The conservative, pro-life activist who has President Trump’s ear as he decides on filling a Supreme Court vacancy predicted the nominee would be confirmed before the mid-term elections but sidestepped a question about whether the candidate would oppose Roe v. Wade.
“I’m very confident with this president’s enthusiasm and with [Senate Majority] Leader McConnell’s enthusiasm that they can get anybody confirmed,” Leonard Leo, who is on leave from the Federalist Society to help the White House with the selection, told ABC’s “This Week.”
Asked by anchor George Stephanopoulos about Democrats’ fear that the candidate selected will be opposed to the 1973 ruling legalizing abortion, Leo brushed it off as a “scare tactic.”
“First of all, nobody really knows. We’ve been talking about this for 36 years, going all the way back to the nomination of Sandra O’Connor,” he said. “So I think it’s a bit of a scare tactic and rank speculation more than anything else.”
Trump has reportedly narrowed his list to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy to four candidates – Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Raymond Kethledge and Thomas Hardiman – and plans to make the big reveal in a prime-time telecast from the White House on Monday.
The president whittled the list from 25 names, selected and vetted by the hard-right leaning Federalist Society, after meeting the candidates individually and by talking to White House aides, conservative lawmakers and Vice President Pence.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal accused Trump of outsourcing his decision to the Federalist Society and other conservative groups.
“I’ve never seen a president of the United States in effect make himself a puppet of outside groups and choose from a group of right-wing fringe ideologues that are prepared on this list,” the Connecticut lawmaker said on ABC just moments after Leo’s interview.
He said he believes that any of the four candidates on the short list will dismantle Roe v. Wade and other hard-fought rights.
“If you look at what the president said, which is he will nominate someone only if that person is committed to automatically overturn Roe v. Wade, if you look at what the president said about John Roberts, his berating Roberts for failing to strike down the Affordable Care Act, he certainly has criteria,” he said.
Blumenthal acknowledged that the Democrats have few options to stop the confirmation in the Senate, which Republicans control by a 51-49 margin, but said they would plead their case to the American public.
“They want protections for millions of Americans against preexisting conditions to be sustained. They want these voting rights and gay rights and other rights to be not only preserved, but also enhanced,” he said. “And I think we can take this call to action to the American people, take our case to them. Our colleagues know they’re going to have to answer to history for this vote.”
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Roy Blunt said they see smooth sailing ahead for Trump’s nominee.
“Republicans are holding four lottery tickets and all of them are winners,” Graham of South Carolina told “Fox News Sunday.” “If you’re a conservative Republican, the four people named … are all winners and every Republican should embrace these picks.”
Blunt of Missouri agreed.
“I think we can confirm any of the four names being mentioned,” Blunt said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ″They’re good judges. I think they’d be fine justices of the Supreme Court. … And I expect we will do that on sort of a normal timetable, a couple of months.”
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