- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 1, 2020

The White House, bracing for Democrats to drop an October surprise on Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, has assembled a war room to deflect an eleventh-hour attack and push her appointment over the finish line before Election Day.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Thursday that it is too early to tell what Judge Barrett’s detractors might do to torpedo her confirmation, but President Trump’s team is ready with countermeasures.

“We shouldn’t be shocked by the drama that may play out in the second and third week of October,” Mr. Meadows said. “Never underestimate the ability to take a serious process and make it for prime-time TV and viral moments.”

On a conference call organized by the Article III Project, a conservative group supporting Mr. Trump’s judicial picks, Mr. Meadows said the team working on the Supreme Court nomination has grown with more people who know the judge personally.

White House Counsel Pat Cipollone is running point on Judge Barrett’s nomination effort, and Mr. Meadows has sought to remain hands-off from senators reviewing the judge’s fitness for the high court, the chief of staff said.



Judge Barrett’s confirmation would mark a stark shift to the right for the Supreme Court, with a solid 6-3 Republican-appointed majority.

Republicans, over Democratic objections and accusations of hypocrisy, are moving swiftly on Judge Barrett’s nomination with Judiciary Committee hearings set to start Oct. 12 and a confirmation vote before the full Senate by the end of October — just days before the Nov. 3 elections.

Senate Democrats have acknowledged that they don’t have the votes or procedural tricks to dramatically slow down the confirmation.

The White House has labored to keep the process free from drama by providing “volumes of information without volumes of rhetoric,” Mr. Meadows said.

Still, they are ready for Democrats to spring something on Judge Barrett.

“Anything that comes forward will actually be met with a very quick and professional response, so hopefully we won’t see the Avenattis, but … if past is prologue, it should be a fairly exciting October but hopefully one that ends with a confirmation of a very credentialed and fine nominee,” Mr. Meadows said.

Mr. Meadows was a congressman from North Carolina when Michael Avenatti, a celebrity lawyer and cable news pundit, gained notoriety during Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s confirmation by promoting a woman accusing the judge of participating in a gang rape as a teenager. Justice Kavanaugh denied the uncorroborated accusation and was confirmed to the Supreme Court. Mr. Avenatti was later convicted of extortion on a different matter.

The pressure of a last-minute wrench thrown into Judge Barrett’s nomination process could be felt most acutely by Republican Sens. Susan M. Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.

Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski have opposed filling the vacancy before Election Day but remain open to meeting Judge Barrett. Mr. Romney has met with Judge Barrett and praised her qualifications.

To scuttle Judge Barrett’s confirmation, Democrats would likely need a no vote from all three of them plus another Republican senator.

Senate Republicans hold a 53-seat majority, and Vice President Mike Pence would cast a tie-breaking vote.

If Democrats prioritize delaying the upcoming hearings, they will look to change public opinion in swing states of Republican senators running for reelection.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Thursday that he thinks Judge Barrett’s nomination is an opening salvo in Republicans’ plan to end Obamacare and consequently deny health care to Americans, which is a top issue for Democratic candidates running for election this year.

“President Trump promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who would terminate the Affordable Care Act and he picked Judge Barrett,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor. “It’s no mystery why he picked Judge Barrett.”

Republicans see the judicial battle as an issue that will help preserve their Senate majority when Americans go to the polls next month.

Sen. Mike Braun, Indiana Republican, told The Washington Times on Wednesday that Democratic attacks on Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination boosted his 2018 reelection run from a close race to an easy win. He predicted that a Democratic assault on Judge Barrett would backfire, too.

If Republicans confirm Judge Barrett and retain control of the Senate, they would be poised to install a lasting conservative majority beyond the Supreme Court to include all the federal appeals courts.

Mike Davis, president of the Article III Project, is licking his chops at the prospect of Mr. Trump flipping the entire federal judiciary in a potential second term.

“President Trump has flipped the 2nd, 3rd and 11th circuits from majority Democrat-appointed to majority Republican-appointed,” he said. “When President Trump wins reelection, he could do the unthinkable for a Republican president: He could flip the 9th Circuit along with flipping all 13 federal circuit courts across America to conservative control.”

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