Weekend Review: Trump Announces Judge Amy Coney Barrett as Supreme Court Pick
On Saturday, President Trump announced to a crowd at the White House that he will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Trump is recommending Barrett to fill the seat left empty by the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last week.
Barrett is a U.S. Circuit Court judge who was interviewed in 2018 to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Brett Kavanaugh took Kennedy’s seat instead. Trump allegedly said at that time he planned to use Barrett to replace Ginsburg.
Now, Trump intends to do just that. The Supreme Court will be configured with a conservative majority if he is successful.
Before he introduced Barrett as his nominee to the crowd gathered in the White House Rose Garden, Trump mused on the importance of his court picks. “To maintain security, liberty and prosperity, we must maintain our priceless heritage of a nation of laws and there is no one better to do that than Amy Coney Barrett,” Trump proclaimed.
Democrats argue that Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the precedent in 2016 when Justice Antonin Scalia died. The justice died several months before the 2016 presidential election and McConnell refused to allow a Senate vote on the confirmation of Merrick Garland to the empty seat. Following Trump’s inauguration, his nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed to SCOTUS.
McConnell has made clear he does not plan to mind his 2016 example. Immediately following Ginsburg’s death, he announced he would bring Trump’s nominee to the Senate floor, only weeks before the election.
Barrett is Trump’s third SCOTUS nominee following Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Her confirmation hearings are reportedly to begin on Oct. 12.
Covert inauguration for Lukashenko in Belarus inflames protests
On Wednesday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was sworn in for a sixth term without advanced announcement to the public. State media revealed the secret ceremony had already taken place. Lukashenko was inaugurated in spite of nationwide protests and worldwide speculation over the validity of election results.
Lukashenko has been in power for more than 25 years. His inauguration was reportedly kept secret to avoid demonstrations against him, though he claimed to have won a startling majority — over 80% — of the vote. Protests over his re-election have gathered hundreds of thousands of people.
U.S. and U.K. officials have criticized the election but Lukashenko seems to have support from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian troops parachuted into Belarus on Wednesday, fueling speculation that Putin has interest in Lukashenko’s presidency.
Over 12,000 people have been arrested for protesting in Belarus since August. More than 80 more protesters were arrested in Minsk on Saturday during demonstrations following the presidential inauguration.
Calls to free Julian Assange joined by world leaders
An open letter addressed to Prime Minister of the U.K. Boris Johnson, and signed by scores of current and former world leaders, has called for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Assange is accused of espionage for helping Chelsea Manning hack into Pentagon computers. U.S. prosecutors and politicians alleged Assange and Manning acted as spies and terrorists. Assange’s defense is that he was acting as a journalist to expose military and government wrongdoing.
Footage from a helicopter of American forces in Iraq murdering a group of bystanders was published to WikiLeaks in 2010. The site reported that the news outlet, Reuters, had been attempting to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act. Their requests were denied, though two people who died were journalists who worked for them.
The video exposed military secrets and made targets of Manning and Assange both. After being granted asylum by Ecuador in 2012, Assange stayed at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He was arrested after being forced to leave the embassy and has been imprisoned since 2019.
Assange currently faces extradition to the U.S. and the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison. Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, told NBC News that the open letter to Johnson “demonstrates the growing opposition around the world to U.S. efforts to extradite and prosecute” her client.