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Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett, Instant Conservative Icon

The third Supreme Court nomination of Donald J. Trump has the razzle-dazzle befitting a celebrity president.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett (Notre Dame Law School)

President Trump made the seemingly inevitable official on Saturday, nominating Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Speaking in the Rose Garden, Trump gave a nod to the woman he is replacing: the American “legend” Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Then, he introduced Barrett, a 48-year-old Seventh Circuit judge. Trump made note that Barrett, a parent of seven, would be the first mother of school-age children on the Court.  “I am supremely confident that Judge Barrett will issue rulings solely upon a fair reading of the law. … You are not there to decide cases as you prefer,” Trump said, in a nod to the generations-long conservative project of reining in judicial activists.

Barrett, for her part, gave a short speech, coming close to subtweeting a divided nation. She previously clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia and she invoked him Saturday. Scalia, Barrett noted, maintained “a long and deep friendship” with Ginsburg. “Justices Scalia and Ginsburg disagreed fiercely in print, without rancor in person.” She hailed “their ability to maintain a warm and rich friendship, despite their differences.”

In Barrett, Trump likely slots his third Supreme Court justice, the most of any president since Ronald Reagan. And he does so as the U.S. presidential election reaches crescendo. Republicans on the Hill this week effectively secured the votes for Barrett, who was expected to be the pick from the jump. Sen. Mitt Romney’s support was seen as the watershed. Others with a maverick streak, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski, signaled new openness to Trump’s pick after Romney’s public support. 

And Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat long courted by Republicans, condemned any censure of Barrett on the basis of her Catholic faith, in what amounted to some daylight on the prospect that he might eventually alter his vote. Democrats are expected to oppose Barrett’s nomination with potential unanimity, crying foul on Republican tactics in an election year, and are plainly fearful of the potential tidal wave of change a Barrett-for-Ginsburg swap would bring to the nation’s highest court. 

Trump previously secured a spot on the Court for Neil Gorsuch, and later (and more controversially), for Brett Kavanaugh. But lest this is becoming routine, the nomination of Barrett jolted the White House crowd Saturday; the federal appeals judge garnered an enthused reception. Barrett would instantly become the youngest member of the bench, and the only justice under fifty. The crowd thrilled, seemingly responding to the striking image of her large family, which Barrett noted is as large as the Court itself. 

Barrett would be a third woman on the current Court, and the first installed by a Republican since Reagan put up Sandra Day O’Connor. Though justices often surprise, Barrett is widely touted as a clear conservative, which has supplied her with early icon status on the Right; “ACB” is the echo of the late, “Notorious RBG.”  

Trump still trails in the polls, but is pursuing his re-election with increasingly manic determination. 

While his opponent Democratic nominee Joe Biden called another mid-morning “lid” Saturday, Trump jumped on a plane to Pennsylvania after unveiling the Barrett selection. He will address the swing-state crowd, and will doubtless tout his latest decision. As controversy swirls around the notion of voting itself in a pandemic — and the president controversially signals an unwillingness to swiftly concede, or even clearly relinquish power, should he lose — Biden and his team may come face to face with a Justice Barrett later this year, like it or not.   

about the author

Curt Mills is Senior Reporter at TAC covering national security, the 2020 campaign and the Trump presidency. Previously, he reported for The National Interest, Washington Examiner, U.S. News & World Report and the Spectator. Mills was a 2018-2019 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and is a native and resident of Washington, D.C.

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