Amy Coney Barrett gets skewered for dodging questions with very simple answers

Amy Coney Barrett gets skewered for dodging questions with very simple answers
Amy Coney Barrett // PBS NewsHour

During the Senate confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett — the far-right social conservative President Donald Trump has nominated to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court — much of the criticism has focused on her views on abortion and the Affordable Care Act. Barrett told senators that she did not consider the Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973 a "superprecedent" and was vague when asked about the ACA, also known as Obamacare. But journalist Dana Milbank, this week in his Washington Post column, argues that Barrett's answers to questions involving Trump's presidential powers are even more disturbing.

"Judge Amy Coney Barrett wasn't inclined to opine on anything — not on whether in vitro fertilization is 'tantamount to manslaughter,' not on whether she might support re-criminalizing homosexuality and certainly not on whether she'd invalidate Obamacare or Roe v. Wade," Milbank explains. "But the most chilling moment of her Supreme Court confirmation testimony Tuesday came when she said she would 'need to hear arguments' about whether President Trump can postpone the election."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California was among the Democratic senators who questioned Barrett earlier this week, and she zeroed in on Trump's egregious behavior. The senator told Barrett, "President Trump made claims of voter fraud and suggested he wanted to delay the upcoming election…. Does the Constitution give the president of the United States the authority to unilaterally delay a general election under any circumstances? Does federal law?"

According to Milbank, Barrett's answer should have been a firm "no." Instead, Trump's nominee responded, "Well, senator, if that question ever came before me, I would need to hear arguments from the litigants and read briefs and consult with my law clerks and talk to my colleagues and go through the opinion-writing process."

The Post columnist goes on to note that Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, during the hearings, asked Barrett, "Under federal law, is it illegal to intimidate voters at the poll?" And Milbank points out that Title 18, Chapter 29, Section 594 of the U.S. Code calls for a fine and/or imprisonment for "whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote."

Barrett, however, told Klobuchar, "I can't apply the law to a hypothetical set of facts."

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked Barrett if she would recuse herself from an election dispute in which Trump was claiming that "Democrats have rigged the election" — and according to Milbank, she "demurred."

"It wouldn't be surprising if Barrett votes to strike down Obamacare and abortion rights," Milbank writes. "But is it too much to ask that a Supreme Court nominee would defend the Constitution and federal law from a president who disregards both? Apparently so."

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