- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 19, 2020

President Trump said Saturday he expects to nominate a replacement next week for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and that it will “most likely” be a woman, brushing aside calls from Democrats and at least one Senate Republican to wait until the election.

The president said he disagrees with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who broke with her party Saturday by opposing a confirmation process before knowing the outcome of the Nov. 3 election.

“I totally disagree with her. We won,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “We want to respect the process. I think it’s going to go very quickly, actually.”

The president said he has a duty to make a nomination.

“We have an obligation as the winners to pick who we want,” Mr. Trump said. “That’s not the next president — hopefully I’ll be the next president. Right now we’re here. We have an obligation to the voters, all of the people, the millions of people that put us here in the form of a victory.”

Justice Ginsburg, 87, died Friday night after a long battle with cancer.

He said of his shortlist of potential nominees, “from a constitutional standpoint, I think it’s the greatest list ever assembled. I think we’ll have a very popular choice whoever that may be.”

Two female judges have emerged as serious contenders for the nomination, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Judges Barbara Lagoa of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals were mentioned favorably by the president in a phone call with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday night. Also discussed was Judge Amul Thapar of the 6th Circuit in Kentucky, a favorite of Mr. McConnell.

Judge Barrett was strongly considered by the president previously for the high court in 2019, but Judge Lagoa has risen more recently as a contender. The president included her in a list of 20 new potential nominees that he released earlier this month.

A first generation Cuban-American from Florida, Judge Lagoa, 52, is said to have caught the president’s attention for several reasons. She’s a conservative, relatively young, hails from a battleground state with 29 electoral votes that Mr. Trump badly needs to win, and her nomination could bring more Hispanic women to his side.

“She’s an extraordinary person,” the president said. “I’ve heard at length about her. She’s Hispanic and highly respected — Miami. Highly respected.”

She’s also a former assistant U.S. Attorney who served as Florida’s first Hispanic state Supreme Court justice in 2019.

What’s more, the Senate confirmed Judge Lagoa for the 11th Circuit seat last November by a lopsided vote of 80-15.

Judge Lagoa’s parents fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the mid-1960s. She referred to their experience when she was sworn in to Florida’s high court in May 2019.

“Many of those in this room are the children and grandchildren of individuals who fled from dictatorship,” she said at the time. “Through hard work, education, faith, and a strong community, they succeeded. Because of the shared experiences of our parents and grandparents many of us in this room have a special appreciation for the rule of law. We understand what it means when individual liberties, respect for private property, and basic human rights are abandoned by a government. And this is why the oath I just took is not just words on a piece of paper to me. Unlike the country my parents fled, we are a nation of laws and not of men.”

Judge Barrett is a former law professor at Notre Dame University (located in Indiana, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence). Axios reported in 2019, when the president was looking for a nominee to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, that Mr. Trump told others privately of Judge Barrett, “I’m saving her for Ginsburg.”

Judge Barrett is Catholic, and her religion was raised as an issue at her confirmation hearing in 2016 by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s a concern,” Mrs. Feinstein said during the hearing.

Judge Barrett replied, “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they arise from faith or anywhere else, on the law.”

Republican strategist John Feehery commented on Twitter Saturday, “When Trump nominates Amy Coney Barrett, just watch how anti-Catholic the Democrat becomes. It will be breathtaking, even for the occasional Mass attender.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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