Judge Maryanne Trump Barry has been called a “radical pro-abortion extremist” by Ted Cruz, but in 2006, Donald Trump’s older sister offered glowing praise of a then-Supreme Court nominee many now consider the court’s most dependable conservative.
Appearing on Capitol Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barry praised Samuel Alito, then a colleague on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, as “a man of remarkable intellectual gifts.”
Alito, she told senators, “set a standard of excellence that was contagious, his commitment to doing the right thing, never playing fast and loose with the record, never taking a short cut, his emphasis on first-rate work, his fundamental decency.”
“You have heard the most glowing things said about Sam as a colleague on our court. I embrace every glowing statement,” she testified. “Let me just conclude with this … He is a man with impeccable legal credentials. He is a fair-minded man, a modest man, a humble man, and he reveres the rule of law.”
Alito faced significant opposition at the time from Senate Democrats concerned about a 1985 memo in which he wrote, “The Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion.”
Since joining the court a decade ago, Alito has dependably sided with conservative colleagues, including as part of the Court’s 5-4 majority in 2007 upholding the ban on partial-birth abortions. Last month, the Constitutional Accountability Center’s Tom Donnelly and Brianne Gordo, looking back on Alito’s career on the high court, concluded in The Atlantic that “there’s no one to the right of Alito on the current Court.”
With the unexpected weekend death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court has become the hottest issue on the Republican presidential campaign trail, with Sen. Ted Cruz questioning whether conservatives can trust Trump on abortion and gun rights.
“A vote for Donald Trump is a vote to write the Second Amendment out of the Bill of Rights,” Cruz told reporters before a rally Monday. The Texas senator, who is trailing in the polls ahead of Saturday’s GOP primary in South Carolina, has cited Trump’s older sister Barry as an example of the type of judge to expect from Trump.
Cruz has zeroed in on the 78-year-old Barry, a Reagan appointee promoted to the Third Circuit by Bill Clinton, for a majority opinion she wrote in 2000 affirming a lower court’s decision to overturn New Jersey’s ban on late-term abortions. (Alito, who was also part of that majority ruling, has come under fire himself from abortion opponents who think he hasn’t done enough.)
“Even among liberal judges that position is extreme and Donald said his extreme abortion-supporting sister would make a terrific Supreme Court justice,” he said.
Trump, 69, told Bloomberg in August his sister would make a “phenomenal” Supreme Court justice: “Well, I don’t want to mention names, I think it’s inappropriate to mention names, certainly at this stage so early … I have a sister who’s on the Court of Appeals and she’s fantastic. I think she would be phenomenal. I think she would be one of the best. But frankly, uh, I think she — we’ll have to rule that out now, at least temporarily. But I do have a sister who’s very smart and a very good person.”
Since then, he’s continued to praise his sister, but in a rarity for the billionaire GOP presidential front-runner, he has backpedaled somewhat from his original remark.
“Just so you understand, I said it jokingly,” Trump told “This Week” on Sunday. “My sister’s a brilliant person, known as a brilliant person, but it’s obviously a conflict.”