There’s a new book on President Donald Trump out next week—this one from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman—and the pre-publication excerpts are piling up. Buried among the wild anecdote that he wanted to bomb Mexican drug labs and the not-at-all surprising examples of racism, including that he thought a group of congressional aides of color were waiters, is the revelation that he joked about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dying.
From the Washington Post:
“When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was dying in 2020, the book says, Trump would sarcastically raise his hands to the sky in prayer and say: ‘Please God. Please watch over her. Every life is precious,’ before asking an aide: ‘How much longer do you think she has?’”
This is extremely rich given that Trump—the man lifted to office by Evangelical voters—is, one, mocking the act of prayer and, two, repeating the anti-abortion slogan that “every life is precious” while being practically giddy that someone is about to die. The story underscores how transactional Trump was. He doesn’t have sincerely held beliefs against abortion, he just said and did what he needed in order to get elected.
If you can recall way back to 2016, then-candidate Trump’s previous pro-choice stance raised a lot of questions. Influential anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List told voters in advance of the Iowa caucuses that Trump “cannot be trusted” on abortion and urged them to “support anyone but Donald Trump.” After he won the Republican primary, Trump circulated what was basically a hostage letter of promises he’d made to SBA List, like that he’d only nominate “pro-life” justices and would work to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
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Toeing the party line on abortion helped get him elected and, in the fall of 2020, Trump knew he was on the precipice of getting to nominate a third Supreme Court justice, a move that he hoped would carry him to re-election, even amid his disastrous handling of the pandemic.
But learning about Trump’s mocking prayer provides some good context for his first comments to reporters after Ginsburg passed in September 2020: “I’m actually sad to hear that.”