The former solicitor general who defended the Indiana governor’s policies in court lost his shot at becoming a federal judge after Vice President Mike Pence intervened — to shield his controversial tenure from scrutiny.
The vice president scuttled the nomination process for Tom Fisher, who had defended Pence’s policies when he was Indiana governor, because he didn’t want that period of his political life dragged through his former solicitor’s confirmation hearings, reported Politico.
Don McGahn, whose personal mission as White House counsel was packing the courts with younger conservative judges, had a deputy call Judge Michael Kanne in January 2018 and urge him to retire so President Donald Trump could nominate Fisher, the judge’s former clerk, as his successor.
Kanne was amenable to the plan, and notified the president he would take senior status — a type of semi-retirement that would allow him to stay on the bench until the successor was confirmed.
But the plan was quickly snuffed out after Pence’s lawyers, Matt Morgan and Mark Paoletta, and his then-chief of staff Nick Ayers intervened.
Neither McGahn nor his deputies consulted with the vice president’s office before reaching out to Kanne, which irritated Pence and his aides, who were concerned Fisher’s work for the former governor would hurt his future political considerations.
They were particularly concerned about Fisher’s involvement with Pence’s attempt to stop Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana — which was savaged by an appeals court in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The political issues that had been very controversial in Indiana, while Pence was governor, Fisher had also been very involved in because he was solicitor general, and that nomination would reignite those battles,” said a former administration official involved in the failed nomination, “and they could potentially embarrass the vice president.”