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Democratic Senator: Barrett Must Recuse Herself From Cases Involving Election

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked Judge Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from any case involving the presidential election — should it reach the court.
Stefani Reynolds
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked Judge Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from any case involving the presidential election — should it reach the court.

Democrats are unhappy about nearly everything involving the likely confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. About the only thing that could be worse, from their perspective, is if she helps President Trump secure a second term.

"For the first time in the history of the United States, an incumbent president refuses to commit to the peaceful transition of power if he loses the election," said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, alluding to a flap over Trump's remarks from last month.

Top Republicans sought to smooth over that episode with statements insisting that, if Trump loses, the presidential transition would take place as always. But Trump has never stopped raising doubts about the integrity of this year's election, and Democrats have never let go regarding what they call the dangerous implications of that rhetoric.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut invoked it directly on Monday in an opening statement that addressed another of Trump's earlier comments: The importance, as the president argued, of having a full Supreme Court in the event any litigation over election disputes must be resolved there.

Democrats likely cannot prevent Barrett from being approved by the Judiciary Committee and then confirmed by the Senate, but Blumenthal pressed her on Monday to commit to not taking part in any case involving the election. Barrett, who met with Democratic lawmakers last week, refused to say during that processwhether she would recuse herself from an election dispute should it reach the court.

Election-rules litigation has raged across the country as states change their practices to, for example, permit more voting by mail in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There are scenarios in which close results in key states could depend on the practices involved with counting or rejecting such ballots, which could lead to legal cases that could be escalated to the Supreme Court.

Blumenthal asked her to recuse herself from any such case involving Trump's electoral fate.

"Your participation — let me be blunt — in any case involving Donald Trump's election would immediately do explosive and enduring harm to the court's legitimacy and your own credibility," Blumenthal said. "You must recuse yourself. The American people are angry and for good reason. It is a break-the-glass moment."

Barrett hasn't responded broadly or in detail to senators' opening statements, but she'll have an opportunity to deliver her own prepared remarks to the committee on Monday afternoon.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Philip Ewing is an election security editor with NPR's Washington Desk. He helps oversee coverage of election security, voting, disinformation, active measures and other issues. Ewing joined the Washington Desk from his previous role as NPR's national security editor, in which he helped direct coverage of the military, intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and more. He came to NPR in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously, he served as managing editor of Military.com, and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.