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Trump pick noncommittal on recusing from election-related cases

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, did not commit to recusing herself from election-related cases if she is confirmed, according to a Democratic senator who spoke with her Wednesday. 

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Judiciary Committee tasked with weighing the judge’s nomination, said Barrett sidestepped giving a direct answer on the issue. The topic is all but guaranteed to come up again during next week’s days-long confirmation hearings.

“I specifically asked her whether she would recuse herself from any election-related case because President Trump has publicly said that he wants her seated on the Supreme Court in time for the election so she can rule on any dispute,” Coons told reporters.

“She made no commitment to recusal. She went through what the factors are for recusal, and said … essentially that it would depend on the circumstances for any judge to make any recusal decision. And she wouldn’t make some commitment to that ahead of the time that it might be in front of her,” he added.

A White House spokesman defended Barrett’s answer to Coons.

“Asking the nominee to pre-judge or promise a decision on a case — including the decision to take the case at all — violates the bedrock constitutional principle of judicial independence,” White House spokesman Judd Deere told CNN.

The Democratic senator noted that he raised Bush v. Gore during his conversation with Barrett. The controversial 2000 Supreme Court decision ended a Florida recount and ultimately decided the outcome of that year’s presidential election. Coons said that he and Barrett have “a different view of that case.”

Coons was one of six Democratic senators who Barrett spoke with over the phone Wednesday ahead of her Judiciary Committee hearing, which is scheduled to start Monday.

Barrett also spoke with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, as well as Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), who are each on the committee, according to a list released from the White House and confirmations from Senate offices.

She also spoke last week with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), another member of the committee, the Democratic senator’s office confirmed.

“During these calls, the judge emphasized the importance of judicial independence and spoke about her judicial philosophy and family. Judge Barrett is looking forward to her upcoming hearing on Oct. 12,” Deere said.

Whitehouse, according to a readout from his office, also talked to Barrett about “his concerns about dark-money influence around the Supreme Court, which he called ‘the scheme around the Court,’ ” including the Federalist Society, Judicial Crisis Network and other groups with anonymous donors.

But the issue of whether Barrett would recuse herself is expected to be brought up by Democrats as part of two days of questions allowed under the Judiciary Committee’s timeline.

Several Democrats on the committee, including Leahy, Booker and Coons, have suggested they will ask Barrett during the hearing about recusing herself after Trump publicly said he wanted Barrett on the bench in case the outcome of the November election ends up at the country’s highest court.

If confirmed, Barrett would become the third judge appointed to the high court by Trump, following Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

“I think this [election] will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices,” Trump told reporters late last month.

Barrett provided some details about when she would automatically recuse herself as part of her Judiciary Committee questionnaire that was released late last month.

According to the document, Barrett said she would recuse herself from cases involving her husband or her sister, both attorneys; cases involving Notre Dame University, where she was a law professor; or matters that she participated in while serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Amy Klobuchar Brett Kavanaugh Chris Coons Cory Booker Dianne Feinstein Dick Durbin Donald Trump Neil Gorsuch Patrick Leahy Sheldon Whitehouse Supreme Court confirmation Trump Supreme Court pick

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