AUSTIN, Texas — An avid Twitter user, Donald Trump has attracted more than his fair share of trolls. Now, he may be ready to name one of them to the Supreme Court.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is on the list of 11 potential high court justices the presumptive Republican nominee plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he’s elected to the White House. The Republican Willett has a reputation as a strong conservative with an ironic sense of humor, and his Twitter presence is so pronounced that Texas’ Legislature last year named him honorary “Tweeter Laureate.”
One problem, though: Willett has repeatedly used Twitter — and his famously biting wit — to mock Trump.
Last summer, Willett used his Twitter account, @JusticeWillett, to take a swipe at Trump’s conservatism, tweeting: “Can’t wait till Trump rips off his face Mission Impossible-style & reveals a laughing Ruth Bader Ginsburg.” Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg is famously liberal.
Can't wait till Trump rips off his face Mission Impossible-style & reveals a laughing Ruth Bader Ginsburg. pic.twitter.com/LieabD35zb
— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) August 27, 2015
Willett has poked fun at Trump’s plan to build a wall the length of the U.S.-Mexico border and stick Mexico with the bill: “We’ll rebuild the Death Star. It’ll be amazing, believe me. And the rebels will pay for it.”
"We'll rebuild the Death Star. It'll be amazing, believe me. And the rebels will pay for it."
—Darth Trump pic.twitter.com/y25LADg15J
— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) April 8, 2016
And he laughed about the controversy over Trump University: “Low-energy Trump University has never made it to #MarchMadness. Or even to the #NIT. Sad!”
— Judge Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) March 15, 2016
Willett was also fond of using props to reinforce his displeasure with Trump, like a weeping religious icon over the message “Trump to ‘the evangelicals’ __ ‘I’ll be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.'” Willett added a postscript to that message: “Happy Easter everyone!”
Trump to "the evangelicals"—
"I'll be the best thing that's ever happened to them."
ps—Happy Easter, everyone! pic.twitter.com/a1mGbY8a9p
— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) March 9, 2016
He also gleefully tweeted a chart featuring the separation of the three branches of government after a February Republican debate, when Trump mistakenly spoke about Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito “signing” a bill.
Willett even used an unflattering haiku to scoff at whom Trump might name to the Supreme Court — which could be himself, as it turns out.
Donald Trump haiku—
— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) June 16, 2015
Mobbed by reporters Wednesday when he showed up at a Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s book signing in Austin just as news of Trump’s high court short list was breaking, Willett giggled at the attention. He said he was “exercising judicial restraint” by not commenting and left.
Meanwhile, Willett began trending on certain corners of Twitter, as word of his past Trump criticism on social media spread.
Willett was appointed to Texas’ highest civil court in August 2005 by then-Gov. Rick Perry, who ran for president against Trump and was also one of his harshest critics — but now says he’s changed his mind. Willett won re-election to six-year terms in 2006 and 2012.
“I’m the most avid judicial tweeter in America, which is like being the tallest Munchkin in Oz,” Willett told The Associated Press last year, after the state Legislature saluted his social media prowess.
Willett sometimes tweets 10-plus times per day, but insisted then that he is ever-cautious, careful not to discuss issues that could come before his court. That same restraint might have served him well when it came to Trump’s potential Supreme Court.