President Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump Saturday nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.

Barrett, 48, was nominated by President Trump in a Saturday evening ceremony in the Rose Garden.

“It is my honor to nominate one of our nation’s most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court,” President Trump announced. “She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the constitution: Judge Amy Coney Barrett.”

The nomination sets off a swift effort in the Republican-led Senate to confirm her before Election Day.

“This should be a straightforward and prompt confirmation, should be very easy, good luck,” Trump said, gesturing to the senators in attendance at the ceremony.

“Thank you very much Mr. President. I am deeply honored by the confidence you have placed in me,” Barrett said in her opening remarks. “If the Senate does me the honor of confirming me, I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the very best of my ability. I love the United States, and I love the United States Constitution.”

If confirmed to replace liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 on Sept. 18, Barrett would become the fifth woman ever to serve on the top U.S. judicial body and push its conservative majority to a commanding 6-3. With Trump’s fellow Republicans controlling the Senate, confirmation appears certain, though Democrats may try to make the process as difficult as possible.

“I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court,” Barrett continued during the ceremony. “Should I be confirmed, I will be mindful of who came before me. The flag of the United States is still flying at half staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to mark the end of a great American life. Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them.”

An ideological heir to the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett would fill the seat vacated after the Sept. 18 death of Ginsburg, in what would be the sharpest ideological swing since Clarence Thomas replaced Justice Thurgood Marshall nearly three decades ago. She would be the sixth justice on the nine-member court to be appointed by a Republican president, and the third of Trump’s first term in office.

“Particularly poignant to me was her long and deep friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, my own mentor,” Barrett noted in her speech. “Justices Scalia and Ginsburg disagreed fiercely in print, without rancor in person. Their ability to maintain a warm and rich friendship, despite their differences, even inspired an opera. These two great Americans demonstrated that arguments, even about matters of great consequence, need not destroy affection. In both my personal and professional relationships, I strive to meet that standard.”

This image provided by Rachel Malehorn shows Judge Amy Coney Barrett in Milwaukee, on Aug. 24, 2018. (Rachel Malehorn, rachelmalehorn.smugmug.com, via AP)

Conservative activists hailed Trump’s selection, which surfaced on Friday night, while liberals voiced dismay.

For Trump, whose 2016 victory hinged in large part on support from conservative and white evangelicals on the promise of filling the seat vacated by the death of Scalia with a conservative, the latest nomination brings his first term full circle. Even before Ginsburg’s death, Trump was running on having confirmed in excess of 200 federal judges, fulfilling a generational aim of conservative legal activists.

“The biggest thing you can do is the appointment of judges, but especially the appointment of Supreme Court justices,” Trump told supporters Friday night at a campaign rally in Newport News, Virginia. “It sets the tone of the country for 40 years, 50 years. I mean a long time.”

Within hours of Ginsburg’s death, Trump made clear he would nominate a woman for the seat, and later volunteered he was considering five candidates. But Barrett was the early favorite, and the only one to meet with Trump.

Barrett has been a judge since 2017, when Trump nominated her to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But as a longtime University of Notre Dame law professor she had already established herself as a reliable conservative in the mold of Scalia, for whom she clerked in the late 1990s.

She would be the only justice on the current court not to have received her law degree from an Ivy League school. The eight current justices all attended either Harvard or Yale.

The staunch conservative had become known to Trump in large part after her 2017 appeals court confirmation on a party-line vote included allegations that Democrats were attacking her Catholic faith. The president also interviewed her in 2018 for the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, but Trump ultimately chose Brett Kavanaugh.

While Democrats appear powerless to stop Barrett’s confirmation in the GOP-controlled Senate, they are seeking to use the process to weaken Trump’s reelection chances.

The other finalist mentioned by Trump to fill the vacancy was Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban-American federal appeals court judge from Florida who he appointed last year.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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