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President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Houston, Texas. Photo by Leah Millis/Reuters

AP fact check: Trump overreaches in bragging about judges

WASHINGTON — 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: Trump is not No. 2.

Trump has appointed 84 judges who have been confirmed. That translates to about 10 percent of the total federal judgeships at the 21-month mark in his presidency. That lags at least two other 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 Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy (110) and Bill Clinton (128) at comparable points in their presidencies in the number of judges seated.

Wheeler also put together a ranking based on the number of appointees in 21 months as a percentage of “authorized judgeships,” or the total seats created by Congress. Trump lags more than a dozen other presidents, including Washington, who as the first president appointed 100 percent of the federal judges. At the 21-month mark, for instance, Kennedy appointees occupied roughly 28 percent of the judicial seats then authorized by Congress, far higher than Trump’s 10 percent.

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