Saturday, 19 September 2020

Who will Trump pick to replace RBG? Frontrunner devout Catholic Judge Amy Coney Barrett will battle it out with 20 others on the President's Supreme Court shortlist including senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton

 The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg aged 87 on Friday has presented President Donald Trump with the opportunity to appoint a further conservative judge to the court, pushing it further to the right. 

Earlier in September, after it was revealed that Bader Ginsburg was undergoing treatment for cancer, Trump added 20 names to a shortlist of candidates he pledged to choose from if he had future vacancies to fill.  

The list includes a variety of conservative judges who have ruled in Trump's favor, as well as three sitting GOP senators who have backed Trump's agenda while defending him during impeachment. 

According to ABC, the current frontrunner is U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a devout Catholic and pro-lifer.  

Frontrunner U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a devout Catholic and pro-lifer

Frontrunner U.S. Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, a devout Catholic and pro-lifer

Senator Ted Cruz is among those named by President Trump on his shortlist

Senator Ted Cruz is among those named by President Trump on his shortlist 

Senator Tom Cotton suggested overturning Roe v Wade in appointed

Senator Tom Cotton suggested overturning Roe v Wade in appointed 

She was already a finalist for the nomination in 2018 which eventually went to Brett Kavanaugh.  

Barrett has previously written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct. 

Liberals have taken these comments as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. 

Barrett wrote that she agrees 'with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution, and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it'.


She is a former member of the Notre Dame's 'Faculty for Life' and in 2015 signed a letter to the Catholic Church affirming the 'teachings of the Church as truth.' 

Among those teachings were the 'value of human life from conception to natural death' and marriage-family values 'founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman'.

Her deep Catholic faith was cited by Democrats as a large disadvantage, however, during her 2017 confirmation hearing for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.  

'If you're asking whether I take my faith seriously and I'm a faithful Catholic, I am,' Barrett responded during that hearing, 'although I would stress that my personal church affiliation or my religious belief would not bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge.' 

Among the others on Trump's list are Senator Ted Cruz, Trump's closest competition for the Republican nomination in 2016; Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who immediately tweeted he would get rid of Roe v Wade if confirmed; and Department of Justice official Stephen Engel, who drafted a memo justifying denying cooperation with House investigations. 

And also in the running are Christopher Landau, the current ambassador to Mexico; Republican Senator and Trump loyalist Josh Hawley; and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, among others.

Trump's list includes several controversial choices, compiled of six women and fourteen men.  

During a campaign speech in Bemidji, Minnesota on Friday night, delivered while unaware of Bader Ginsburg's death, Trump declared that Senator Cruz would be the appointment he would make if given the opportunity. 

He stated that 'one of the things we have done that is so good with the Supreme Court, we have two Supreme Court justices. We will have at the end of my term approximately 300 federal judges'.

He later called Bader Ginsburg an 'amazing woman' having learned of her death.  

Despite Cruz being named by Trump on Friday, the senator has said he does not want to sit on the court. 

During an interview with Fox News on Sunday he was asked whether he wanted the job, to which he replied: 'I don't. It is deeply honoring, it's humbling to be included in the list … but it's not the desire of my heart. I want to be in the political fight.'

He was repeating a statement from 2016 in which he also said that the high court is 'not the desire of my heart', despite him writing a book about it that is set to be published on October 6. 

James Ho is another Texas choice on the list, currently a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and former Texas solicitor general.

One controversial potential choice is Senator Cotton, who immediately tweeted about overturning Roe v Wade if confirmed. 

'The Supreme Court could use some more justices who understand the difference between applying the law and making the law, which the Court does when it invents a right to an abortion, infringes on religious freedom, and erodes the Second Amendment,' he wrote. 

He added in another tweet: 'It's time for Roe v. Wade to go,' in reference to the landmark abortion rights ruling.' 

On Friday night, however, he tweeted his condolences over Bader Ginsburg's death. 

'I extend my condolences to the family of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for their loss. She dedicated her life to public service, and now she is at peace,' he wrote.

Also on list is DOJ official Steven Engel, an assistant attorney general for office of legal counsel in Bill Barr's Justice Department. 

Engel drafted memo justifying the White House posture of stonewalling House committee requests for administration documents before there was a formal impeachment inquiry. 

'We conclude that the House must expressly authorize a committee to conduct an impeachment investigation and to use compulsory process in that investigation before the committee may compel the production of documents or testimony in support of the House's sole power of impeachment,' Engel wrote. 

Steven A. Engel
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico - Christopher Landau

Steven A. Engel and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico - Christopher Landau

Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asks a question during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asks a question during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing

Another potential nomination is Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron, who was many of a skein of black officials who spoke at the Republican National Convention. 

Cameron attacked Joe Biden and 'anarchists' in his remarks, but also said: 'Republicans will never turn a blind eye to unjust acts,' adding, 'but neither will we accept an all-out assault on Western civilization.' 

Joan Larsen is among the other women listed. She was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2015, elected to that court the following year, and to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 2017.

She also clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

'We have differing views on law, politics and religion,' she wrote in The New York Times about Scalia's former law clerks. 'But I have yet to meet a Scalia clerk who was not grateful to the man who taught us, shaped us, and launched us into our lives in the law.' 

Britt Grant is the youngest contender for Ginsburg's seat at 42 years old. 

Ted Cruz is publishing a book about the Supreme Court but does not want to be appointed

Ted Cruz is publishing a book about the Supreme Court but does not want to be appointed

She was a former Georgia Supreme Court justice and solicitor general, nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in April 2018 and confirmed 52-46 three months later. 

She was sworn in by Justice Kavanaugh who lauded her as a 'fair and even-handed' judge. 

Also on the list is Christopher Landau, the current US Ambassador to Mexico. 

Ambassador Landau served as a law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, both on the Supreme Court of the United States and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States, according to WNEP. 

Senator Josh Hawley is a further controversial name on the list. 

Prior to his election as Senator in Missouri in 2018, Senator Hawley served as Attorney General of the State of Missouri, was an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, and was an attorney with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. 

Senator Hawley also served as a law clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts on the Supreme Court of the United States and Judge Michael McConnell on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. 

James C. Ho, nominee to be a judge for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, testifies during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building

James C. Ho, nominee to be a judge for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, testifies during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building

Hawley is deeply religious and has argued about keeping places of worship open during the pandemic. 

'It's time for the Department of Justice to bring lawsuits to enforce the first amendment. Period,' Senator Hawley said Thursday. 

'What we're seeing in way too many states and cities across the country is these places have one set of rules for bars and for gyms and for businesses and they have a different set of rules for churches.' 

Trump is on a tight deadline to push through the nomination with only 46 days left until the election and if he loses, just 124 days until inauguration. 

Even if he wins in November, his ability to confirm a nomination may be held back if Democrats take the Senate. 

It took months for Trump's second Supreme Court nomination Brett Kavaunagh to finally be appointed after sexual assault allegations were made against him. Having being nominated by Trump on July 6, the Senate voted in favor of him joining the court on October 6. 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks during the Republican National Convention. He is among the contenders for the Supreme Court

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks during the Republican National Convention. He is among the contenders for the Supreme Court

On Friday night, however, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that he would move forward quickly with the nomination process. 

'Americans re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,' McConnell said in a statement. 

'Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.'

Before Bader Ginburg's death, the high court was divided 5-4 between conservatives and liberals.

Through other members of the court are in their 70s and 80s.   

Trump has already remade the federal bench for a generation and the new vacancy in the highest court gives the president the ability to shape its future for decades to come if he is reelected in November.

The president is on a tight 46-day deadline to push another nomination for the Supreme Court through before the November election

 The president is on a tight 46-day deadline to push another nomination for the Supreme Court through before the November election

The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Trump has stressed that power as he has campaigned, claiming that the winner of the upcoming presidential election 'could have anywhere from two to four, to maybe even five' Supreme Court justices to pick, though that would require an extraordinary level of turnover.

'You will change this country around. It will be irreversible,' he said last month in Minnesota.

Trump released his list of names two month before the election with the aim of at repeating the strategy he employed during his 2016 campaign, when he released a similar list of could-be judges in a bid to win over conservative and evangelical voters who had doubts about his conservative bonafides.

'The president is very excited to share who he would nominate to the Supreme Court,' White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said of the announcement. 

She said Trump 'wants Constitution-abiding judges, he wants textualists who believe the words of a statute actually are what they are, not subject to interpretation.'  

During his previous presidential campaign, he released two lists with a total of 21 names of potential Supreme Court nominees and added another five names in 2017 after becoming president. 

Trump's two nominees to the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, were both drawn from Trump´s list.

Even in a race reshaped by the pandemic and the national reckoning over race, Trump's appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh remain among his crowning achievements and are frequently noted at his rallies.

The cultural battle over Kavanaugh´s confirmation, in particular, remains an electrifying moment for many on the right and one that Trump continues to highlight as he tries to replicate the excitement that fight generated on the right and make the race an us-vs.-them battle over American values and cancel culture.

'Did you ever see anything like that? Justice Kavanaugh. People forget. You know, time goes by, they forget. We don´t forget. I don´t forget,' Trump told a rally crowd last month in New Hampshire. 'They´re destroying the livelihoods of innocent people.'

For the president's allies, the list is seen as a way to excite his base as well as well as remind voters of what's at stake come November.

'I think it's very important way for the president to reaffirm his commitment to an issue that many conservatives and Republicans see as a priority,' said Leonard Leo, the longtime executive vice president of the conservative Federalist Society who participated in the Kavanaugh and Gorsuch confirmations. 'This a great way to remind people pf the legacy he´s already established for himself in this area.'

Trump's rival for the presidency, Joe Biden, has promised to nominate a Black woman to the high court if given the chance. Biden, too, has said he´s working on a list of potential nominees, but the campaign has given no indication that it will release names before the November election. 

Democrats believe doing so would unnecessarily distract from Biden´s focus on Trump's handling of the pandemic and the economy, while also giving the president and his allies fresh targets to attack.

People gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in Washington

People gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in Washington

People gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday night

People gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court following the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday night

'We are putting together a list of a group of African American women who are qualified and have the experience to be in the court. I am not going to release that until we go further down the line of vetting them as well,' Biden said in June.

Biden advisers acknowledge that the Supreme Court vacancy four years ago helped Trump with white evangelicals and some chamber-of-commerce Republicans who disliked the first-time candidate or were wary of his conservative credentials. 

This year, Biden's team sees those same groups as less up for grabs. Many remain firmly with Trump, they reason, while others already have bailed on him and won´t be wooed back by another list of potential justices for a vacancy that doesn´t yet exist.

But Trump pushed back. He said that, apart from 'matters of war and peace, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice is the most important decision an American president can make' and that, 'For this reason, candidates for president owe the American people a specific list of individuals they´d consider for the United States Supreme Court.'

If not completed before the election, Trump, or Biden's, ability to confirm a new Justice would be fully dependent on which party holds the majority in the Senate, which confirms nominees. 

Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the chamber to Democrats´ 45, with two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

Regardless of party, presidents tend to look for the same characteristics in potential Supreme Court picks. Stellar legal credentials are a must. And they tend to be old enough to have a distinguished legal career but young enough to serve for decades. That generally means nominees are in their late 40s or 50s.

More recently, nominees have also previously clerked for a Supreme Court justice, an early mark of legal smarts. Five of the current justices previously clerked at the Supreme Court.

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