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Sotomayor: Country can’t afford for president to fail, but people must continue to be heard

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speaks before an audience in Northrup Auditorium at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis on Oct. 17.  (Renee Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via AP)

Justice Sonia Sotomayor reacted carefully to Donald Trump’s election Tuesday night, saying that the country can’t afford for a president to fail and, also, “we can’t afford to despair.”

Sotomayor was cautious in answering a question from Bill Press, a liberal commentator and talk show host who interviewed her at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill.

Press said he needed to address the “800-pound gorilla in the room” and asked Sotomayor: “Are you in any way apprehensive about what happened in this nation last Tuesday?”

“I’m going to demur from answering that question that way,” said Sotomayor, 62, a liberal nominated by President Obama in 2009. “I will answer it in a different way, which is I think that this is the time where every good person has an obligation both to continue being heard and to continue doing the right thing.”

She added, without saying Trump’s name: “We can’t afford for a president to fail. And it is true … that we have to support that which he does which is right and help guide him to those right decisions.

“But we can’t afford to despair, and we can’t afford to give up our pursuing of values that we and others have fought so hard to achieve. And so for me, this is a challenge. So I’m going to continue doing what I think is the right thing. That’s the challenge we all have to face.”

She said she looked forward to a nomination that will restore the court to full strength. “It’s not an ideal situation. We function better as nine,” she said.

The court has been at eight members since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February. Senate Republicans refused to hold hearings or vote on Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat, saying the choice should be left to the next president.