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Elizabeth Wydra Discusses Trump Supreme Court Nomination [VIDEO]

On January 31, 2017, President Trump nominated Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia. Following the announcement, CAC President Elizabeth Wydra appeared on various broadcast programs -- including three separate broadcasts of the PBS Newshour over the course of evening -- to discuss the nominee's troubling record and the profound burden of proof that Trump has placed on Gorsuch to demonstrate that he does not share the extreme authoritarian views held by the President. Below is a video compilation highlighting the appearances, followed by a rough transcript.

Click here to read CAC's full press release in response to the nomination.



JUDY WOODRUFF: Elizabeth Wydra what's your take on Judge Gorsuch?

ELIZABETH WYDRA: I have serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch's record on reproductive access, and first and foremost I think concerns based on Donald Trump's stated litmus test of appointing someone who will be willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. I also have serious concerns about his willingness to apply the law fairly to all, not just the wealthy and the powerful. Will he stand up for workers' rights against corporate wrongdoing, environmental regulations, consumer protections. And finally, I think we can't ignore the backdrop of what we've seen from the beginning of the Trump presidency. This is the person who chose Gorsuch as his nominee, so Gorsuch I think has the burden to show that he doesn't share some of these extreme authoritarian — frankly, anti-Constitution — viewpoints of the President who put forth his nomination.


WYDRA: It's very different to be a Justice than a judge on a lower appellate court, and that's why it's so important here to look very carefully at his record. He said many of the things that many of us want to hear, but we need more than just lip service, we need to see a record that shows that he is faithful to the Constitution — and not just the parts he likes. He has been talked about as an originalist. Well, does that just apply to the parts of the Constitution like gun rights that he might have matching policy preferences for? Does it also apply to the amended Constitution that made our country more equal, more just, and more free, and gave broad powers to the federal government to enforce civil rights, enforce voting rights, and make sure that there's no discrimination against people of color, religious minorities, and women. So we're going to be looking very closely at the record in the weeks to come.


WYDRA: Not every issue has come before him in his time on the court of appeals, so that's why the hearing and the questionnaire and everything that goes around this is incredibly important. Because, in addition to substantive questions, and those are legion, especially when you have a process like we had here where President Trump said during his campaign repeatedly that he had several litmus tests for the nominee — which is kind of problematic, we normally don't do that in our nominee processes because it suggests maybe that you're guaranteeing to the President you're going to vote a certain way in a case, and we want our justices to take the cases as they come — but I think there's going to be an additional focus here on whether the nominee is going to be someone who will be truly independent. And that's something that I think the hearing will be very important there will be a lot of questions about that.

WOODRUFF: What do you mean independent? Independent of?

WYDRA: Serve as a check on constitutional violations potential corruption. The judiciary plays an incredibly important role in our democratic constitutional system, and the Supreme Court is at its pinnacle, so you want someone who will really follow the law where it leads and not be beholden to any particular political agenda, and particularly not feel beholden to the President who is nominating you to be on the Court.


WYDRA: You know, it's a conservative Court. The Roberts Court is led by conservative justices — which is not to say they don't sometimes rule in a liberal ways, in more progressive ways that conform with the Constitution's text and history — but I think there's going to be a focus on this nominee no matter what, because every justice on the Court is important. And in fact, the integrity of the Court as an independent arbiter of what the Constitution is and the pinnacle of our independent judiciary, which will make sure that the Constitution's structural provisions are respected. So this justice is important.


WYDRA: You know, we see comparing him to Justice Kennedy. Justice Kennedy, just as recently as last Term, voted to uphold the right of women to choose to have an abortion. Given this litmus test that Donald Trump purportedly has about having someone on the bench who will overturn Roe, that's obviously a clear contrast. I think people are also going to be looking at the religious liberty aspects here, another one of those litmus tests that Trump said he would use. And that Hobby Lobby case that Michael referenced, where a lot of people see that they were putting the rights of corporations above the right of women to access contraception to which they're entitled under the law.


WYDRA: I think a lot of people are starting out with fight in them, saying this seat was stolen, this is illegitimate. But there are also people who are saying, we're not taking anything off the table, we want to look at this record and see whether or not he is within that mainstream. And that's where the hearings, the questionnaire, all of that is important, because there are cases that don't come up that we're very concerned about. Even the broader idea of, Is this someone who's going to be able to stand up for the Constitution? Stand up, frankly, to the Trump administration? We've seen cases already coming on the travel, refugee — what many are calling a Muslim — ban, that could be one of the big tests of whether he's willing to be a check on the overreaching that we've seen from the Trump administration.


[FOX NEWS, pre-announcement]

ELIZABETH WYDRA: I think another thing to look at for either of these folks [Gorsuch or Hardiman] is how they fit into the current very pro-corporate bent of the Roberts Court. A lot of Trump voters purportedly voted for him based on economic issues, so they could have a rude awakening if someone is appointed to the Court who will bend over backwards to accommodate the interests of big business and special interests instead of looking out for the average American.


WYDRA: Well I think that we are going to have a very close scrutiny of the record of this nominee. As we've seen in the past year, there's been a severe undermining of the norms that support American democracy, and that's obviously extremely concerning. The Supreme Court should be independent, should be looking to the law and the Constitution. And we want to make sure that the person on the bench is not going to pursue an extreme ideological agenda, but instead will follow the Constitution and the law where they lead, for all Americans, not just those who happen to look like you or pray like you.