Adviser to President Trump: Gorsuch has courage; Ingraham: Gorsuch a refreshing change

On 'Hannity,' Leonard Leo provides insight into the Supreme Court nominee


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 31, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: This is a Fox News Alert.  President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.  Tonight, Laura Ingraham, Judge Jeanine Pirro, Jay Sekulow, Leonard Leo, the man who helped the president make the big selection, will all be here tonight with reaction.

But first -- President Trump's decision tonight is yet another example of Donald Trump keeping promises to you, the American people.  And that is tonight's "Opening Monologue."

All right, it didn't take President Trump very long to fulfill yet another key pledge from his campaign by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court during a primetime announcement earlier tonight. Let's take a look.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: When Justice Scalia passed away suddenly last February, I made a promise to the American people. If I were elected president, I would find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court.

This may be the most transparent judicial selection process in history.  Months ago, as a candidate, I publicly presented a list of brilliant and accomplished people to the American electorate, and pledged to make my choice from among that list.

I am a man of my word. I will do as I say, something that the American people have been asking for from Washington for a very, very long time.

Today, I am keeping another promise to the American people by nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch.


HANNITY: I am a man of my word and I am now fulfilling another promise that I made to the American people.

That was President Trump saying repeatedly he would select an originalist, a constitutionalist to serve on the Supreme Court, and that is exactly what he did earlier tonight.

Now, over the course of the campaign, I did ask then candidate now President Trump several times why it was important to him to put forward a justice who will strictly adhere to the original meaning of the words of the Constitution. And here's what he told me.


HANNITY, FEB. 18, 2016 : So you're looking for an originalist.

TRUMP: Yes, I am.

HANNITY, MAY 18, 2016: You are a constitutionalist.

TRUMP: Correct. Correct. And I'm also -- I want high intellect. I want great intellect. These people are all of very high, high intellect.  They're pro-life.

HANNITY, DEC. 1, 2016: One of the things that I went through -- you're still solid on Supreme Court justices, originalists?


HANNITY: Solid on the wall.

TRUMP: ... I'm going to appoint very soon. I'm going to have to come up with a name. I'm looking. I'm down to probably three or four.

HANNITY: Are they from your list?

TRUMP: They're from the list.

HANNITY, JAN. 26: Will it be from the list that you gave out during the campaign?

TRUMP: The answer is yes.

HANNITY: Will it be an originalist?

TRUMP: I don't want to say that. You're going to see on Thursday...

HANNITY: Have you made your decision?

TRUMP: I have made my decision pretty much in my mind, yes. I'm subject to change at the last moment, but I think this will be a great choice.


HANNITY: President Trump, as you just saw, was adamant about nominating a justice who believes in coequal branches of government, separation of powers, not somebody who will legislate from the bench, who will read and interpret the U.S. Constitution the way our Founding Fathers and framers intended.

It's why, as he said tonight, President Trump put out a list during the campaign of 21 people that he would choose from to nominate to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, Judge Gorsuch was on that original list, and for good reason. He has a very strong resume.

Judge Gorsuch -- he is now only 49 years old. He clerked for several prominent judges, including Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy. In 2006, he was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, where he currently serves, and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a unanimous voice vote. He's described as an originalist, a textualist.

Now, Judge Gorsuch is also known for being a strong defender of religious liberty. Key rulings include siding with Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor in this case against the Obama administration's contraception mandate.

And Judge Gorsuch has made his judicial philosophy very clear. Now, take a look about what he said on originalism during a lecture about Justice Antonin Scalia just last year.


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: It seems to me that an assiduous focus on text, structure and history is essential to being a good judge. That, yes, judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using the traditional tools of interpretation, rather than pronouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own views, always with an eye on the outcome, engaged, perhaps, in some Benthamite calculation of pleasures and pains along the way.


HANNITY: Joining us now with reaction, Leonard Leo. He's one of the people that advised President Trump on this decision. And he was in the East Room tonight for the big announcement. Sir, welcome to the program.  Glad to have you.


HANNITY: You and a lot of prominent judicial scholars were asked to look for certain candidates that fit this meaning of a constitutionalist, an originalist. Maybe some Americans tonight are hearing these terms for the first time. Maybe they don't follow the Supreme Court as closely. How would you best define those terms and differentiate originalism from judicial activism?

LEO: Well, first of all, I think the way to think about it is that a judge has a deep sense of fairness and a sense of impartiality when he is grounded in the text and original meaning of the Constitution because what he's doing then is he's putting the text and the original meeting ahead of any political predispositions he may have. And that's the way to judge cases fairly and partially without regard to your own predispositions or prejudices.

HANNITY: And we would look at somebody who is a judicial activist as somebody a liberal would want to put on the court, somebody that believes that the Constitution is a living and breathing document that they have the right to almost legislate from the bench, not respecting separation of powers, coequal branches, correct?

LEO: That's right, Sean. For an activist, it's all about results. It's all about the policy results that a particular judge might like or a group of people may like. And that's not what judging is all about. If you want to do that, you should run for office. You shouldn't be a judge.

HANNITY: My two favorite justices in my lifetime were Antonin Scalia, who passed away, and Justice Clarence Thomas. A lot of times conservatives that believe in originalism, like myself, have been disappointed. Justice Souter is one example, and maybe even in the -- in the one case, ObamaCare, Justice Roberts even, the chief justice. Can you assure conservatives tonight that this justice is like Scalia, like Thomas, and that you wouldn't expect many surprises?

HANNITY: What I see in Judge Gorsuch is a very important quality that gets you there. And that's courage. It's courage and its independence. It's the willingness to stick to your guns, to make decisions that have to be made that sometimes you might not agree with.

And that's what he has. If you look at his opinions, he has never hesitated to dissent or write a separate opinion when the meaning of the Constitution or the text of the Constitution needed to be elaborated and the majority of the court didn't do that. I think we are seeing in him very much an extension of Justice Scalia's legacy.

HANNITY: It's interesting. I actually tweeted out a picture tonight. I got a picture of Antonin Scalia and now the nominee Judge Gorsuch together.  He seems to almost be -- I don't know if this is the right word, he seemed very enamored and inspired by Justice Scalia and maybe Justice Thomas? Is that a fair statement?

LEO: Judge Gorsuch considers Justice Scalia a mentor. And that is significant. A lot of judges in Judge Gorsuch's age range who studied in law school around that time view Justice Scalia as a line (ph) in the law and a true mentor because of the path-breaking work he did in bringing originalism and textualism back to the Supreme Court's jurisprudence in a significant way.

HANNITY: I think one of the brightest justices we've ever had in modern times, and one of the funniest certainly was Antonin Scalia. His opinions were scathing. His dissents were even more scathing.

I guess want to ask you this question about Mr. Gorsuch because I think this is really important. Walk us through the process. Then candidate Trump went to the Federalist Society, went to people that study the justices that are on the lower courts. Like in his case, he's on the 10th circuit court of appeals. What was it about this judge and this process that inspired you about what the president, then candidate Trump was doing?

LEO: Well, again, the two most important things you can have are, one, a demonstrable record showing a commitment to the Constitution as it's written. So you want to have lots of opinions that show you know what you're doing and you know how to do originalism and textualism, and Judge Gorsuch has that.

And then secondly, you want to see signs of courage. You want to see signs of someone who has a strong will, who's going to stick to his guns. And again, Judge Gorsuch's life's work, his judicial opinions, demonstrate that. So that's I think two of the reasons why he emerged as a very serious contender to succeed Justice Scalia, who is really in many ways irreplaceable.

HANNITY: The liberal talking points were written long before tonight's decision. Whoever the president chose was going to be described as out of the mainstream, somebody that's an extremist. What is your response to those people making those claims based on the record and the cases that we've seen and the writings that he's been involved in?

LEO: Well, it's not surprising. Liberals have always had to rely on the Supreme Court for the policy results they want because the political process isn't going to take the kinds of extreme positions that they desire to have enacted. So they look to the courts for that, and when they see a nominee who is fair, impartial, is going to interpret the law as it's written and that that's not necessarily going to end up with the policy results they want, they're going to oppose him. And that's what's happening here.

HANNITY: I think -- and we'll get more deeply into this as the show goes on tonight. One other question on the process. Back in May, then candidate Trump -- who did he approach? Who did you speak to?

LEO: Well, we first met late in the spring. He had this idea to come up with a list that he was going to pick from and only from. And I thought it was, frankly, brilliant -- different, entrepreneurial, brilliant. He wanted to do it because...

HANNITY: Very Trumpish.

LEO: Yes. Very much so. Yes, I mean, people didn't know who he was and he wanted to let them know.

HANNITY: You know, it's funny, my friend and colleague and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has given a series of speeches now on Trumpism.  And this is part of it, acting as an executive, thinking out of the box, and in 11 days, I think he's gotten more done than Obama did in eight years!


HANNITY: So it's fun to watch. If, in fact, there is the predictable obstructionism, what are your thoughts, if any, on the nuclear option for Mitch McConnell and Republicans in the Senate? Clearly, a precedent has been set with Harry Reid for lower court justices. What are your thoughts?

LEO: Well, I'm not sure we're headed in that direction. We just learned before the show tonight, Sean, that there are seven Democrats who already said they won't filibuster and will support a vote. So this is becoming a very different process than we thought. I think part of that is the president's resolve in the nomination that he made. I think part of it is just this extraordinary nominee that we have in Judge Gorsuch, who I think is really very hard to lay a glove on.

HANNITY: You know, Mr. Leo, I will say that I hope that is, in fact, the case. I think it may have a lot to do with politics. I would bet those are states the Democrats are serving in that Donald Trump probably won, just a political thought on my part. But more importantly, after what Democrats did to good people like Robert Bork, good people like Clarence Thomas and the process that they put them through -- and the smearing and the slander and besmirchment, it was so unbecoming of that body. That's good news.

Leonard Leo, thank you for being with us.

LEO: Thank you so much. Have a good night.

HANNITY: Appreciate it.

Joining us now with more reaction to the president's Supreme Court nomination, from the American Center for Law and Justice, Jay Sekulow and elected superior court judge in New York and the host of "Justice," Judge Jeanine Pirro.

What is your reaction, Jay Sekulow? We talked about this last night?

JAY SEKULOW, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: Yes, I think, look, this was a great selection. I've had the privilege of having a case before Judge Gorsuch involving 10 Commandments. That case ended up -- he wrote the opinion with Judge McConnell in our favor. It ended up going to the Supreme Court of the United States.


HANNITY: No, but you respect people...

SEKULOW: No, it's great. I mean, it was a hotly contested case. But look, I think what Leonard said is absolutely correct. Let me just add one thing to that, and that is we don't have the luxury to assume they're not going to try to filibuster here, Sean.

HANNITY: I agree with you.

SEKULOW: The politics of the moment are that the Democrats, those on the left, are going to try to make a case out of this. This is a guy with a sterling reputation, but beyond that, he's got a decade track record.  We've looked at every case he's decided, looked at every opinion he's joined. And frankly, they're going to have a lot of trouble mounting a case against him, but I don't think we should assume they're not going to.

I'm going to operate, as I do in every case -- I assume I'm at four justices and I've got to get the fifth. I was never a great math student, but I could count to five. Here, I'm going to -- we're going to believe we're going to get there. We're going to get there. He will be confirmed.  But we got to fight like we're behind a little bit here because they're going to motivate even if it doesn't work. They're going to try to see how their apparatus works!

HANNITY: It's interesting you say that. We do have a statement from the DNC. "The nomination of Judge Gorsuch raises serious concerns about whether he would be a Supreme Court justice who believes in the Constitution, that it protects all of us, not just the wealthy."  I mean, it's the same old talking points we always get.

Judge Pirro, what's your reaction?

JEANINE PIRRO, HOST, "JUSTICE": Well, it's the same old talking points because it doesn't matter who the -- how...


HANNITY: It wouldn't have mattered who he picked.

PIRRO: They wrote it yesterday!

HANNITY: Yes, they wrote it days ago.

PIRRO: You know what I think is so impressive about this is not only the fact that Donald Trump has indicated and the president has now done exactly what he said he would do, and that is to nominate someone in the likeness of an Antonin Scalia.

But what I'm so impressed with in terms of Judge Gorsuch is not only the fact that he has incredible credentials, but he has the judicial temperament. But I liked one of the things that he said in that clip that you did. (INAUDIBLE) a judge who likes every outcome or decision he reaches is probably a bad judge. And that speaks to the fact that he is very much a textualist and a constitutionalist. That means that his decisions are decided not so much by policy or by what he thinks, but by the law, by precedent, by the Constitution. And you can't always agree with everything you do because it is based upon the law!

And this is a man who clearly understands the solemnity of the position that he's being offered and/or nominated for, and he writes in the style of Justice Scalia. And he is clearly someone who nominated and received his appointment unanimously before and unanimous credentials by the ABA.

HANNITY: Here is his judicial philosophy. In a 2016 law review article, he wrote that, "Judges should be in the business of declaring what the law is using traditional tools of interpretation"...

PIRRO: Exactly.


HANNITY: ... "rather than pronouncing the law as they might wish it to be in light of their own political views."

So what he's saying is he's respecting the legislative branch.


PIRRO: Right.

HANNITY: He's respecting separation of powers.

SEKULOW: Exactly.

HANNITY: And he's making a clear distinction, and it's not the role of a judge to -- to legislate from the bench, which is what liberals seem to want. What they can't get done at the ballot box or legislatively, they want the courts to weigh in on. Isn't that what, really, this is about, this fight is about?

SEKULOW: And he -- yes, and he rolled out that today, as well, in his speech. He made that point.

Let me say one other thing, Sean. We -- you have to give the president a lot of credit here not only for the selection but the way upon which it was rolled out this evening. It was with decorum. It was with integrity. It honored Maureen Scalia, which I thought was very important. And the entire solemnity of the event speaks well of the way in which the president and his cabinet and his team views Supreme Court nominations and the importance of that.

The president acknowledged this is a legacy that goes beyond him, and I think that the president did the country a service today by raising the bar upon which the Supreme Court announcement for nominations are made.

HANNITY: I think it's even bigger than that. It's been 11 days, and if you look off (ph) where he stood on trade, where he stood on "Obama care," where he has stood on vetting refugees, where he's stood on the wall, the process (sic) they're making on the economy, eliminating 75 percent of regulations, it's kind of refreshing, Jay, to have a president that is not all words and no action, but all action, and frankly, fewer words...

PIRRO: Fewer words!


HANNITY: ... than Obama gave us. But let me go to...

SEKULOW: I think it served the president well today and I think it's serving the country well. I think, look, they're going to try to mount this opposition to Judge Gorsuch.

HANNITY: I agree with you on the opposition.

SEKULOW: I'm going to tell you, Sean, this man is being confirmed.

PIRRO: Well, there's no question he's being confirmed. And I think one of the things that he's prepared for, given what he went -- what his mother went through when she was the head of the EPA. He knows what he's in for.  He's ready for the fight. Everyone knows what the fight is going to be.  And so he is prepared for it, and he's got the credentials and he's got the background to fight it!

HANNITY: All right, we bring now -- I think Laura Ingraham is going to join us for a second. And Laura, as an attorney yourself...

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Did you say for a second, Sean? For a second?


HANNITY: Hi, Laura! Laura, you can stay for the whole show. We'll co- host together. We're friends.

INGRAHAM: Oh, come on! I mean, I'm sitting here in this incredible studio. I'm, like, listening to Judge Jeanine and all the great guests...


HANNITY: I'm telling the world where you are right now.

PIRRO: Oh, are you in your house, Laura?

HANNITY: It looks like it. She doesn't look like she's in the studio.


INGRAHAM: And the party is here. I don't know (INAUDIBLE) We're celebrating the Gorsuch pick. I don't know what you all are doing.

HANNITY: All right, let's look at...

INGRAHAM: Got the margaritas going. It's great.

HANNITY: Oh, great. Thanks for inviting us. We really appreciate it, Laura.


HANNITY: Let me go to -- let me go to, for example, some of the cases that went before him -- Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor. Some of these decisions controversial, but what you glean from his judicial philosophy based on those decisions?

INGRAHAM: Yes, Leonard touched on this earlier, Sean, but he's a textualist, which means he doesn't believe that judges should read meaning into statutes or the Constitution that didn't exist at the time it was written.

He doesn't believe in reading legislative history, taking into account other contemporaneous documents or other notes written by legislators. He believes that the intent of what Congress passed in statutes and what our framers wrote in our Constitution is what should govern. That's textualism. That's what Justice Scalia believed in, and that's clearly what Neil Gorsuch has guided his judicial life on.

And that's very reassuring for those of us who believe that the judiciary, especially in really the last half century, has been much more activist -- in other words, acting like a super-legislature of unelected judges who have life tenure and who are not accountable to the voters.

So Judge Gorsuch is a refreshing change from a long history of judicial activism coming from the left, appointed by mostly Democrats but not all Democrats. Republicans have had a lot of swings and misses in these judicial appointments.

And conservatives across the country certainly hope that Judge Gorsuch is not going to be the disappointment that, let's say, a David Hackett (ph) Souter was, or in some cases, of course, the man for whom Neil Gorsuch clerked, Anthony M. Kennedy.

HANNITY: And Judge Jeanine, let me ask you -- what you take out of Hobby Lobby, that particular case, Little Sisters of the Poor, and his decisions there?

PIRRO: What I take out of that is the fact that he holds religious liberty extremely important.


PIRRO: And the criticism that we're now hearing, that the left has conjured up, is that he's anti-woman and pro-corporation. They take from Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor the fact that because Gorsuch said that the right of the corporate -- of Hobby Lobby to say, Look -- and Little Sisters of the Poor to say, Look, we don't want to be forced to give something or do (ph) provide abortifacts (sic), something against our religion, to women who work in the -- for Little Sisters of the Poor, it's against our religion. They're interpreting that to be anti-woman and pro- corporation...


PIRRO: ... is nonsense!

HANNITY: ... really a religious liberty case?

PIRRO: It's a religious liberty case...

SEKULOW: It really was.

PIRRO: ... that's in favor of the Little Sisters of the Poor and in favor of Hobby Lobby saying, we don't want to provide abortion and abortifacts!


HANNITY: Go ahead, Laura.

INGRAHAM: Sean, if you don't have -- if you don't have religious conscience rights, if there's no religious liberty that accrues to a group of people, whether in a closely held, you know, business organization or with a group that's purely religious as a group of nuns who take care of the indigent elderly, then what does religious liberty mean?

Like, what did our framers actually intend when they wrote the 1st Amendment to the Constitution? That -- that case and his disposition of that case reveals a lot about his judicial philosophy. And that should be very reassuring to people who believe in the original meaning and a more textual interpretation of the Constitution, which again empowers the original meaning of the Constitution. And when he does statutory interpretation, he doesn't substitute his own judgment for the judgment of duly elected representatives.


HANNITY: Laura, that's a great analysis. And let me go to Jay on this very same topic.


HANNITY: It's very interesting because if it really is a religious liberty case, as Laura points out, a 1st Amendment case, if the government -- think of it the other way. If the government is allowed to mandate that the Little Sisters of the Poor or a corporation must do things that contradict their deeply held religious values and convictions, that is particularly chilling and frightening, and it should be for anybody, whether you're liberal, libertarian, conservative. It shouldn't matter. Right?

SEKULOW: You're absolutely correct. Look, I've had the privilege of litigating for three decades in front of the Supreme Court of the United States on religious liberty. Let me say this. Judge Gorsuch -- and Laura's absolutely right, but in his concurring opinion in the Hobby Lobby case, he pointed out -- he went at length to point out that the Green (ph) family had constitutional rights that could impact their business. In other words, you didn't have to separate your faith from your business, especially when it was a closely held corporation, as Hobby Lobby is.

So this fundamental recognition of the right to religious liberty both on an individual basis, but in your daily life and in your business, is -- should be comforting to everyone. Now, look, there's those on the left that don't like the Hobby Lobby decision, but the fact of the matter, if you look at the text of the Constitution, if you understand what's called the religion clauses, the majority opinion there was correct.

And Judge Gorsuch especially was correct in his concurring opinion. And let me say something else about that concurring opinion. He went out of his way to point out exactly what his view of religious liberty was in that case. He didn't simply join a majority opinion. He put in writing what exactly his thought was.

PIRRO: And the fact that the president selected him as his nominee in a case that is so important in terms of contemporary issues that involve religious liberty tell us where Donald Trump is on this particular issue and how important it is to him.

HANNITY: He also weighed in on the Second Amendment. He said he respects the 2nd Amendment, writing in the U.S. versus Games Perez (ph) that there is a long tradition of widespread gun ownership by private individuals in this country, and the Supreme Court has held the Second Amendment protects the individual's right to own firearms...


HANNITY: He used the actual text of the Constitution. Laura?

INGRAHAM: Yes, he was referring to the Heller case and -- and -- and that's -- that was a layup, in my view, of a decision. But again, the thing he's going to get smashed on by the Democrats is the right to die, the euthanasia book, which informs us of his view on -- on -- on life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. Like, what -- you can't deprive another person of life, even if it's at the end of their life, or pre-born children.

I mean, that goes to the heart of what the Constitution really is all about.

HANNITY: What will their argument be...

INGRAHAM: But on the issue of...

HANNITY: ... on that particular...

INGRAHAM: ... of -- of -- want to go back to the issue of exercise of religion. 1st Amendment doesn't give you the freedom to worship. That's not all it says. It's the freedom to exercise, free exercise of religious belief and understanding. That means you can believe what you want without the government forcing you to do something contrary to your closely held fundamental religious beliefs. That's -- that's -- that's what we have to understand about Judge Gorsuch.

PIRRO: And one of the issues that is going to come up is the issue of abortion. There is very little or nothing on abortion and...

HANNITY: It's all -- that's all every liberal commentator is talking about tonight!

PIRRO: That's all they care about. But there's nothing, there's no writing on the abortion issue. And they're going to try to interpret through other cases what he may feel...


HANNITY: ... because I'm running out of time. Do all of you believe, as I do, that Roe v. Wade is bad law?

SEKULOW: Yes, I think the -- I think the authors of Roe versus Wade recognize it was bad law. They made it up. I mean, this was a decision that should have been left to the states.

HANNITY: Exactly!

PIRRO: Exactly.

SEKULOW: The federal government took it over by having a Supreme Court adjudicate this. But Sean, let me tell you what. At the end of the day, in about 8 to 10 weeks, maybe less, we're going to be calling him Justice Gorsuch.

HANNITY: I agree.

PIRRO: Well, there's no question. He's -- he's well beyond...

HANNITY: You think he will.


HANNITY: Laura, last word. Will he -- will he get through? And do you think they'll have to use the nuclear option...

INGRAHAM: He'll be -- he'll -- he'll...

HANNITY: ... to do it, Laura?

INGRAHAM: I believe they will have to use the nuclear option and I think he will get confirmed. And they're going to have another nomination probably in the next perhaps 3 to 4 months.


PIRRO: Really?

HANNITY: Do you know for...

PIRRO: That soon? What do you know, Laura?


PIRRO: Laura, tell us! What do you know?

HANNITY: You're drinking margaritas alone. You won't share information.  What's up with that?

SEKULOW: No, she's right.

PIRRO: I wish!


SEKULOW: ... summer, you're going to have another -- you're going to have another vacancy...


PIRRO: What do you think?

HANNITY: I think in June, I think after this next session, I think there will probably be a retirement.

All right, thank you all for being with us. Now we've got to keep going.  A lot of news here tonight.

And up next tonight on this busy news night on "Hannity"...


TRUMP: I have selected an individual whose qualities define really, and I mean clearly define what we're looking for.


HANNITY: Earlier tonight, President Trump announced he is nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Shannon Bream will join us next with a full report. Also, Bill Bennett is here with reaction. And that and more tonight. And my friend, Dr. Cornel West, is here with us straight ahead.



TRUMP: I have always felt that after the defense of our nation, the most important decision a president of the United States can make is the appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Depending on their age, a justice can be active for 50 years, and his or her decisions can last a century or more and can often be permanent. I took the task of this nomination very seriously. I have selected an individual whose qualities define really -- and I mean really closely define -- what we're looking for.


HANNITY: That was President Trump earlier tonight announcing his decision to nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: -- and I mean really closely define -- what we are looking for.


HANNITY: That was President Trump earlier tonight announcing his decision to nominate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Here now with reaction is our very own Shannon Bream outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Shannon, it really did come down to three names. I was getting worried earlier today, and I know you were as well, that it was going to be Mr. Gorsuch. What is your take and what is the take from people there?

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS HOST: It's interesting because my inbox flooded immediately with people supporting and opposing him. Many on the left are worried about, as you had a lengthy discussion there about the Hobby Lobby decision, all of the prochoice groups tell me they think that signals to them that he is going to be anti-choice, anti-woman, and you know the smears are already starting. You can see what their strategy is going to be with respect to him.

And I think it was Laura who pointed out this. A 2009 book that he wrote about euthanasia, assisted suicide, so we know where his positions are.  He's talked a lot about the respect for life in all of its forms and all of its times. We know those things will come up.

But listen, this is a guy who way back in Columbia before it was probably cool in the '80s, he started a paper. He cofounded one called "The Fed."  And it was a pushback against what he thought was the dominant liberal philosophy and culture on campus. So he is not new to this. His mom was the first female head of the EPA under President Reagan. He is very familiar with how it works here in Washington.

And you know he's even written about how confirmation battles in his opinion have become political warfare. He had a piece out in 2005 in "The National Review" where he talked about the attacks that happened to people who step up and are nominated for these positions on the federal bench. So he knows what he's walking into.

He has also criticized the left and says they have come to rely on courtrooms and judges to get their agenda done where they haven't been able to do with voters and at the ballot box. So he said a lot of things the left is just simply not going to like even though he's got that Columbia, Harvard, Oxford pedigree and a ton of support. The ABA, which is not known to be a conservative organization, has unanimously rated him as well qualified. So there is no doubt the president factored in his ability to be confirmed.

HANNITY: Leonard Leo saying earlier in the program that he thinks there's seven Senate Democrats already that would go along and allow an up or down vote on this. That would mean that the Republicans only need one more.  Have you confirmed that?

BREAM: I have not confirmed those numbers. But we've heard thinking that way, because, as we know, there are so many of these Democrats who are up in critical red states in 2018 and that really may influence the way they look at this. And so many of them are going to, listen, this guy is eminently qualified on paper, looking at his record. Whether we agree with him or not, he's not somebody who can say is not qualified. There's going to be a lot of pressure on them to at least let him get to a vote. So we will see, but I think the numbers could be there.

HANNITY: Shannon, I know it is a cold night, thanks for staying up for us tonight, we appreciate it.

Joining us now with reaction, former secretary of education, former drug czar, Bill Bennett. First reaction to Neil Gorsuch?

BILL BENNETT, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for letting this non-lawyer join the lawyers' margarita party.


BENNETT: Goodness gracious.         

HANNITY: I'm a non-lawyer. Does that count?        

BENNETT: Yes, yes, it sure does.        

Listen, I want to talk about the human and political dimension here.  First, I want to echo what Jay Sekulow said about the president. The president who was supposed to be this carnival barker, this TV guy, this vulgarian -- what dignity, what grace, almost solemnity in that introduction. And notice, it wasn't about him. It was all about Judge Gorsuch. It was a great moment for Donald Trump and I'm very proud of him for doing it.        Second, for those of us who went through this campaign, and I know you did, we sweated blood a lot of the time, people said, what are the arguments?

HANNITY: I would do that again in a heartbeat.

BENNETT: Right. I would make one. I'd say the Supreme Court. And people would say cynically, oh, well, like the Roman emperor Caligula he will appoint his sister or maybe he's appoint his sister or maybe just some joker. Well, he appointed Neil Gorsuch. End of story, end of case. There is the argument for the president of United States right here. This guy will serve 25 or 30 years.

HANNITY: It's amazing. We have been around politics a long time. I covered Robert Bork. I covered Clarence Thomas. And we have seen how ugly this process can be. Both of us know and understand this. And this is Justice Scalia's seat. And I wouldn't expect anything less from the Democrats than a full on fight. But bigger picture, we have seen a lot of presidents too. Have you ever witnessed the president checking off promise after promise after promise as quickly as this one?

BENNETT: No. The shock in this town of somebody actually doing what he said he was going to do is remarkable. My gosh, he is actually fulfilling campaign promises.

I want to say something else about Gorsuch, because people have been making out a lot out of Columbia and our of Harvard Law, and out of Oxford.  I went to Harvard Law, and it's a great place. But I'll bet you the formative education experience we'll find out, Sean, was Georgetown Preparatory School, a Catholic school. I bet you that's where that comes from.

HANNITY: Why am I not shocked to hear that's where you're going?

BENNETT: Because you know what I believe, the formation of character. The classes of Steven Oaks in history at that school, you look into it, you will find out.

But listen, I think the Democrats would be wise to just let this one through. I don't think they're going to be able to touch him. This is a conservative seat.

HANNITY: I see Joe Manchin, maybe Claire McCaskill, not because she wants to, because Donald Trump won the state of Missouri by a pretty significant margin. So she's afraid of losing her seat. That would be the only reason that I see what is coming up in 2018 is not a good lineup for the Democrats. They're defending an awful lot of seats.

But Bill, stay right there. Hang on. We've got Fox News contributor, our good friend, Mercedes Schlapp, and Fox News senior correspondent, a lawyer himself, Geraldo Rivera. What is your reaction -- let me first ask your reaction to the shock and awe and the speed of light by which Donald Trump is fulfilling his promises.

GERALDO RIVERA, FOX NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: I think that there is an energy unmistakably, but there is also hubris. I don't understand why but the refugee ban for instance was promulgated without any notice. You could have done exactly the same thing the next Wednesday.

HANNITY: Because that would allow people to come in faster.

RIVERA: You have a seven-year-old kids stuck at Heathrow airport, it looks bad for President Trump.

HANNITY: But the problem is, Geraldo, every time we telegraph we're going to do something then it gives people time. Look at the lead up to Iraq.  That was such a dumb idea to let it go so long. What is your reaction to this appointment?

RIVERA: I think he is excellent, an excellent choice. I am relieved by this choice in many ways.

HANNITY: What were you afraid of?

RIVERA: I was afraid that he would go for a Bork kind of guy, a real hard- nosed.

HANNITY: He was an intellective genius.

RIVERA: He was, but he was, again, you go into the whole aspect of can't we all get along? He is a great conservative, an intellectual, a guy who's been fair in every way. My friends say that the only judge more qualified than him was Merrick Garland. My point is --

HANNITY: The problem is those are your friends.

RIVERA: It's also the Scalia seat so I think that it really is a no- brainer in many ways. I think he did an excellent job. It was an elegant ceremony, and I'm pleased that he did it.

HANNITY: One thing, Mercedes, that we really haven't discussed is the fact that, Leonard Leo brought it up earlier in the program, the fact that he did this back in May, and he put out the list of 20. And all the times I would interview him, the Supreme Court was such a big issue. I asked him often when we were doing town halls, an originalist, constitutionalist, why do you want that person? And he said over and over again I'm going to pick from this list, and he did. Great strategy in the end, right?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, WASHINGTON TIMES: For President Trump it was very important to build that trust with the conservative circles. As you know my husband Matt runs the American Conservative Union, and it was very clear that we were all looking for these very solid conservative picks, someone who would be a strict originalist, someone who would be in -- that could fill the shoes of a Justice Scalia. And so I think Donald Trump understood that during the campaign, and really, he held to his promise.

And I have to say, for conservatives out there, and those never-Trumpers, Sean, those never-Trumpers that didn't want to support Donald Trump, those conservatives that were so critical of him, just think, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, we would have lost this Justice Scalia seat. This court would have been fundamentally changed for generations to come.

HANNITY: I tweeted out something out tonight, and I will get a quick reaction from Bill because he has to run. "An originalist, a constitutionalist, no thanks to NRO, the Wall Street Journal, people like Bret Stephens, The Weekly Standard, the never-Trumpers." And then I wrote "Thank you irredeemable, deplorable friends. You did this." What does this mean for all those people that were so against Donald Trump, that fought against him and did everything they could do to help Hillary Clinton and claim they were a conservative? This would not have happened if they had their way. Bill Bennett, last word.

BENNETT: You know, as I've said to you before, every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. Redemption is possible.

HANNITY: You're being way too gracious.

BENNETT: No, no. I have a t-shirt, "PH-deplorable," and it's about three of us, class of three.


BENNETT: I'll send you one, buddy. To be forgiven.

HANNITY: Thank you so much.

When we come back we will continue. Mercedes and Geraldo, stay with us.

And later, my good friend Dr. Cornel West will join us in studio as "Hannity" continues tonight.  


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." So President Trump has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Back with us, Mercedes Schlapp, Geraldo Rivera. Let me ask you the question about all of those supposedly conservative intellectuals that have now been proven in 11 days so wrong on who Donald Trump is.

RIVERA: This choice was a choice that would definitely please academics, historians, philosophers, ideologues. Now, the mystery is, and I don't know if you know something I don't know. I don't believe this judge has ever ruled on an abortion rights case.

HANNITY: But he's an originalist, and even you would probably argue with me that Roe v. Wade it was bad law, should have been left to the states.  They were conferring rights that did not exist in the constitution.

RIVERA: Be careful what you wish for. What about the 10th Amendment? You are a state's rights guy. The 10th Amendment confers to the states their own sanctity as their own sovereign in many ways. So you can't argue sanctuary cities are illegal if the states have the 10th amendment that says --

HANNITY: You and I need two hours alone.

SCHLAPP: I was going to say, what do you all want to talk about?

HANNITY: What about those people that were so wrong? What is your take?

SCHLAPP: I just feel that what Donald Trump is doing is that he is keeping to his word, Sean. I think he has made it very clear.

HANNITY: But I knew he would.        

SCHLAPP: When have you seen a president come out during his candidacy and give out a list, just give over a list of who he would pick as his Supreme Court nominee? And I think for conservatives that didn't believe that Donald Trump would pick one of the 20, I think it's very telling of the fact that for Donald Trump, I think he's proving himself that he's willing, especially when it comes to the Supreme Court, to put someone in there who is a conservative.

HANNITY: I've got to break here. Love you both. Good to see you. When we come back, Dr. Cornel west, you don't want to miss it, straight ahead.


HANNITY: Welcome back to "Hannity." Here with reaction to the president's Supreme Court pick, Harvard University professor, our good friend Dr. Cornel West. How long have we been friends for?


HANNITY: Did you vote for Trump?

WEST: Can you imagine? I'd be on the crack pipe.


WEST: You know what's fascinating, both of us our Christians. I go this way, you go this way. You look at Donald Trump, you get excited. I look at Donald Trump --

HANNITY: I don't get excited. I want my country fixed.

WEST: It's not just that. But I am dealing with the spiritual blackout, the eclipse of integrity, honesty, decency. Even the debate about the court. Look at the chair, it's a stolen seat. Republicans actually would not allow the Democrats to follow through. That's a stolen seat, brother.

HANNITY: Historically, the precedent is last year, Democrats have done it, Republicans have done it, but they did confirm his earlier Supreme Court picks.

WEST: But on a deeper level, on a deeper level, when I look at Trump, I'm going to be very honest with you, and I like to be honest with you.

HANNITY: You're always honest.

WEST: I see brother Trump as a gangster in character and a neo-fascist in content for this reason.

HANNITY: That's way over the top.

WEST: For this reason. He said we are going to go in and take oil in Iraq. That's their oil.

HANNITY: Excuse me. We are going to liberate your country and shed America blood sweat and tears.

WEST: Do you think we have access to that oil when it's their oil.

HANNITY: Excuse me, I've got to tell you something, if we are saving your country, if we would've been better off -- hang on --

WEST: Which we invaded in first place, we invaded in the first place.



HANNITY: Did Obama do a good job?

WEST: I don't think he did.

HANNITY: Did he do a good job for the black community?

WEST: I think he could've done so, so, so much.

HANNITY: And he blew it, didn't he?

WEST: But the thing is Obama doesn't have the same kind of gangster image.

HANNITY: Doesn't matter.

WEST: Yes it does. Character is important.

HANNITY: Wait a minute, he went to the church of G-d America and hung out with unrepentant domestic terrorists.

WEST: I don't know about all that.

HANNITY: Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, and Reverend Wright.

WEST: But the war crimes I'm worried about both with Bush, Obama, and Trump. There were seven children killed yesterday in Yemen, each one, seven children killed.

HANNITY: Here's the good news.

WEST: Yes.

HANNITY: You are coming back tomorrow night and we are going to talk about all of this. We are going to war tomorrow.

WEST: We can get into this, absolutely.

HANNITY: It takes like a year to get Dr. Cornel West. He'll join us tomorrow night on the show. When we come back, more "Hannity" straight ahead.


HANNITY: Time for our "Question of the Day." What do think of President Trump's Supreme Court pick? Really simple. Go to Facebook.com/SeanHannity, @SeanHannity on Twitter, let us know what you think. We always love hearing from you.

Unfortunately, that is all the time we have left. Now, my good friend Professor Cornel West is going to catch this ball in a second. Stay with us. A live "Special Report" with Bret Baier is next. We'll see you tomorrow night. You got the camera on him?

Content and Programming Copyright 2017 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.