Ground Game

Kelly Ayotte ‘surprised as anyone’ to get Trump’s call

Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch, center, accompanied by former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.
Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch, center, accompanied by former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.

In late November US Senator Kelly Ayotte had not only lost reelection, but she was also getting mocked by the incoming president in front of the New York Times.

Sure, Donald Trump suggested to a room filled with New York Times editors and reporters, Ayotte would love a job in his administration, but “no thank you.”

Seventy days later, Ayotte said she received a call from the White House asking her to help guide Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee through the Senate.


“I was just as surprised as anyone to get that call,” Ayotte said in an interview. “I had to tell them, 'Can you give me an hour?' Because I didn’t expect this, and I have some other things planned, you know, like family stuff.”

Get This Week in Politics in your inbox:
A weekly recap of the top political stories from The Globe, sent right to your email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Ayotte, like many Republican senators up for reelection last year, had an estranged relationship with Trump. She didn’t endorse any candidate for president ahead of her New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary. And after the Access Hollywood video came out in October, Ayotte announced that she would write in Mike Pence’s name instead of voting for Trump for president.

But this week Ayotte was in Washington, D.C. again, watching Neil Gorsuch get sworn in as the 113th justice of the US Supreme Court. She helped deliver arguably Trump's biggest win since he has been president. Then Ayotte headed to Harvard University for three days, where she is a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics. She sat down with the Globe Wednesday for an interview.

Ayotte said that probably the hardest part of her work with Gorsuch was going back to the Senate after her electoral loss. Among the 80 personal meetings with senators, Ayotte accompanied Gorsuch to meet with the woman who defeated her, Democrat Maggie Hassan.

“For me by the time we had that meeting [with Hassan], I had many other meetings and had processed a lot,” Ayotte said. “The way I looked at it is that I said I would do this job, and I had to bring the judge in to see her. And [Hassan] and I have always been cordial to each other, so there has never been an issue so far.”


Ayotte declined to say how she thought Hassan was doing so far as a senator, though she said she was “obviously disappointed” that Hassan was part of a filibuster on Gorsuch, which ultimately failed.

She said she was asked to guide Gorsuch though the process on the day he was nominated. She was also told in advance who would be Trump's pick for the high court.

“I only knew him from his resume,” Ayotte said. “But after spending 8 to ten hours a day with him for so long, I really came to like him a lot. He is obviously qualified for the job, but he is also a good person.”

Ayotte said it was a great experience, but would she consider working for Trump again?

“Well I have really no plans on what to do next,” Ayotte said.