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Donald Trump infuses politics into his choice for the Supreme Court

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WASHINGTON: President Donald
Trump is infusing deliberations over
his coming nomination of a new
Supreme
Court justice with political meaning as he aims to maximise
the benefit before November 3 and even secure an electoral backstop should
the result be contested.

Even before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last week,
the president had tried to use likelihood of more
Supreme
Court vacancies to
his political advantage. Now, as he closes in on a decision on her likely replacement,
Trump has used
the vacancy to appeal to battleground-state voters and as a rallying cry
for
his conservative base.

He also is increasingly embracing
the high
court — which he will have had an outsized hand in reshaping -– as an insurance policy in a close election.

Increases in mail, absentee and early voting brought about by
the pandemic have already brought about a flurry of election litigation, and both
Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have assembled armies of lawyers to continue
the fight once vote-counting begins.
Trump has been open about tying
his push to name a third justice to
the
court to a potentially drawn-out
court fight to determine who will be sworn in on January 20, 2021.

“I think this will end up in
the
Supreme
Court,”
Trump said Wednesday of
the election, adding, “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.” It’s a line echoed by
Trump allies, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who said Thursday, “I think that threat to challenge
the election is one of
the real reasons why it is so important that we confirm
the
Supreme
Court nominees, so that there’s a full
Supreme
Court on
the bench to resolve any election challenge.”

Barely six weeks from Election Day, and as millions of Americans are already voting,
Trump and
his advisers have tried to use
the
court vacancy to help deliver
Trump another term in office.

Supreme
Court nominations are never entirely devoid of political considerations, but
Trump‘s decision has been particularly wrapped up in a charged political moment.

Within hours of Ginsburg’s death,
Trump made clear
his intention to nominate a woman in her stead, after previously putting two men on
the
court and as he struggles to mitigate an erosion in support among suburban women.

In discussing
his five-person short list, he’s been sure to highlight some from election battlegrounds that he’s aiming to win this fall as much as their jurisprudence.

“I’ve heard incredible things about her,” he said of Florida’s Barbara Lagoa, a day after Ginsburg’s death. “I don’t know her. She’s Hispanic and highly respected. Miami. Highly respected.” In an interview with a Detroit television station, he volunteered that hometown Justice Joan Larsen is “very talented.”

Trump was even considering a meeting with Lagoa this week in Florida, where he plans campaign events.
The appellate
court judge was confirmed last year by
the Senate in a bipartisan vote and has been promoted
for
the
court by GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and others as a nominee with more across-
the-board appeal.

Trump and
his aides, though, appear to have set their sights on nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, who was at
the White House twice this week, including
for a Monday meeting with
Trump.

The staunch conservative’s 2017 confirmation on a party-line vote included allegations that Democrats were attacking her Catholic faith.
Trump allies see that as a political windfall
for them should Democrats attempt to do so once again. Catholic voters in Pennsylvania, in particular, are viewed as a pivotal demographic in
the swing state that Democratic nominee Joe Biden is trying to recapture.

On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence defended Barrett when asked whether her affiliation with People of Praise, a charismatic Christian community, would complicate her ability to serve on
the high
court.

“I must tell you
the intolerance expressed during her last confirmation about her Catholic faith I really think was a disservice to
the process and a disappointment to millions of Americans,” he told ABC News.

Trump played up
the power to make judicial nominations with conservative voters in 2016, when Republicans senators kept open
the seat vacated by
the death of Justice Antonin Scalia rather than let President Barack Obama fill
the opening.
Trump‘s decision to release lists of accomplished conservative jurists
for potential elevation to
the high
court was rewarded by increased enthusiasm among white evangelical voters, many of whom had been resistant to supporting
the candidacy of
the one-time New York Democrat.

Even before Ginsburg’s death,
Trump had done
the same in 2020, releasing an additional 20 names he would consider
for
the
court, and encouraging Democrat Joe Biden to do
the same.

Biden has resisted that pressure so far, but that hasn’t stopped
Trump from trying to sow fear among conservatives about whom
the Democrat might nominate. “So they don’t want to show
the judges because
the only ones that he can put in are far-left radicals,”
Trump said this week.

“If Joe Biden and
the Democrats take power, they will pack
the
Supreme
Court with far-left radicals who will unilaterally transform American society far beyond recognition,”
Trump said at a rally outside Toledo on Monday. “They will mutilate
the law, disfigure
the Constitution and impose a socialist vision from
the bench that could never pass at
the ballot box.”

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