Trump “deeply loves Peter Thiel,” and people in the real estate mogul’s inner circle are talking about Thiel as a Supreme Court nominee, a separate source close to Trump told The Huffington Post. That source, who has not spoken to Trump directly about Thiel being nominated to the Court, cautioned that Trump’s offers often fail to materialize in real life.
It’s not clear whether Trump has indeed offered to nominate Thiel ― only that Thiel has said Trump would nominate him and that Trump’s team has discussed Thiel as a possible nominee. Both sources requested anonymity, given that Trump and Thiel have each demonstrated a willingness to seek revenge against parties they feel have wronged them. In Thiel’s case, he secretly financed lawsuits against Gawker.com with the intention of destroying the publication. He succeeded, and his role in the assault was only revealed in the final stages.
Trump’s press secretary, Hope Hicks, denied that Thiel had been offered a seat on the Supreme Court or that the campaign was discussing the idea. “There is absolutely no truth to this whatsoever,” she told HuffPost.
“Peter hasn’t had any conversations about a Supreme Court nomination and has no interest in the job,” said Thiel spokesman Jeremiah Hall.
Were Trump to actually nominate Thiel, he would be by far the richest Supreme Court nominee of the modern era, with an estimated net worth of $2.7 billion.
Thiel is a venture capitalist who co-founded the CIA-backed data-mining firm Palantir in addition to PayPal. He also started a now-withered hedge fund and was the first outside investor in Facebook. He is a Facebook board member and the chairman of Palantir.
Thiel attended Stanford Law School and worked at Sullivan & Cromwell, a prestigious New York law firm, for seven months. If nominated and confirmed, he would be the first openly gay member of the Court.
Trump has said that Republicans who don’t like him “have to vote for me anyway. You know why? Supreme Court judges.” On the campaign trail, he’s praised the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and said he would appoint jurists in his mold.
Trump released a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees in May. The list, which consisted entirely of sitting state and federal judges with years of experience on the bench, wasn’t intended to be definitive. Rather, it was a “guide,” Trump said, that was meant to be “representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value.”
A gay tech billionaire who supports marriage equality, Thiel is a self-described libertarian and pursues quixotic projects like government-free sea colonies and infinite life extension. He would be a radical departure from the nominees on Trump’s list, but his nomination would be in keeping with Trump’s willingness to make unorthodox, contradictory decisions.
Thiel is deeply conservative, however, and his more fanciful ideas can sometimes obscure his support for broadly mainline Republican policies and candidates. Thiel has given millions of dollars in total to candidates like Ron Paul, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina. Like Trump, Thiel’s core political belief appears to be that his financial success validates his ideas.
In a 2009 essay, Thiel wrote: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” Part of the reason for that incompatibility, Thiel argued, was that women had gained the right to vote and that the government sometimes helps poor people.
“Since 1920,” he wrote, “the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” (He later clarified his comments, saying he didn’t want to disenfranchise anyone.)
In his 2014 book Zero to One, Thiel praised monopolies, arguing that competition destroys value rather than creating it. He also wrote about applying for clerkships with Scalia and Justice Anthony Kennedy as a younger man. Both justices ultimately turned him down.
“If only I got the clerkship, I thought, I would be set for life,” he wrote. “But I didn’t. At the time, I was devastated.” Thiel explained that the rejection helped set him on the path to becoming an investor.
UPDATE: 12:50 p.m. ― After this story was published Thursday morning, Hall went beyond his initial comments, issuing the following statement to Forbes and HuffPost: “Huffington Post’s sources are lying. The truth is Peter hasn’t had any conversations about a Supreme Court nomination and has no interest in the job.”
Cristian Farias contributed reporting.