Latest on 2020 election and SCOTUS battle

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:20 PM ET, Tue September 22, 2020
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1:11 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

Romney on SCOTUS vote: "it's appropriate to look at the constitution and look at the precedent"

From CNN's From Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav

Sen. Mitt Romney attends a hearing in Washington, DC, on August 4.
Sen. Mitt Romney attends a hearing in Washington, DC, on August 4. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney signaled Tuesday he will support a Supreme Court nomination vote before the presidential election, filling the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat.

“I think at this stage it’s appropriate to look at the constitution and look at the precedent,” Romney said in response to CNN’s Manu Raju’s question about the Republican party’s message in 2016, to let the voters decide, and why it’s appropriate now to not let the voters decide.

Romney declined to discuss a hypothetical of a lame duck session vote on the vacant seat if Trump loses the election.

“I'm not going to look at all the hypotheticals that might occur,” he said. “But I've laid out what I intend to do and that would be … not dependent upon the timing.”

Pressed further by CNN, Romney replied, “I’ve indicated what I intend to do is to proceed with the consideration process and if a nominee actually reaches the floor, that I will vote and based upon the qualifications of that nominee,”

Asked his view of Amy Coney Barrett, he said, “I haven’t reviewed her judicial record to this point. I would look forward to doing so if she’s the nominee.”

Romney also said that he recognizes “we may have a court which has more of a conservative bent than it's had over the last few decades … my liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court and that's not written in the stars.”

He continued, “I know a lot of people are saying gosh we don't want that change, I understand the energy associated with that perspective. But it's also appropriate for a nation which is, if you will, center right to have a court which reflects center right points of view.”

His remarks come after the Utah senator released a statement signaling his support for an election year confirmation earlier Tuesday morning.

Watch:

1:11 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett has emerged as Trump's favorite to fill Ginsburg's SCOTUS seat

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Ariane de Vogue, Kevin Liptak and Pamela Brown

Amy Coney Barrett speaks in May 2018 at the University of Notre Dame's Law School commencement ceremony in South Bend, Indiana.
Amy Coney Barrett speaks in May 2018 at the University of Notre Dame's Law School commencement ceremony in South Bend, Indiana. Robert Franklin/The South Bend Tribune/AP

Judge Amy Coney Barrett has emerged as President Donald Trump’s overwhelming favorite to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to several people familiar with the deliberations, who say the President’s view was solidified during a lengthy meeting at the White House on Monday.

Trump has not finalized his decision, and with days to go until he announces his pick at the end of the week, his thinking could change. 

But for now, Barrett — currently sitting on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago — is his clear front-runner and is viewed inside the White House as the likely nominee.

Officials said Trump seemed very enthusiastic about Barrett after their meeting, which lasted for several hours. He told people afterward he believes Barrett will be very well received by "his people," one official said. While no one close to the process would go so far as to say Barrett is the pick, Trump is giving people the impression he is completely sold on her.

Judge Barbara Lagoa remains on the list but multiple people familiar with the matter tell CNN that Trump is fading on her.  While Trump was initially enthused at the prospect of nominating a Cuban-American from Florida, a critical electoral battleground, Lagoa hasn’t been previously vetted for the Supreme Court and some advisers suggested it would be a heavy lift to clear a new name quickly. The White House may still schedule a meeting with Lagoa, but two sources said her chances have dimmed significantly since the weekend.

On Monday, Trump initially said he was considering five names for the high court vacancy before adding he was really focused only on “one or two” names.

Others on the list — including federal appeals court judges Joan Larsen and Allison Jones Rushing, and deputy White House counsel Kate Todd — are not considered serious contenders, particularly after it was learned inside the White House that Larsen volunteered for Joe Biden’s 1987 presidential campaign.

1:11 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

Romney signals he's on board with confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year

From CNN's Manu Raju and Clare Foran

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney speaks in Washington, DC, on September 22.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney speaks in Washington, DC, on September 22. Pool

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney signaled in a statement Tuesday that he's on board with an election year confirmation for a Supreme Court nominee, saying that if a nominee reaches the Senate floor then he will vote "based upon their qualifications."

Romney's decision provides the votes needed to move ahead with the process to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat. 

"The Constitution gives the President the power to nominate and the Senate the authority to provide advice and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Accordingly, I intend to follow the Constitution and precedent in considering the President’s nominee. If the nominee reaches the Senate floor, I intend to vote based upon their qualifications," Romney said in a written statement. 

He also said: "The historical precedent of election year nominations is that the Senate generally does not confirm an opposing party’s nominee but does confirm a nominee of its own."

Watch:

1:11 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

Trump says he will announce Supreme Court nominee Saturday at the White House

From CNN's Sam Fossum

President Trump said Tuesday morning that he will announce his Supreme Court pick on Saturday at the White House. He provided no further details.

10:00 a.m. ET, September 22, 2020

Bloomberg raises over $16 million to help ex-felons in Florida vote

From CNN’s Dan Merica

Michael Bloomberg speaks in New York on March 4.
Michael Bloomberg speaks in New York on March 4. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his political operation have raised more than $16 million from supporters and foundations over the last week to pay the court fines and fees for over 30,000 Black and Latino voters in Florida with felony convictions, a Bloomberg aide told CNN, allowing them to vote in the upcoming election. 

The fundraising effort will benefit the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, an organization run by former incarcerated people who are working to make it easier for ex-felons to vote.

"The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right,” Bloomberg said. “Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it.”

Voters in Florida during the 2018 midterms approved a constitutional amendment that restored voting rights to more than a million people previously convicted of felonies, except those imprisoned for murder or sex offenses. Republicans in the state passed and signed a subsequent law that required all former felons pay their outstanding debts, including court fees. The Supreme Court later upheld the law.

Bloomberg has committed to spent at least $100 million on helping Democratic nominee Joe Biden win Florida. The money for this effort did not come personally from the former New York mayor and Democratic primary candidate in 2020.

Arick Wierson, who writes frequently for CNN Opinion, says Bloomberg's investment in Florida could decide the election outcome. Read his opinion piece here.

1:11 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

Timing on Trump Supreme Court nominee announcement remains "fluid"

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Joe Johns

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows stressed Tuesday that President Trump is looking for a Supreme Court nominee that will "uphold the Constitution," as he praised Senate Republicans facing tough reelection battles who have lined up in support of moving forward with a potential Trump nominee. 

When asked by Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo if there will be a vote before the election, Meadows said that it's ultimately up to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell but that the White House is in daily communication with the Majority Leader. 

"They're all engaged and ready to get to work," Meadows said of Republican senators. "And the President, as you had mentioned, plans to make that announcement this Saturday."  

But later in a gaggle with reporters, Meadows said that the timing remains "fluid" when asked if there will be an event held on Saturday for a potential announcement. 

"We've not set up anything. Obviously, the President has talked about having an announcement on Saturday. The timetable and the plans are very fluid still and so there's nothing been planned at this point," he said. 

When asked by CNN's Joe Johns about potential political fallout for Republican senators over pushing forward with the SCOTUS nominee, Meadows projected confidence. 

"Generally, Republicans like to confirm Republican nominees and so I don't know that that's generally considered a negative issue, obviously you've got a number of senators in very difficult races. But when you, I've found that when republicans vote, like republicans it normally works pretty well for them and. And so I'm going to leave those decisions up to Leader McConnell and those individual Republican senators," he said. 

Meadows, on Fox Business, also said: "I fully believe that we'll have the votes, that they will be there, and whether it's before the election or shortly after I'm confident that this person will get confirmed and be the next justice."  

Pressed by CNN on whether a potential nominee would be prepared for any upcoming hearings if the Senate moves quickly to push the nominee forward, Meadows said the White House would be "prepared."

"It'll be up to us to make sure that our nominee is prepared and it'll be up to them to take the vote. We do know that there had been a very, very quick timeline. There has been a very quick timeline in the past for a number of justices who have been nominated and confirmed so I can tell you will be fully prepared to meet whatever timeline Leader McConnell decides to engage," Meadows said. 

1:12 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

The significance of Trump filling another SCOTUS seat 

Nina Totenberg, Jeffrey Toobin and Joan Biskupic speak with Anderson Cooper.
Nina Totenberg, Jeffrey Toobin and Joan Biskupic speak with Anderson Cooper. CNN

Speaking during CNN’s Citizen conference, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin laid out the significance of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s role on the Supreme Court and how consequential it will be for President Trump to fill another seat on the highest court.

"It really is that big of deal because of the nature of who left and who is replacing them," Toobin said.

“The fact is she was one of the four liberals, and to have her replaced by Amy Coney Barrett who on all appearances appears to be as conservative as Clarence Thomas or Neil Gorsuch that is a dramatic change and you will have 5 hard core conservative on the court,” Toobin said. 

“It really is a night and day switch here,"  CNN legal analyst said Joan Biskupic said. 

Some background: Judge Coney Barrett, a federal appellate judge and Notre Dame law professor, is a proven conservative with a compelling personal story who has long been atop Trump's Supreme Court short list.

The mother of seven children and a former law clerk to the late right-wing beacon Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett, now 48, was a finalist for the Supreme Court spot that went to Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

She met with Trump to discuss the nomination on Monday, sources close to the process told CNN.

Watch:

##Citizen#

1:13 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

The election is only 42 days away. Here's the latest on the battle to fill Ginsburg's SCOTUS seat.

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks in the Capitol on September 21.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks in the Capitol on September 21. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been steadfast that the US Senate will vote on President Donald Trump's nomination to the Supreme Court this year. In less than three days — and before a nominee has even been selected — it appears McConnell is already on track to have the votes.

Bottom line: The speed with which Senate Republicans have largely fallen in line behind the push to quickly confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg's successor on the Supreme Court would be head-snapping if it didn't line up with their support for Trump's hundreds of judicial nominees over the course of the last three-plus years. There is still a long way to go -- an actual nominee is a pretty key ingredient here — but as one Republican official involved in the process told me: "Things are falling into line — and fast."

What to watch today

  • Senate GOP closed-door conference lunch, 12:45 p.m. ET.
  • Senate leadership stakeout, 2 p.m.

Days until the election: 42

The math: Democrats, limited in their options to do anything on their own to stop any confirmation, have pushed hard to wrangle four Republicans to join them in opposing moving forward on a nominee until after the next president is sworn into office. They secured two senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — who said they opposed any vote before the election.

But the final two have been elusive. And may not exist at all. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Cory Gardner, both considered possible defectors, came out in support of moving forward with the nomination on Monday. While there are a handful of other GOP senators who haven't publicly made their views known, Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledge there's really only one wild card left: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. His GOP colleagues are skeptical he'd defect, but even if he does, that would make three.

Three isn't enough to stop the nomination. Read more here.

1:13 p.m. ET, September 22, 2020

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