Did Trump Predict Diabetes Will Force Justice Sotomayor to Retire?

A report suggests he’s betting the Supreme Court justice won’t last during his presidency.



A shocking report suggests that President Donald Trump believes he will be able to replace Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor because of health issues related to her Type 1 diabetes.

Early Sunday evening, Axios revealed this detail in the midst of a report that asserts that President Trump believes he will be able to appoint four Supreme Court justices before his time in office is up. The report is based on information from several anonymous sources who say they have spoken directly to the president about this matter.

The Axios report seems to include either a verbatim or composite conversation the sources have had with the president challenging him to list which justices he will be replace. The fourth justice listed is Justice Sotomayor, who has Type 1 diabetes. It ends with this passage:

“Who’s the fourth?” the source asked.

“Sotomayor,” Trump said, referring to the relatively recently-appointed Obama justice, whose name is rarely, if ever, mentioned in speculation about the next justice to be replaced. “Her health,” Trump explained. “No good. Diabetes.”

If this report is true, then it appears that Trump believes either that Justice Sotomayor’s Type 1 diabetes will be too much of a hindrance for her to remain on the bench or that it may outright cause her death in the next seven years. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, unless they choose to retire or are impeached. For the record, few Supreme Court watchers have seen any signs of health concerns concerning Justice Sotomayor, who was appointed during President Barack Obama’s term in office.

Speculation over which justice will retire next is a constant undercurrent in Supreme Court news, especially as the current court is sharply divided ideologically, with five justices who are considered to lean conservative and four who are considered to lean liberal. When conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Senate Republicans took the unprecedented move of blocking President Obama’s attempts to hold a hearing on a candidate to replace him. President Trump then appointed conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch to replace Justice Scalia this year.

When such a scintillating revelation is reported, it’s good to try and evaluate the likelihood that it is true. In this, there are pros and cons of the report to consider. The most obvious con of the report is that it is based on anonymous sourcing. However, as anonymous sourced-stories go, this report appears to be on fairly solid ground, as it both relies on multiple sources and seems to include specifics of a conversation with the president. Relaying a conversation like this is like going out on a limb with a report, as it provides more details that would be easier for those in the president’s circle to dispute.

It’s also important to consider the publication when evaluating such a story. Axios is known to those who closely follow politics as a well-sourced news publication that seems to have a knack for getting scoops from inside the beltway of Washington D.C. While the publication is relatively young, it seems to have gained a strong reputation as a centrist publication, and there have been few complaints from either side of the ideological divide about the quality of its reporting.

When such a story breaks, it is sometimes telling to see if it will have “legs” in the next 24-hour news cycle. The first test will be to see if many other news publications pick up the story and discuss it. The second will be to see how the Trump administration handles it in the daily press briefing on Monday, or whether or not the president will tweet about the story himself.

Don’t expect much reaction from Justice Sotomayor herself, however. While she has been open about her Type 1 diabetes, it’s extremely rare for Supreme Court justices to directly engage the executive branch when it comes to breaking news reports.

You can read more about Justice Sotomayor and how she views her Type 1 diabetes here

Image: a katz / Shutterstock.com

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.