Politics Chat: President Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett For Supreme Court
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
And now we turn to national political correspondent Mara Liasson, who was listening in. Good morning to you.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Any thoughts on what we heard there from Brian Morgenstern, the White House deputy press secretary?
LIASSON: Well, they have the votes. They're going forward. He feels pretty confident that President Trump is going to succeed in getting the sixth conservative vote on the Supreme Court and cementing a conservative majority on the court for decades.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We know the Democrats can't stop this from happening, but do they have any options as far as strategy goes? What have you been hearing?
LIASSON: Well, Democrats don't have the votes to stop her from being confirmed, but they did have a strategic choice to make. What Republicans were hoping Democrats would do is go after Barrett personally - maybe talk about her faith, kind of go after her the way they went after Brett Kavanaugh. But Democrats seem to understand that could backfire, and they are focusing on what she means for policy. Here's what the Senate minority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, said about Barrett.
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CHUCK SCHUMER: A vote for Amy Coney Barrett is a dagger aimed at the heart of the health care protections Americans so desperately need and want.
LIASSON: So he's focusing on health care - the ACA, at this point, is very popular. And she is considered to be the sixth vote to end it - declare it unconstitutional. For Democrats, it's almost as if Amy Coney Barrett herself doesn't matter. They're going to focus on what a sixth conservative vote on the court might mean. I think during the hearings, they're going to ask her for clarification on where she stands on a lot of issues. I don't think they'll get much. But she'll be asked about Roe. She'll be asked about how she could possibly be objective if the election itself is contested and goes all the way to the Supreme Court. She'll be asked about voters' rights - voting rights and about precedent. She's written some things in the past where she said she believes precedent should not be binding in every situation. So that's their strategy for now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Joe Biden released a statement last night in response to this nomination. What did it say?
LIASSON: Well, he also focused on the reasons that so many Americans are voting right now. He talked about health care, Obamacare being in the balance. He said that she has a record of disagreeing with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision upholding the ACA. He talked about Roe and immigration. So he is sticking to the issues. He's also talking about the process. He knows that polls show, as you pointed out earlier, that majorities of Americans think the person who wins the election should nominate the next justice. And I think that even though the process might not move a lot of voters, it means something for activists who feel this has been very unfair. And also, it plays into this gathering debate about minority rule, where a president who lost the popular vote and a Senate who represents - Senate Republicans who represent fewer than 50% of Americans are going to pick the majority of Supreme Court justices. So that's where he's going to focus.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The president has continued to say some alarming things, since you mentioned the election, amplifying a message that election results, unless they favor him, are not to be trusted. Here's what he said at his rally in Virginia on Friday night.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So this is a disaster waiting to happen, and the only hope we have really, other than going through a long, unbelievable litigation at the end after it's over - because we're going to win. We're not going to lose this except if they cheat. That's the way I look at it.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: He went on to say that voting by mail was a scam and that law enforcement would be watching polling places on Election Day. What do you make of this?
LIASSON: Well, he has been relentless in telling his supporters not to accept any result other than where he is the winner. And it is kind of the standard authoritarian playbook. He is saying that the election is illegitimate unless he is declared the winner. He has refused to guarantee the peaceful transfer of power. He's talked about sending law enforcement to watch the polls. Democrats say that's to intimidate voters. He said - he says it's to protect against fraud. But he is laying the groundwork to contest the results of the election unless he is declared the winner.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We should note, of course, that we don't know exactly what is going to happen. There is a lot of uncertainty. But what are voters to make of those particular statements by their president?
LIASSON: Well, I think you have to take him at his word. Take him seriously and literally. He's pretty clear about what he says he wants to happen. He doesn't want to count mail-in ballots that come in after election night. In 2018 in an election in Florida, he said the voting - the counting should stop on Election Day. It's possible that if he is leading on election night, he will ask for no other ballots to be counted. And I think he's counting on the results to be so close and perhaps so chaotic that he can go to the Supreme Court and be declared the winner. He has said this election will go to the court, and that's why it's important we have a ninth justice.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And I'm going to ask this question yet again. What can the Democrats do in that scenario?
LIASSON: Well, the only thing Democrats can do is try to turn out enough voters that the election - the result is very clear on election night - that it's not close enough to be contested.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Thank you very much.
LIASSON: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.