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Carolyn Kaster / AP

The Trump team's strategy to confirm Supreme Court Neil Gorsuch has boiled down to a single psychological advantage: They're betting Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer has more powerful incentives than Republicans to avoid the "nuclear option."

Trump's inner circle on the court fight doesn't view the nuclear option as a disappointing fallback. Far from it. They'd see its use now as a major strategic victory.

Why this matters: Democrats are in a tougher spot on the Supreme Court than many realize. The base is braying for total warfare, and Schumer is channeling that pressure. Red state Democrats, however, are concerned about their re-election chances in 2018, and some are telling their more bipartisan Republican colleagues that they're worried about facing primary challenges from the left.

Here's the Trump team thought process, from sources close to the confirmation process:

  1. The Gorsuch nomination is controversial, but nowhere near as controversial as the next time a Supreme Court seat becomes vacant.
  2. A court with Gorsuch would lean rightward 5-4, but it'd hardly be a solid 5-4. Conservatives have little faith in Justice Anthony Kennedy, especially on social conservative priorities.
  3. If the next seat to be vacated belonged to Kennedy or a liberal justice, progressives would be justified in declaring that the fight over this single seat could reverse the left's landmark decisions, such as the right to have an abortion.
  4. If Schumer plays hardball now and denies Gorsuch 60 votes, Mitch McConnell would have a compelling argument to placate Republican Senate "old bulls" like John McCain who are worried the nuclear option would further erode their already-endangered institution.
  5. Using the nuclear option this time would lower the threshold for its use in the next Supreme Court fight, when Republicans will really need it.

Considering how this plays out long-term, it's easy to view the current SCOTUS fight as "win-win" for Republicans.

Go deeper

23 mins ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 39 mins ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

UN warns of "catastrophic" climate change failure without more emissions cuts

UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a news conference. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

A United Nations report released Friday warned that the planet will likely warm by more than 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century unless governments take extra steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Why it matters: The report, released just months ahead of November's UN Climate Summit, highlights the growing pressure on global leaders to crack down on emissions to avert the worst effects of climate change.