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Wake Up To Politics - September 28, 2020

Wake Up To Politics: September 28, 2020
Wake Up To Politics - September 28, 2020

It’s Monday, September 28, 2020. Election Day is 36 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

For your radar: The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden is tomorrow. Listen to the Wake Up To Politics podcast episode on debates and check your inbox tomorrow for a full preview on what to expect.

Supreme Court

President Donald Trump formally named Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court nominee on Saturday, setting up a high-stakes confirmation battle as the presidential election looms. Trump praised Barrett, who has served since November 2017 on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, as “a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.”

Before Trump appointed her to the appellate bench, Barrett taught at Notre Dame Law School, where she also graduated in the top of her class, and clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“His judicial philosophy is mine too,” Barrett said of Scalia, one of the most influential voices in modern conservative jurisprudence. “A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

About 150 guests attended the announcement, including Attorney General Bill Barr, former Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), and Scalia’s widow and children. Some of the guests, including Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), wore face masks; the vast majority, including his colleagues Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), did not.

The crowd of conservatives was in high spirits throughout the event: they applauded for several minutes when Trump arrived with Barrett, and then leapt to their feet again after the president announced that his pick would be “the first mother of school-aged children ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.” All seven of Barrett’s children were in attendance at the ceremony.

Senate Republicans are hoping to have Barrett confirmed in about a month, before Election Day; that would be about half the time of the average Supreme Court confirmation process, which has taken 69.6 days, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told Fox News that he plans to gavel in Barrett’s confirmation hearings on October 12 and hold a committee vote on October 22. Under this timeline, Barrett’s hearings would begin 16 days after her nomination was announced; the past four Supreme Court confirmation hearings began about 50 days after the nominees were unveiled.  

“I think it’s a responsibility [that the Senate has] to hold these hearings and give the president’s nominee a vote before Election Day,” the president’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, told Wake Up To Politics at the White House after the ceremony. “I don’t think they have the right to bequeath their responsibility and say it’s too close to an election. They must work every day up until the election, that’s what they’re paid to do.”

(Lewandowski did not offer a direct answer when asked about the Republican-led Senate’s refusal to hold hearings or a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before the 2016 election.)

Although Senate Republicans have expressed confidence that Barrett would be easily confirmed, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows demurred when asked by Wake Up To Politics if he expected a speedy confirmation process. “That’ll be up to the Senate,” he said. “I’m not counting the votes,” he added as he left the scrum of reporters on the outskirts of the Rose Garden.

Judge Barrett speaks at the White House on Saturday after President Trump announced his plans to nominate her to the Supreme Court. The Rose Garden was adorned with 13 hanging American flags, in a style reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s announcement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993. (Photo by Gabe Fleisher)

With only one Republican senator, Susan Collins (R-ME), having explicitly announced opposition to Barrett, most Senate Democrats have resigned themselves to the reality that the seat once belonging to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal icon, will fall into conservative hands. “We can slow it down perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at the most,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) acknowledged to ABC News. “But we can’t stop the outcome.”

Democrats are hoping, though, that they will get their revenge on November 3, gambling that the confirmation fight will further endanger vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in blue states, although the showdown will likely boost those running in more conservative-leaning areas.

Trump aides similarly hope that the confirmation fight boosts the president’s re-election prospects, just as the vacancy left by Antonin Scalia’s death helped propel Trump to the White House in 2016. “I think that this is an exciting opportunity for the president to use the power of the presidency” to motivate Republican voters, David Bossie, a senior advisor on Trump’s 2020 campaign and deputy campaign manager of his 2016 bid, told Wake Up To Politics at the White House.

Despite Trump’s lagging position in recent polls, Bossie expressed confidence that the Barrett pick would be “one of the reasons that he’s going to be re-elected in November.” The veteran political operative added, noting the unpredictability of an election: “These are not issues that you choose. They are trust upon you.”

But Barrett’s most lasting impact, if confirmed, will likely be not at the ballot box, but from behind the bench. Barrett, 48, is poised to reshape the court for a generation, joining a conservative majority that could erode Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion case, and the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. President Trump raised the possibility of the court striking down the ACA in Sunday tweet; Democrats have been making health care central to their messaging around the court battle.

If Barrett is confirmed by November 10 — as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has signaled she will be — she will be on the bench in time to hear oral arguments in a crucial case deciding Obamacare’s constitutionality.

Trump Inc.

President Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and again in 2017, and paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. Those are some of the key revelations in a major New York Times report, which published on Sunday. The Times obtained more than two decades of tax-return data for Trump and his companies, some of the most highly sought-after records in the political world since Trump has become the first president in 40 years not to release his tax returns.

According to the Times, Trump has been able to pay such little income tax because of the significant losses his businesses have reported in recent years, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. “Ultimately,” the report said, “Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.” However, the president is engaged in a years-long battle with the IRS over a $72.9 million tax refund from 2010, as the agency conducts an audit to determine if the losses he declared that year were legitimate. If the IRS rules against him, Trump could have to pay more than $100 million.  

The records obtained by the Times — which the newspaper called “the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire” — also reveal Trump’s practice of writing off millions of dollars of “business expenses” to avoid paying taxes on them, for expenses such as his $70,000 hair-styling bill while taping “The Apprentice.” Additionally, the Times report offers previously unknown details about the revenue Trump has collected from abroad, which totaled $73 million during his first two years in office, from sources such as Turkey, India, and the Philippines.  

At a news conference on Sunday, Trump called the report “made up” and “totally fake news,” although he did not specify which details were inaccurate.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will give “an update on the nation’s coronavirus testing strategy” at 2 p.m.

The Senate will meet at 2:45 p.m for a pro forma session.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is on its summer recess.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has no public events scheduled.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina. She will deliver remarks on “the Supreme Court and what’s at stake in this election for the American people” at 2:15 p.m. and participate in a roundtable with Black voters at 4:30 p.m.

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