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Trump picks Barrett for Supreme Court

Amy Coney Barrett

President Donald Trump has nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, capping a dramatic reshaping of the country's federal judiciary that will resonate for a generation.

The nomination is to fill the seat left vacant by the death of liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at the age of 87.

Republican senators are already lining up for a swift confirmation of Barrett ahead of the November 3 election, as they aim to lock in conservative gains before a potential transition of power. Trump, meanwhile, is hoping the nomination will serve to galvanise his supporters as he looks to fend off Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump hailed Barrett as "a woman of remarkable intellect and character," saying he had studied her record closely before making the pick.

"I looked and I studied, and you are very eminently qualified," he said as Barrett stood next to him in the Rose Garden.

An ideological heir to the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett's replacement of Ginsburg will be the sharpest ideological swing since Clarence Thomas replaced Justice Thurgood Marshall nearly three decades ago. She would be the sixth justice on the nine-member court to be appointed by a Republican president, and the third of Trump's first term in office.

Even before Ginsburg's death, Trump was running on having confirmed in excess of 200 federal judges, fulfilling a generational aim of conservative legal activists.

"This is my third such nomination after Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh, and it is a very proud moment indeed," Trump said in the Rose Garden.

The announcement came before Ginsburg was buried beside her husband next week at Arlington National Cemetery. On Friday, she was the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol, and mourners flocked to the Supreme Court for two days before that to pay respects.

Barrett has been a judge since 2017, when Trump nominated her to the Chicago-based 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The staunch conservative had become known to Trump in large part after her bitter 2017 appeals court confirmation on a party-line vote included allegations that Democrats were attacking her Catholic faith. The president also interviewed her in 2018 for the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, but Trump ultimately chose Brett Kavanaugh.

While Democrats appear powerless to stop Barrett's confirmation in the GOP-controlled Senate, they are seeking to use the process to weaken Trump's reelection chances.

Barrett's nomination could become a reckoning over abortion, an issue that has divided many Americans so bitterly for almost half a century. The idea of overturning or gutting Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalised abortion, has animated activists in both parties for decades. Now, with the seemingly decisive shift in the court's ideological makeup, Democrats hope their voters will turn out in droves because of their frustration with the Barrett pick.

Trump has also increasingly embraced the high court - which he will have had an outsized hand in reshaping -- as an insurance policy in a close election.

Increases in mail, absentee and early voting brought about by the coronavirus pandemic have already led to a flurry of election litigation, and both Trump and Biden have assembled armies of lawyers to continue the fight once vote-counting begins. Trump has been open about tying his push to name a third justice to the court to a potentially drawn-out court fight to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.

"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court," Trump said Wednesday of the election, adding, "And I think it's very important that we have nine justices."

© AP 2020

IMAGE CREDIT: Rachel Malehorn / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)