WASHINGTON (CN) — President Donald Trump has whittled his candidates to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court down to five.
Speaking Monday morning to the hosts of “Fox & Friends,” Trump said he wants to wait until Friday or Saturday to present his high court nomination.
“I think it will be Friday or Saturday and we want to pay respect,” Trump said. “It looks like we will have services on Thursday or Friday, as I understand it and I think we should, with all due respect for Justice Ginsburg, wait for services to be over.”
After the 87-year-old Ginsburg died Friday evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly announced that he would not block the confirmation of any nomination for her successor that the president might put forward. The move drew a distorted parallel for many to 2016 when McConnell refused to consider Merrick Garland’s nomination, which then-President Barack Obama put forward after Justice Antonin Scalia died ahead of the last presidential election.
Ginsburg’s successor would be Trump’s third addition to the court. Only two weeks ago, he added 20 names, including GOP Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, to a running list of court nominees.
Adding to speculation that the president could select Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett or Ninth Circuit Judge Bridget Bade, the president said Saturday he would nominate a woman.
Trump had reportedly said in 2018, when discerning who would replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, he was “saving” Barrett to fill Ginsburg’s seat, if he had the opportunity to nominate her replacement.
A devout Catholic and member of the federalist society, Barrett, 48, clerked for former Justice Scalia and graduated with honors from Notre Dame Law School in 1997.
She wrote for the school’s law review that year that Catholic judges are “morally precluded” from enforcing the death penalty. Barrett again highlighted her faith in 2017 when she was confirmed to her Seventh Circuit spot in 2017 on Trump’s nomination.
“But, I continue to stand and vehemently believe the core proposition of that article, which is that if there is ever a conflict between a judge’s personal conviction and that judge’s duty under the rule of law, that it is never, ever permissible for that judge to follow their personal convictions in the decision of a case, rather than what the law requires,” Barrett said.
Gabe Roth, head of the court transparency group Fix the Court, wrote in an email Monday that he thought 11th Circuit Judge Barbara Lagoa was the frontrunner for Ginsburg’s seat — given her overwhelming 80-15 confirmation by the Senate, her swing-state roots and because, “unlike 85 percent of his appellate court nominees to date, she’s not white.”
Roth wants to see the candidate to the bench vetted thoroughly, calling it essential that lawmakers have “as much paper on a nominee” as possible. His organization has already begun compiling information on both Lagoa and Barrett’s financial disclosures, he said.
Many organizations have pushed back on Trump making another lifetime appointment to the bench before Election Day.
“The Supreme Court has of course always been a political institution, but if it’s going to retain its public legitimacy it can’t be seen as simply another wing of partisan politics,” Alicia Bannon, director of the Brennan Center’s Fair Courts program, said. “Supreme Court nominations have become far too politicized but packing the Supreme Court weeks before a presidential election is different in kind. It’s not simply another stress test for our institutions — there’s a real risk it will break them. That is genuinely scary — not just for the Supreme Court, but for the basic functioning of our country and the rule of law.”
While Republicans have a Senate majority, their ability to unite behind a Trump nominee is uncertain with several facing tough reelection bids in their home states this November. Republican Susan Collins of Maine released a statement over the weekend that all the Judiciary Committee should do ahead of the election is vet Trump’s candidate.
“Given the proximity of the presidential election, however, I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the elections,” Collins said Saturday. “In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the president or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3rd.”
Congressman Al Green, a Texas Democrat who served for 26 years as a justice of the peace in Harris County, said Saturday the nation couldn’t “allow a partisan power game by the president” when choosing a justice.
“In president Trump’s world, when it comes to winning, the only rule is there are no rules,” Green said in a statement. “In president Trump’s world, we are all pawns in his game of power. The question is: will we allow ourselves to be pawns or people with a constitution that protects the rights of all Americans?”
But unless Democrats can secure three more Republican defectors, Roth wrote Monday that there is little they can do to prevent a Trump nominee from advancing short of shutting down the government — a move likely to blow up in their faces amid a global pandemic, he wrote.
“It may be hard to concede the seat, but John McCain’s thumbs aren’t coming to save the Democrats, so a wise path forward might be to plan for the next vacancy — that is, what groundwork can the Democrats lay now should 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer get sick or leave the court?” Roth wrote. “Their lack of planning post-Scalia/Garland in 2016 has come back to haunt them. That’s where proposals like 18-year term limits for prospective judges — with biannual appointments, in order to make nomination more regular and less explosive — an automatically seating a retired justice in case of sudden vacancy come in.”