AP FACT CHECK: Trump overreaches in bragging about judges

AP FACT CHECK: Trump overreaches in bragging about judges
President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at Houston Toyota Center, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump overreached Monday night when he boasted that he’s seated more federal judges than any president except George Washington. By various measures, he trails others.

A look at his claim at his Texas rally:

TRUMP: “We’re after George Washington” in federal judicial appointments.

THE FACTS: By the end of September, Trump had appointed 68 judges who were confirmed to the federal courts. That translated to about 8 percent of the total federal judgeships at the 20-month mark in his presidency. That lags at least four previous presidents in terms of both raw numbers and percentages, said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and expert on judicial appointments.

Wheeler, a former deputy director of the Federal Judicial Center, analyzed historical data from the center and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. He found that Trump trails Republican presidents George W. Bush (77) and Ronald Reagan (78), as well as Democrats Bill Clinton (85) and John F. Kennedy (109) at comparable points in their presidencies.

Trump has bragged about his judicial appointments before and in doing so, appeared to be including those he has nominated to the federal bench, but who have not yet been confirmed.

Even then, Trump’s total of confirmed judges and current nominees represents 16 percent of the total judgeships. Kennedy and Grover Cleveland reached higher percentages based on their confirmed judges alone.

Wheeler also put together a ranking based on the number of appointees in 20 months as a percentage of “authorized judgeships,” or the total seats created by Congress. Trump lagged at least 17 other presidents, including Washington, who as the first president appointed 100 percent of the federal judges. At the 20-month mark, for instance, Kennedy appointees occupied roughly 27 percent of the judicial seats then authorized by Congress, far higher than Trump’s 8 percent.

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ A look at the veracity of claims by political figures