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White House Deputy Press Secretary Discusses Trump's Pick For Supreme Court Justice


It is official - Judge Amy Coney Barrett is President Trump's choice for the Supreme Court.


AMY CONEY BARRETT: And that institution belongs to all of us. If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle and certainly not for my own sake. I would assume this role to serve you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Barrett speaking yesterday during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, where she praised the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and spoke admiringly of the late justice she once clerked for, Antonin Scalia.


BARRETT: His judicial philosophy is mine, too. A judge must apply the law as written.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: If she is confirmed, she will cement the Supreme Court's conservative majority. Barrett is likely to face a contentious, partisan confirmation hearing. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted last night, the Senate shouldn't vote until the American people do. Brian Morgenstern is the White House deputy press secretary, and he joins me now. Hello.

BRIAN MORGENSTERN: Hi. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is a pleasure to have you. Briefly, why did President Trump choose Amy Coney Barrett?

MORGENSTERN: Well, I appreciate the question. Thank you. Judge Barrett is an exceptionally well-qualified judge. Her academic record is sterling. Her professional record is sterling. She is on - just on a personal level, she's a wonderful person. She's a compassionate working mother from the heartland of America. And she is a constitutionalist. She believes in our country and the importance of our Constitution. And so for all of these reasons, she's an outstanding choice for the Supreme Court.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to play a clip of the president talking yesterday about the cases she will decide if confirmed. Let's listen.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Rulings that the Supreme Court will issue in the coming years will decide the survival of our Second Amendment, our religious liberty, our public safety and so much more.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's a pretty partisan list. And she will decide other things, too, important to the other side. He's been clear on her stance on Obamacare and Roe v. Wade. He'd like them overturned. Is this the woman to fulfill that for the president?

MORGENSTERN: Well, I just want to make it very clear, first of all, that, you know, the right to bear arms, the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, our Fourth Amendment rights - these are not partisan issues. These are in the Bill of Rights. These are important issues, really, for all Americans. The president has made clear his policy preferences. That's his job as a policymaker. But in choosing judges, it's very important he doesn't give anyone a litmus test. He would never ask a nominee their particular views on any hypothetical case. That would be inappropriate, and we would never want to put a nominee in that position.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But she has ruled on two abortion-related cases, both times favoring restrictions on access to abortion. Barrett also criticized Justice John Roberts in 2012 on his Obamacare ruling. So there is something there that shows how she might rule on issues that are of extreme importance.

MORGENSTERN: But the judge's record is extensive, and she has always upheld the Constitution in terms of any particular cases. She's not prejudging something that might come before her, the Obamacare writings that you're referencing or about an issue that is different from anything that might currently be in the pipeline. But the bottom line is she is someone who will uphold the Constitution. She'll follow the law. She has testified already in front of Congress that it's not about her personal policy beliefs or any kind of personal opinion of hers. It's about upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. And that's really...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask...

MORGENSTERN: ...All we should ask for.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you this. Yeah. The president asked the Senate to confirm her. We should remind our listeners that Republicans refused to even consider President Obama's pick, Merrick Garland, seven months before the election in 2016. We are now just over a month away from November 3. People are already voting. Why should Democrats consider Barrett at all at this time?

MORGENSTERN: Well, last time around, I remember the Democrats saying #DoYourJob. The president and the Senate Republicans are doing their job. It is - it's following precedent last time with a divided government during an election year. This time, it is a united government. And throughout history, presidents have always nominated a justice 29 times in an election year. And when the party of the White House and the Senate are aligned, I believe there are 18 vacancies, 19 nominations. Seventeen of those were confirmed, so it certainly in...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But there is an unseemly rush. I mean, the polls show the majority of Americans think the winner of the election should fill the seat. Fifty-six percent of respondents in the latest New York Times/Siena College poll have said to wait. Do the public's opinions not matter in this?

MORGENSTERN: Well, you can find a poll - there are a lot of opinions. Just before Justice Ginsburg passed away, there was a poll that about two-thirds of Americans wanted the seat to be filled this year even if it were close to an election. But there are a number of justices who have been confirmed in far less time. John Paul Stevens was - I believe it was 16 days from nomination to confirmation. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But not so close to an election, which I think is the point that this is about. We do have to leave it there. I'm so sorry. Thank you so much, Brian Morgenstern, White House deputy press secretary. Appreciate your time.

MORGENSTERN: Thanks for having me. Have a good day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.