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Sen. Cruz Among Those Who Will Hear From Trump's Supreme Court Nominee

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The senators who will soon vote on President Trump's Supreme Court nomination include Ted Cruz of Texas. Cruz himself once argued cases before the Supreme Court, and he has written a book that's called "One Vote Away." He spoke to Steve Inskeep.

STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: In that book, which we began discussing on this program yesterday, Sen. Cruz recalls arguing before the justices. He says it was vital to frame the narrative to persuade the justices of his version of what a case was all about. That led to a question as we talked.

Does that match your political style? You try to make sure that you're getting across the narrative, the basic idea of what's going on in the country in every political statement you make.

TED CRUZ: Well, sure. And politics is storytelling. And politics, hopefully, is about persuasion, about winning people's hearts and minds.

INSKEEP: In his narrative of the Supreme Court, Sen. Cruz identifies issues like gun rights and free speech. He argues that a single extra liberal justice could change them. He wrote that book, of course, before events of the past few weeks completely altered the calculation. Republicans are now on the verge of adding an extra conservative justice after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the book, Sen. Cruz recalls blocking President Obama's nominee in 2016 by saying it would be wrong to confirm a replacement in an election year, though that is what he's now doing. President Trump has said it is essential to confirm Amy Coney Barrett before the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think it's very important. I think this will end up in the Supreme Court, and I think it's very important that we have nine justices.

INSKEEP: Ted Cruz is also ready for a court fight, although in his narrative, it is far more likely to come from Joe Biden's side.

CRUZ: And so we could have multiple conflicting opinions from multiple courts of appeals and weeks or months of chaos and uncertainty.

INSKEEP: I want to address both the substance and the process here. And of course, we don't know the exact substance of what a case would be, but we should note it is President Trump who has said this will end up in the Supreme Court. It is President Trump who, without any basis in fact, has said there will be massive fraud in mail-in ballots, which have been used safely for many, many years. Would you support the president in challenging this election regardless, which is what he seems to be ready to do if he is not immediately declared the winner?

CRUZ: You know, I think that's the press narrative, and I actually think it's backwards from what's likely to happen.

INSKEEP: But I mean, it's his words...

CRUZ: For four years...

INSKEEP: It's not my narrative. It's his words, Senator.

CRUZ: For four years, the Democrats have refused to accept the legitimacy of the last election - 2016. But there's no doubt if the election is close, Trump, likewise, may file litigation. From the Supreme Court's perspective, it doesn't matter who files the litigation. The question is, do we have a tribunal that can resolve it and make sure that we're following the law? You could have the 9th Circuit resolving a challenge in Arizona and the 11th Circuit resolving a challenge in Florida and one or two other courts engaged, and normally, those would all go to the Supreme Court to have one uniform answer for the country. If the court is 4-4, it lacks legal authority to decide, and I don't think we should roll the dice and take that risk.

INSKEEP: Some people listening will know that you rolled the dice in 2016, left a seat open so that Republicans would have a chance to fill it, and there was an eight-member Supreme Court in 2016. What's any different between now and then?

CRUZ: Well, you - and you are right. There was risk. If there'd been litigation, that eight-member Supreme Court could have deadlocked. The difference is the long historical practice that the Senate does not confirm a nominee from a president of the opposing party during a presidential election year.

INSKEEP: Let me just ask one more question about the election here that we face and the possibility of it going to the Supreme Court. As you know, the president has openly said, I want to appoint a justice in time to potentially rule in the case that I myself would be a litigant in before the Supreme Court. Should Amy Coney Barrett recuse herself from any case, given that the president said he wanted to appoint her to rule on that case?

CRUZ: Of course not, any more than Steve Breyer should recuse himself because he was appointed by a Democrat or Elena Kagan because she was appointed by the Obama-Biden administration. That's not the way the Supreme Court works.

INSKEEP: I don't think those presidents appointed anyone to rule on a specific case, though. In this case, the president says, I want the justice there to rule on this specific case.

CRUZ: I don't know what quote you're referring there, but it doesn't particularly matter because it's clear there's an election coming up November 3. And either side could litigate it, and we need a court that can resolve that litigation.

INSKEEP: OK. Thank you, Senator. Appreciate it. Hope we talk again before long.

CRUZ: Thank you. Take care.

GREENE: Sen. Ted Cruz speaking to Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.