going to make sure that the American people are protected from somebody who is a murderous dictator gaining nuclear weapons.
HH: And very last question, Conrad Black was just my guest. He has a new book out, Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. Have you read it? Has the President read it? Is there a reaction? I think it’s the best one yet of Campaign 2016.
MS: I have not read it, but with your encouragement, I will pick it up and take a read.
HH: Marc Short, good to talk to you. Come back early and often.
MS: Thanks, appreciate it, Hugh.
End of interview.