Senate Democrats said they will press President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee to commit to recuse herself if the justices hear a case that could impact the outcome of the fall elections, a request that could become a major flashpoint amid Trump’s persistent attacks on the sanctity of the elections.
Trump in recent weeks has amped up his rhetoric about the elections, provoking alarm that he’s trying to undercut a foundation of democracy and hang onto power through a court fight. He’s regularly alleged the election will be “rigged,” asserted that there will be mass voting fraud by mail, something his own FBI director disputes, while refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power – and adding that he believes a case over the election results will wind up before the Supreme Court.
So as Democrats prepare for high-stakes confirmation hearings over Trump’s nominee who would likely swing the ideological balance sharply to the right, they plan to press the potential next justice to commit to not voting in any case that could impact the outcome of the presidential race.
Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, a senior Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the quick process to confirm a nominee before Election Day “ridiculous,” and said the nominee, if confirmed, should recuse herself from a case affecting the election – even as the White House insists such a recusal is not necessary.
“Whoever sits on the seat is going to be terribly conflicted because no matter what they do people are going to be watching,” Leahy told CNN on Friday.
The forthcoming clash comes as Democrats are beginning to prepare their strategy for confirmation hearings for Trump’s nominee, who will be announced on Saturday. All indications are that Trump will pick federal appeals court judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was approved by the Senate largely along party lines to her current spot after contentious exchanges with Democrats during her confirmation hearing three years ago.
Typically, it takes two to three months to go through Supreme Court confirmation proceedings in the Senate. But this time, Senate Republicans are gearing up for the nominee to be confirmed by the end of October, amounting to one of the quickest proceedings in modern times.
Hoping for a swift confirmation, the White House is setting up courtesy meetings with senators even before the nominee has been announced.
But Democrats are furious at the rush to confirm the nominee after the GOP refused to take up then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick in 2016 by arguing in March of that year it was too close to an election. And several Democrats told CNN they won’t bother meeting with Trump's nominee now over their concerns with the expedited process.
"I don’t think it’s a good use of her time or my time,” Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat of Pennsylvania, said when asked if he would meet with the nominee.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Hawaii Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, added, “I’ve said that all of President Trump’s judicial nominees whatever they have to say to me would be under oath.”