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Mitch McConnell laughs about stopping Obama hiring judges, allowing Trump to fill courts with conservatives

Alex Woodward
Mitch McConnell said he and America's first African American president had something in common as 'descendants of slave owners': Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell boasted about blocking former president Barack Obama's judicial appointments, a two-year effort that allowed Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled congress to stack courts with conservative judges and create a conservative majority on the nation's high court.

Fox host Sean Hannity told the Kentucky senator that he was shocked that the Obama administration "left so many vacancies and didn't try to fill those positions".

"I'll tell you why," Mr McConnell said, laughing. "I was in charge of what we did the last two years of the Obama administration."

Mr Hannity said: "I will give you full credit for that, and by the way, take a bow."

When he took office, the president inherited more than 100 vacancies, many of them lifetime appointments. More than a quarter of all active judges sitting on appeals courts were nominated by Mr Trump.

In the last two years of Mr Obama's term, only 28.6 percent of his judicial nominees were confirmed.

Mr Trump has selected nearly as many federal appeals judges in his three years in office than Mr Obama did in his entire two-term presidency — Mr Trump's 48 compared to Mr Obama's 52.

Mr McConnell most famously blocked Mr Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — the former president's pick to fill the seat left open by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016 — from even receiving a confirmation hearing.

The senator issued a statement on the day of Mr Scalia's death that the Senate would not consider any of Mr Obama's nominees from that point on, an unprecedented blockade that Mr McConnell said would be lifted by the next president

After a 263-day vacancy on the high court, the seat eventually was filled by Mr Trump's pick Neil Gorsuch.

"The most important decision I made in my entire political career was not to fulfil a Supreme Court vacancy" following the death of Mr Scalia, Mr McConnell said on Fox.

Mr McConnell also criticised judges who have empathy for people who appear in their courts while promoting his book, The Long Game, which includes a forward by the president, on the network.

He criticised the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate, which appears likely as members of Congress prepare a vote to support articles of impeachment against the president next week.

"The case is so darn weak coming over from the House," he said on Fox. "We all know how it's going to end. There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office."

He added: "My hope is there won't be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment. And Sean, it wouldn't surprise me if we got one or two Democrats."

Asked whether he thinks there's any "evidence of wrongdoing" by the president, whose impeachment is supported by several weeks of testimony and a 300-page report following a Congressional investigation, Mr McConnell appeared to dismiss the findings.

Mr Hannity also suggested that the House had failed by not investigating Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, after repeated attempts by Republicans to divert the impeachment probe to corruption claims promoted by the president's attorney Rudy Giuliani

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