US & Canada

Neil Gorsuch pick: How did Trump keep choice secret?

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Media captionDonald Trump's supporters explain why they love his choice for the Supreme Court

Keeping a secret in Washington is never easy but when it concerns the identity of a Supreme Court justice nominee, the stakes are even higher. And the Trump team went to great lengths to pull it off without a hitch.

Just hours after Judge Neil Gorsuch received the US president's phone call to inform him he was his choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, a government team was dispatched to Colorado to covertly shuttle him to Washington.

The call from President Donald Trump came on Monday, 24 hours before the announcement was due to be broadcast live from the White House East Room.

What followed next for the conservative judge was a secret meeting at a neighbour's home, a clandestine drive down a backcountry road in the Colorado Rockies, and a military flight to the US capital.

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Media captionDonald Trump picks Neil Gorsuch as US Supreme Court nominee

"So was that a surprise? Was it?", the president asked the nation, as his nominee appeared by his side for the first time.

There were reports on Tuesday that Mr Trump's final two choices were coming to Washington for the ceremony, which reminded everyone that the president used to host a reality TV show.

Social media wags made comparisons to The Apprentice and The Bachelor.

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Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

But the second choice, Thomas Hardiman, never made it to Washington, although he gave that impression when he was filmed getting petrol east from Pittsburgh on Tuesday morning.

A spokesman for Mr Hardiman's court, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, told the BBC that he had instead travelled to Altoona, Pennsylvania, for "a lengthy meeting".

If there was a deliberate ruse by the White House to heighten anticipation by pretending two people were still in the frame, a day after the selection process ended, then Mr Hardiman was happy to play his part and the whole operation went off perfectly.

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Image caption Protests broke out at the Supreme Court as Trump was making his announcement

White House spokesman Sean Spicer explained to the journalists the lengths the government had gone to in order to keep Mr Trump's selection of Mr Gorsuch secret.

After Mr Trump's call on Monday, a White House team flew to Denver then drove nearly an hour to Boulder to meet Mr Gorsuch and his family at a neighbour's house, in order to avoid the media's prying eyes.

The White House team then spirited him through a "back farm road", Mr Spicer said, to a waiting military plane which brought him to Washington that night. He stayed that evening at a friend's house, in order to keep a low profile.


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Image caption White House officials watch the East Room announcement
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Image caption Judge Hardiman was not chosen this time, but Mr Trump will likely have more Supreme Court nominees

There has been a sense of drama about other key selections made by Mr Trump.

When he was selecting his vice-president, he reportedly asked his team after he had chosen Mike Pence if it was too late to change his mind.

After US media reported that James Mattis would lead the Department of Defense, the Trump team denied the reports before Mr Trump revealed his decision on stage during his "Thank You" tour.

Mr Gorsuch must be approved by the Senate before being sworn in as the ninth Supreme Court Justice.

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