How Susan Collins was 'mocked' and 'deliberately manipulated' by Trump officials during Kavanaugh’s confirmation: report

How Susan Collins was 'mocked' and 'deliberately manipulated' by Trump officials during Kavanaugh’s confirmation: report

For decades, Sen. Susan Collins’ admirers in New England praised her as a shining example of a moderate GOP conservative who was staunchly pro-choice. Collins insisted that opposition to Roe v. Wade was a deal breaker for her, but in 2018, the Maine Republican helped pave the way for Roe’s demise when she voted to confirm Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh, Collins assured abortion rights supporters in 2018, considered Roe “settled law” and embraced the doctrine of stare decisis — a legal concept that means respect for precedent. But according to a leaked 5-4 majority draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, Kavanaugh is among the justices who favors overturning Roe. Collins was deceived by Kavanaugh — deception that, journalists Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley report in an article published by Rolling Stone on June 2, was encouraged by members of the Trump Administration.

“Turns out, Collins wasn’t just wrong about Kavanaugh,” Suebsaeng and Rawnsley explain. “She was deliberately manipulated by Trump Administration officials — and a future Supreme Court justice — who viewed her as an easy mark. Two former senior Trump White House officials tell Rolling Stone that the pro-choice Collins wasn’t even considered a serious threat to the devoutly conservative Kavanaugh.”

Suebsaeng and Rawnsley continue, “Instead, the team predicted she’d need only a vague assurance that the nominee would uphold the half-century-old ruling defending abortion rights. And they were right.”

The High Court justices who have reportedly decided to overturn Roe range from Kavanaugh and Alito to Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas. The four dissenters are Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Chief Justice John Roberts and Stephen Breyer (who is retiring and will be replaced by President Joe Biden’s nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, later this year).

Collins voted to confirm Gorsuch in 2017, and she voted to confirm Alito in 2006. The Maine senator also voted to confirm Barack Obama nominees Sotomayor and Kagan.

After meeting with Alito in 2005, Collins told reporters, “He assured me that he has tremendous respect for precedent and that his approach is to not overturn cases due to a disagreement with how they were originally decided.”

A former Trump Administration official, interviewed on condition of anonymity, told Rolling Stone, “The thinking from Trump.… and everybody else who worked to make this happen was that, as long as his nominees didn’t say anything stupid (on abortion) and let the Susan Collins-es of the world think what they needed to think and hear what they needed to hear, then it would get done.”

According to Suebsaeng and Rawnsley, some Trump Administration officials who “worked on the Kavanaugh confirmation privately mocked Collins and her public posturing over Roe,” using “crass language” that included describing the Maine senator as a “cheap date.”

“Back in 2018,” Suebsaeng and Rawnsley report, “ the Trump team and Senate GOP offices would regularly send guidance to outside organizations and top activists who were fervently supporting Kavanaugh…. When it came to Collins, the guidance from Team Trump was, consistently, that she not be approached, according to two sources who were close to the White House. One of the reasons, a former top Trump aide says, is because the White House and Kavanaugh allies believed that a pressure campaign from the right would backfire, and that Collins would get to a ‘yes’ on her own — assuming she got just the right verbal responses she wanted.”

Suebsaeng and Rawnsley add, “The Trump team’s apparent manipulation of Collins was part of a broader effort to smuggle, in broad daylight, anti-Roe justices onto the Supreme Court — an effort that was only somewhat complicated by Trump’s past statements on ending Roe and his nominees’ long anti-abortion records.”

In 2018, according to Rolling Stones’ sources, “Trump aides and Kavanaugh allies” held mock Senate confirmation hearings — and Kavanaugh practiced giving evasive answers to questions about Roe.

“Whenever the topic of abortion came up in his prep sessions,” Suebsaeng and Rawnsley report, “Kavanaugh knew what do say: effectively, nothing. Typically, he would give lengthy, detailed monologues on dissents, opinions, and precedents, and then, as was his standard, refuse to divulge how he thought he’d rule if the opportunity to overturn Roe ever came up.”

An anonymous source told Rolling Stone, “That’s how (Kavanaugh) operated. It was his way of telling you, ‘I know a lot about this — but I’m not going to tell you how I’d rule’.… His idea was that saying it was long-standing precedent didn’t mean it couldn’t get overturned at some point.… (Kavanaugh) gets the need to demonstrate knowledge about the law, but not to tip your hand about your opinions about a specific case or issue.”

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