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From The New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.


Today, President Trump has now secured the support he needs from Senate Republicans to swiftly confirm a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, all but assuring that he will cement its conservative majority.


A conversation with the anti-abortion activist whose unlikely partnership with the president helped bring the court to this moment. It's Wednesday, September twenty third. Hey, how are you? It's Michael Barbaro. Hello, Michael, it's great to meet you. Very nice to meet you. And thank you for making time for us.


Well, I'm very grateful. I've been looking forward to it. Really. I have you not. I haven't. Not everybody looks forward to conversations with journalists.


I do. It's actually one of the things I like the best. I'm not kidding. I really do.


Well, we're grateful for your time. And I want to start with the difficult but necessary question of asking you how to pronounce your last name.


It's Dannenfelser Dannenfelser. Is it OK if I call you Marjorie? Of course, yes.


OK, so Marjorie, the reason we wanted to talk to you and talk to you right now is because you lead an organization, the Susan B. Anthony List, that seeks to end abortion in the United States, in part by electing lawmakers who oppose abortion and in part by confirming conservative justices to the federal bench and ultimately to the Supreme Court in order to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Does that summarize the group's mission accurately?


Yeah, I think you got it. Yeah.


So I have to imagine this is quite a day to be talking to you because it is now about 103 in the afternoon on Tuesday. And we have just watched as several Republican senators who seem to be on the fence about filling Justice Ginsburg's vacant seat said that they would seek to confirm a replacement for her in the coming weeks, the latest of those being Senator Mitt Romney.


And so it very much seems like you are on the cusp of a historic victory for social and religious conservatives and for the mission of your group.


I think that's right. And I think, you know, no matter who you are, you feel the ground shaking underneath, wondering where the nation is going. For me, it is a surreal moment. It is actually very hard to put into words. I'm feeling very optimistic for the mission that our organization launched on 25 years ago.


Hmm. I wonder if in 2015, when you were first facing the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency, if you could have ever imagined that just over four years later it would get you here to this point?


Michael, I was deeply opposed to the candidacy of this president.


He was the last on a very long list and a distant last people that I thought should be among. I mean, I think there were 17 at the high point candidates. And I put out letters in South Carolina and in Iowa saying, not this guy. So I did get dragged kicking and screaming to the candidacy. And so the answer to your question is, yeah, I would have been shocked to hear that this president would operate as the most pro-life president in history and that he would be the one to be naming a self-described pro-life Supreme Court justice.


Three, that could turn the tide of events on abortion law after four decades since Roe versus Wade.


Well, let's talk a little bit more about that journey that you and your organization went on, the kicking and screaming.


I realize this is asking a lot of someone who now has a close relationship with the president. But if you could go back to your worst views and fears of him at the time and describe for me what you were thinking about him and what he represented to you in that early period of twenty, fifteen, twenty, sixteen.


I don't mind talking about it because I actually as a convert on this cause I can say that it's very much reflective of what people probably used to think of me when I was very strongly pro-choice. You know, my view change pretty diametrically to the position I had. But I whatever people felt about me at that point is exactly how I felt about this president. We can't possibly have somebody who just converted overnight be the candidate. And I didn't like the caustic comments to Carly Fiorina, who I adored at the time.


So what I saw I wasn't pleased with. And it's the point I would say that in my entire life, I've never been so happy to be so incredibly wrong about the commitments that he would make and how he would actually govern.


And when you say conversion, you mean his conversion from someone who supported abortion rights, supported candidates who supported abortion rights to someone who was opposed to abortion, who was pro-life?


That's right. But before we get to those commitments, I want to slow down just a little bit and talk about the journey that you want to not linger too much on it.


But I do think it's important to understand during the period when you had objections to him, you did not mince words. And I just want to put a pin in how strongly you doubted him during that period because you mentioned letters that you had issued against his candidacy. And there is a very pointed letter that I recall you addressed to Republican voters as the Iowa caucuses were about to. Get underway, and I was in Iowa during that time, so I remember this.


Mm hmm. And this is what you said, quote, As pro-life women leaders from Iowa and across the nation, we urge Republican caucus goers and voters to support anyone but Donald Trump on the issue of defending unborn children and protecting women from the violence of abortion.


Mr. Trump cannot be trusted. And there is, thankfully, an abundance of alternative candidates with proven records of pro-life leadership whom pro-life voters can support.


And you went on to say, as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump's treatment of individuals, women in particular.


So how were you able to get from there to the decision that you needed to build a relationship with the president and start talking about commitments and partnerships?


Well, that's a double edged question. One is, how could you form a relationship after saying that from his perspective? Right. That's one thing. And the other. Hell for my end. Right. So to me, there was no choice. It was a choice between someone who wanted to preserve abortion and expand it and have people pay for it. That was Hillary Clinton and he who made commitments to only pro-life judges and other things. So what do you do when you're given that choice?


As imperfect as as the choice is? Look, there was a better choice.


So just to be clear, you're saying you're saying the journey was essentially Donald Trump's victory in the primaries, that once he started to win, you didn't feel you had a choice between his views on abortion and Hillary Clinton's views on abortion. You had you had to make a compromise.


That's right. That's what the world of politics is. But I would not have done it if he had not made those commitments. I mean, we had to have something to take door to door to over a million homes in battleground states to say this is who this is. So, yes, it was the primary and it was those commitments. And then as we were moving into the general, he got stronger on the issue, not weaker.


And the general direction of candidates is the opposite, that first they are all about you.


I love you and you're the best person on the planet. And then they get into the general and they start to moderate. Well, that is not how he treated the issue. And he instead embraced it and communicated it and made sure that there was a contrast between his policies and his opponents and Hillary Clinton's. And that's what you hope and dream for, that there's that perfect clarity in that voters know the choice that they're making, and he's the first person that did it like that.


Well, let's talk about the commitments that you're referring to. What exactly were the commitments and how did they come to be?


Well, we knew what our priorities were, so we wrote them down on a and and said these are the commitments we would like for you to make. And they were pro-life Supreme Court justices. Now, I'm very aware about how that term pro-life Supreme Court justices goes across quite a number of people. One, they don't even know what that means is not accurate. Does that mean Roe versus Wade? Is that we want it to be very clear that it means they take a position on abortion that is in alignment with our own.


So that was the first commitment and it was that it be very clear what type of Supreme Court justices you're going to have and what else did he commit to?


Because my sense is it wasn't just justices on the court.


That's right. The Supreme Court piece is the most important piece. But there was also a commitment to protect the Hyde Amendment, meaning no taxpayer funding of abortion to sign a 20 week paying cable bill into law. That means no abortions on the national level after five months and also defunding and reallocating Planned Parenthood's funding to other qualified health centers.


So pretty sweeping commitment. So were you surprised when he agreed to do all of this, when you got everything you wanted from him?


I was a little bit surprised because we didn't have any leverage. He was already the candidate. Generally, candidates in that position aren't going to put their name to anything because they don't have to anymore. But he's a different kind of candidate and he had taken this position and he wants the benefit of it. And all we needed was that letter and we gave it to him. And then the rest is history. Our battleground state activity was incredibly helpful and he knows it in the wind.


Then it made everything worthwhile because every single thing he promised and beyond he did.


Well, let's talk a little bit about what you mean when you said it made everything worthwhile, because I have to say that the journey that you went on was a very long journey in a relatively short period of time.


So, yeah. Do you think that Donald Trump actually believed in what he was signing up for or in your mind, did it not really matter whether he, like fundamentally in his heart, believed it because he was effectively signing up to be the vehicle through which you could try to achieve what you had always been working towards?


In other words, did it not really matter if he maybe didn't believe what he was signing on to?


It just matter that he would do the things he signed up to do. And did it really matter if some of his actions were at odds with your faith in his in his personal life, especially?


I think what really mattered is that he take these positions. And, yes, the constant question was, does he really? This voters care if he really believes it, and I think it's the unanswerable question, what's deep in the chambers of your heart? You know, what are your intentions? What do you know? Is very difficult to know. I know.


What do you care that you do care? He if you'll notice on this issue, people say, well, he's always scripted on it or he's scripted because he doesn't want to get it wrong. It's too important. This is one thing that I know he knows how important it is and and it is important to him because he's done everything and beyond that he ever promised to do.


I mean, what you're describing is cringe. And tell me if you think this is uncharitable or, you know, too practical, but you're describing a very transactional understanding with a presidential candidate at this stage.


Well, if it were only that, that would be fine. But I don't think it is only that. So that's how I look at it. You know, it does matter what's in the human heart. It also matters what the human does. So his actions and our gambling with the idea that he was going to follow through on were far better than the gamble that we had with Hillary Clinton. There was no transaction possible with her. There was only one possible with him.


And he grew into the commitment.


But to the listener of faith who is hearing this conversation and his thinking. But how can you watch something like the Access Hollywood video, which came out at the end of the campaign? So after he had made this commitment to you, how could you watch that and support him regardless of what you end up getting out of it? I'm sure you've been asked this question before, but. But but how do you answer? Because here you're talking about someone boasting about sexually assaulting women and soon after women came forward and said that's what he did to me.


So I'm just. How did you think about that?


Well, I thought about it in a couple of ways. One, it was painful, and we're still left with the same choice. Pain and two choices, there is a potential choice that you have to make, and we knew what Hillary Clinton was going to do and we knew the commitment that the president had. And so we had to make that choice and we did. And once we're in, we're all in. You know, I will never apologize for those actions or those comments, but I will till the day I die, advance the policies that he committed to.


And just around the corner, we're seeing the fruits of having done that.


You use the word prudential. And I just that caught me a little bit because you're not using a word that conveys morality or faith. You're saying prudent if I'm hearing that word correctly.


Yeah, I think actually religious people use that term quite a lot because it acknowledges a hierarchy of goods and evils involved in any decision that decisions of great consequence all often involved a blend of goods and bads. And your job is to figure out where the highest good is found, which choice leads to the highest good. And that's the choice we had to make in that moment.


And in your mind, the highest good was a candidate who would fulfill your mission on the future of abortion in the United States? That's right. When the president does go on to win the office, I wonder how much it felt like support from groups like yours mattered. I mean, my sense is that it was pretty meaningful. I've spoken to a couple of my colleagues here at the Times who we really trust on this subject, and they said that the president likely would not have won several key states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, without support from Christian conservatives and groups like yours.


Yeah, I think that he knows that, in fact, he called me right after the election to say that and I, you know, take a little bit of.


Exceptions, sometimes the the pro-life people that are part of his election are sometimes Catholic, sometimes evangelical, and sometimes neither, sometimes Democrats, sometimes Republicans, sometimes independents, is one of those one of those issues, especially in the Rust Belt states that you just mentioned, that transcends a lot of boundaries. And so I think he gets that.


I know he gets that. And once in office, in part with your support right away, President Trump gets a chance to put a justice on the court to kind of do what it is you care so much about. And he puts forward and gets confirmed a conservative jurist, Neil Gorsuch, who your group supported.


He gets a second vacancy. He fills that with another conservative jurist, Brett Kavanaugh, who you again supported.


So were you surprised by how quickly this promise was kept by President Trump? And did it start to feel that in very short order your work was more or less kind of done?


Hmm, that's a really good question.


I think we've had so many disappointments over time where you seem like we're so close, you know, it looks just within reach. And then all of a sudden something happens and it's not. So the only way I know how to handle this is within the grace of daily obligation, doing the thing that has to be done today.


That is the best possible strategic and smart choice that you can make. And so, therefore, even right now, I don't take anything for granted.


So, yes, I'm very hopeful, very optimistic, but not wild eyed.


Well, I want to talk about where we are right now and what you have been fighting for over these past few days since Justice Ginsburg's passing another seat, a third seat opening on the court during this presidency.


And the question for most people was, would a nomination to replace her happened before the election? Would it happen after the election, given the tactics and actions of the Republican leadership in the Senate in 2016 or not, until there was a new president or the re-election of President Trump? But I sense that for you, there was only one option, right?


All right. You don't play roulette with that when the stakes are this high, in my opinion. And that's how we're acting. So I think getting to be honest, to get wrapped up in what other presidents and senators have done and other times historically, it's not nearly as important as the result. They were they were elected to do a job and they should be doing it now.


So you're saying that's all beside the point to you? Like when people talk about the precedent of Merrick Garland or the promises that Lindsey Graham made very explicitly to the public? I'm not trying to be I'm not trying to be cavalier about this. But it sounds like your approach is sort of like, who cares? That's process.


Yeah. I mean, I think that nobody cares about process, but I also think that if you have a shot, you do it now. You don't wait. And so just to be clear, what did you make clear that you wanted to have happen when Justice Ginsburg died, that the president put forward a nominee and that the Senate hold a hearing before November 3rd? Is want to understand what was conveyed to you?


Yeah, that that is what we are asking and hoping. What I talked to the president about, what I talk to the vice president about, what we're talking to different senators that.


Yes, that it be from the list, which is not in question and that it be quickly done. And that's what all of our conversations have been.


And why exactly do you want it to be done so quickly and even before the election? Why not wait until post November, even if Donald Trump loses? Why can't he nominate the candidate? Or why can't the Senate hold hearings on the candidate between November and January? Why does it have to happen so quickly?


Well, a couple of things. One is that you wait and you lose all the discipline. All cats move in different directions. They behave differently in a lame duck. They just do. People aren't under the gun of an election that you lose the pressure or you lose the leverage.


Also, I think it will benefit the president to go in as a winner. You know, and that being a compelling case at the ballot box. And also, if the Arizona election goes against Martha McSally, they'll seat immediately a Democrat there and that changes the numbers. So it's a very concrete and practical reason to go ahead and do it now.


Right. You referred to Roulet earlier. You just don't want to take any risk that might that might involve a changing dynamic or changing electoral math in the Senate, which you believe right now favors getting this done before the election. That's right.


You don't play roulette when the consequences are that high. What do you think was the most important thing that happened over the last few days in convincing some of these senators to get on board with your desired path?


Because there were on paper significant obstacles, including these public statements that had been made, these commitments that had been made by several of these senators, whether it was Chuck Grassley, whether it was Lindsey Graham. Mm hmm.


I think the weight of that decision and the consequence of delay is in arguing. It in itself, it has to be made by several people, it has it's made by the president and the vice president, it's made from me and people like me directly. And also, look, I think about it this way, too, as Lamar Alexander, I think, said it better than anybody. And Lamar Alexander was was somebody that was very much on the.


Oh, no, what is he going to do? List.


And he he just made the most compelling statement that I think he really believes and I think Romney believes the same, which is this is a constitutional duty that should be done now. And the consequences of not doing that will be felt for decades.


I know I keep asking you if you were surprised, but were you surprised when Mitt Romney signed on? I think many people expected him to, as a frequent dissenter from the president, perhaps join with Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski, in being skeptical of this timeline.


Yes, I'm completely surprised when especially senators all line up and make the same decision. I'm totally shocked when there is unity because Romney is a very independent person.


Grassley is a very independent person.


So, yes, I am blown away with unity at a moment where it needs to happen. I'm also very cognizant that it can be scattered. So that's why we remain very vigilant.


Do you believe, Margaret, that you are responsible in any way for what happened, whether that's a matter of having gotten President Trump where he is with your support in the first place, putting him in a position for this to happen or the work you've done in the past few days? I mean, am I right in thinking that somewhere over the past 70 to 90, six hours, you and folks in your organization are on the phone with these senators, with their staff?


I think I think I my team and our grassroots have a lot of influence. I think we can look at it and say we're very much a part of it. I would never presume to say that we're the reason because that just wouldn't be true and would acknowledge the efforts of other people. But yes, I think very much we are helping drive the center of this movement to a reclamation and a restoration of the court when it comes to Roe versus Wade.


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So with the remaining questions now seem to only be some logistics, it feels like around the vote and who the nominee for this vacancy will be from a pretty short list, it is there only one path forward in your mind on this issue?


I mean, does it have to be like when to hold the vote when it comes to who should get this nod? Does it have to be Amy CONI buried in your mind?


No, it doesn't. She's my favorite. She's our favorite.


She's the movement's favorite because the movement knows her and she's been completely vetted. We know who she is, what she's about.


And that is a real leg up when you're trying to move this fast. But the list I was very much a part of, so I feel like I own it in some ways. So I'm very confident that no matter who he chooses will continue in exactly the direction we are.


So you're open to several possible judges on that list? Yes.


Yeah. So I want to turn to public opinion on the question of abortion and the path that you seem to be setting for the president and for the Senate in this moment, which is a decision that may ultimately be at odds with where the majority of Americans are. And I'm mindful of something that Justice Ginsburg said while on the court about Roe v. Wade. She had a critique of it, which is that she felt that in being so decisive and striking down so many state laws on abortion that Roe had kind of raced ahead of where the country was.


And she believed that the country was moving in the direction of Roe on its own and that the ruling risked a backlash from Americans by by doing this work from the bench.


And it was a controversial critique. But I'm curious if you worry about the same thing happening but now in the other direction, because your goal is to get Roe overturned. And I ask that because the statistics on how Americans view abortion are very consistent at this moment in the country's history. And they show that a majority of Americans support legalized abortion and do not support overturning Roe v. Wade.


And I could recite a bunch of polls. I don't think you need me to do that.


So is this something you worry about doing and creating a backlash towards?


I want our knowledge that the country is worried, but the country is worried largely because the contradictions and in opinion in other words, yes, I know that poll to be true, that the majority supports Roe versus Wade, but then also they support bans after the first trimester, which is completely inconsistent. And what will happen when Roe was overturned or eroded to the extent that it's not as applicable, will be that states will start to pass laws that reflect the laws of those states.


That's the immediate effect of Roe.


And only laws that will pass will be the laws that could be sustained by the majorities in those states. And I think that people will then say, OK, it wasn't this tsunami that we thought. It's actually just the bearing out of democracy on an on an issue of deep moral conviction where people's opinions get to make their way into the law rather than the Supreme Court telling them.


I just want to summarize what you have been saying. You're not worried, it sounds like, about a backlash or going against the will of the people, because in your mind, if this issue returns to the state level, which is what would happen if Roe is overturned and the people support abortion, then abortion will still be legal and that will be the will of the people. Is that what you're saying?


That is the only laws that will go into effect are laws that can be sustained by majorities of the people in the states in which they live.


Some people will say that that it may be a hard thing to measure. There are many states where legislatures may be solidly Republican and out of sync with the views of the majority of their residents. And so restrictions might emerge that would then be reducing the availability of abortion that might be out of sync. I suppose you would argue that maybe an election would determine that then a few years later.


But is there not a real risk that very suddenly state legislatures that have been gerrymandered, that have been made Republican in ways that don't reflect the views of the majority of voters in that state, would suddenly restrict abortion in ways that would not be in sync with the democratic principles you're talking about?


Well, I look, I think democracy is the only institution that we have. There isn't a better one to gauge the will of the people and have that reflected in the law. I don't know what better one.


So to get to some consensus in our nation that stranglehold on on our ability to pass laws that reflect our deeply held convictions about the life and death of human beings has to let up.


And if it doesn't let up, it will be exactly the way it is now, the never ending battle that people are sick of. But it's only occurring because it's a matter of life and death. And we're on the verge of getting to a place where we can say we're victorious. Took her back to the polling for just a minute. I think you agreed that those surveys show that the majority of Americans support Roe v. Wade, support access to legalized abortion.


So I want to understand from your viewpoint how this process may play out and what the political repercussions may be in some cases, even for allies of yours, people who you have supported and who have supported you. And I assume that's something that you've been thinking a lot about.


Yeah, I think the I think what matters is what people really think. We're looking at the polls and. We're seeing contradictions, so what do we make of that? There's only backlash if it really is going further than the consensus will allow. And if it goes further, the consensus will allow the democratic process picks up again and adjusts. So I think for people who are naturally afraid and risk averse, yeah, they they won't like it that states are starting to enact laws that reflect the will of their states because they'll be afraid, perhaps.


But that doesn't hold me up. So I wonder if you would just indulge me for a moment and I want to ask you to imagine a future. It's November 4th. A handful of Republican senators perhaps have lost their seats in part because of this process and perhaps Republicans lose control of the Senate. Would it have been worth it? I'm not going there because I'm in those places, I mean, we are literally in those Senate battles right now. We have people going door to door and all of those Senate battles.


I've talked to Senator Daines, for instance, today, who says this confirmation, if it's done before the election, he does not believe it'll hurt his chances. I believe that they all think that. They don't think that that's going to be the case. And I think they're absolutely right. So, yes, there is a hierarchy of goals, but because of the way this is rolling out, that's a false choice that I'm not willing to make.


We're not just leaving things to fall where they will. I do not think that this hurts the president's chances of winning, and I don't think it hurts senator's chances of winning the ones on the pro-life side.


So it sounds like you're having these conversations and I know you don't want to imagine that future, but. But. If that were to happen, if you were to wake up and find that the senator had been lost and maybe a bunch of senators even candidly say we got that third Trump conservative justice on the Supreme Court, but it cost us the Senate, I I want to ask you to grapple with that for just a minute. Will it have been worth it?


I don't think I'm making that decision, and so I'm not willing to make that call. I think that, look, changing the court for decades and saving millions and millions of lives is the most important thing that I do. And politics is the route to that. So. In this particular case, I do not feel that it's a choice that has to be made. I think we're doing both at the same time, but you see the hierarchy of goods, the first most important thing is who sits on the Supreme Court when you didn't want to engage?


The question of whether this confirmation battle might cost Republicans control of the Senate, it occurred to me that you would not want to imagine that future for the president either. But I have to ask, what if in the end, the president loses reelection? The autopsies and the retrospectives look back and say that it was in part because of an energized opposition, because he rushed to get a third justice appointed to the Supreme Court, one who openly opposed abortion. And that was at odds with where the electorate was.


If you end up losing this historic ally of yours in this battle, will that be OK? And will it have been worth it? It's not going to be OK to lose the presidency and it's not going to be OK to lose the Senate. The first priority is the Supreme Court, without question. And I'm going to work for all three. I'm not willing to cede any of it. I'm not. But I am saying the most important thing is the Supreme Court.


And I think all those people I just mentioned agree. Hmm.


You're saying you think President Trump would agree that it would have been worth losing re-election? No. To change the composition of Supreme Court?


No, I think he I'm just saying the order of goods in the order of goods, the lasting value of a Supreme Court is a legacy for the Senate and for the president. And I can't presume to speak for him or the senators, but I'm just saying I'm fighting for them all. I'm not going to I'm not going to cede any of it.


Right. This this phrase that you used when thinking about your partnership with President Trump, there was a a practicality, too.


That's right. It will all have been worth it. Yeah. So I think this entire battle, all in some every single thing we've done for the last decade, everything we've done since 2016, everything we will do for this election if we have one more Supreme Court justice that. Looks like Amy Barrett or one of the others, it will all have been worth it. We're at a point of a major shift in this nation and I'm very happy to be in the place that I am.


I really appreciate your time. I appreciate yours, too, Michael. Thank you, Marjorie. Thank you so much. President Trump is expected to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court at 5:00 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night. The fact is, more than 109 million Americans experienced cyber crime last year. Unfortunately, there are more cyber threats every day. With more threats, you need more protection. Norton 360 with LifeLock provides seamless protection with device security, identity theft protection and a VPN for online privacy.


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