Judicial win recharges Trump hopes as election day nears

Top News | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 28 Oct 2020

US President Donald Trump's struggling reelection campaign has received a boost with the confirmation of his latest Supreme Court nominee, clinching his judicial legacy in a landmark victory for American conservatives.

The Republican-controlled Senate elevated Amy Coney Barrett to the lifelong position in a 52-48 vote, capping a rapid and deeply contentious process that makes her the sixth conservative - and third Trump appointee - on the nine-member court.

"This is a momentous day for America, for the United States Constitution and for the fair and impartial rule of law," Trump, standing alongside Barrett, said before beaming lawmakers and others who had gathered on the South Lawn of the White House.

Barrett, 48, assures a strong conservative judicial legacy for Trump, who has also been able to appoint dozens of young right-wing judges to federal courts in his four years in office.

But Barrett, who took a constitutional oath at a night ceremony, said she would keep her personal beliefs and judicial work separate.

"I will do my job without any fear or favor, and I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences."

With a week until the November 3 election, the confirmation marks an undeniable victory for Trump to tout as he barnstorms battleground states in a final bid to claw back ground against Democrat Joe Biden.

It remains to be seen whether the confirmation can be a game-changer for the Republican president, accused by his rival of abandoning the fight against Covid-19 with polls showing voters overwhelmingly disapprove of his pandemic response.

Trump denied any surrender earlier as he landed in swing state Pennsylvania for a trio of rallies and insisted, despite a new surge in infections, that the pandemic is in retreat.

But Trump betrayed his frustration at the health crisis dragging on his reelection hopes, with a tweet complaining about media coverage of "Covid, Covid, Covid, all the way to the election."

While Barrett's confirmation provided a happy distraction for Trump, the virus is ever-present.

More than 225,000 Americans have died, cases are spiking in several states and hopes have dimmed that a trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package could pass Congress before election day.

Complicating Trump's argument that America has the upper hand against the virus, his chief of staff Mark Meadows conceded that "we are not going to control the pandemic," and that the focus is now on mitigation.

Meadows' comments drew a rebuke from the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who warned it is "dangerous" to give up on attempts to stamp out the virus.

As of Monday, 64 million Americans - wary of the health dangers of crowded polling booths, and energized by a race framed as critical - had cast early ballots, far surpassing the total of 58 million preelection ballots cast in 2016.

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