Trump’s astonishing claim about dead judge
Donald Trump has suggested Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dying wish was faked by his political opponents in the Democratic Party.
After Justice Ginsburg's death on Friday, her granddaughter Clara Spera released her final statement to Americans: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."
Mr Trump, however, intends to nominate a successor "without delay".
Speaking to Fox News overnight, the US President cast doubt on the veracity of Justice Ginsburg's last words, theorising they were actually written by the Democrats.
"I don't know that she said that. Or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi? I would be more inclined to the second," Mr Trump told the network's morning show Fox & Friends in a phone interview.
"That came out of the wind. It sounds so beautiful. But that sounds like a Schumer deal, or maybe a Pelosi or Shifty Schiff.
"Maybe she did and maybe she didn't."
Chuck Schumer is the Senate Minority Leader. Nancy Pelosi is Speaker of the House. Mr Schiff is Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and prosecuted the case against Mr Trump during his impeachment trial earlier this year.
So the President was essentially pointing the finger at his three biggest enemies in Congress.
He was also, by implication, calling Ms Spera a liar, given she is the one who released Justice Ginsburg's statement, and she said her grandmother had dictated it.
Trump on RBG's reported dying wish that next pres fills her seat: "I don't know that she said that, or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi. I would be more inclined to the second ... But that sounds like a Schumer deal or maybe a Pelosi or Shifty Schiff." pic.twitter.com/zE979kK2Q3— The Recount (@therecount) September 21, 2020
Justice Ginsburg's death has set up a tumultuous political battle in the final months of the presidential election.
Under America's judicial system, it is the President's job to nominate Justices for the Supreme Court, and the Senate's job to confirm them.
Mr Trump's Republican Party controls both the White House and the Senate at the moment, meaning it has an opportunity to replace Justice Ginsburg - an icon of progressive law - with a conservative.
That would shift the balance of the court to six conservative Justices versus just three progressives, and potentially open the door to overturning Roe vs Wade, a landmark decision from 1973 which effectively legalised abortion in the United States.
There is no rule stopping a new Justice from being nominated or confirmed during an election year. But the Democrats are still crying foul, citing the Republicans' behaviour back in 2016, when the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died.
That happened in February, almost nine months before the 2016 election. Then-president Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to take Justice Scalia's place.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn't just vote against Judge Garland - he refused to even hold hearings, let alone a vote, on Mr Obama's nominee.
"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president," Mr McConnell said at the time, justifying his decision.
So, the Democrats reckon he's quite the hypocrite.
"No amount of sophistry could change what McConnell said then, and it applies even more so now - so, so much closer we are to an election," Mr Schumer argued in the Senate today.
"Leader McConnell put the Senate on pause for over four months while COVID-19 devastated our country. But now he will move earth and heaven and ignore all principle and consistency to install a new Supreme Court Justice."
He said the Republicans had "made a mockery" of their position in 2016.
"They seem ready to show the world their word is simply no good. It's enough to make your head explode," he said.
"And then to hear Leader McConnell up on the floor trying to defend this - pathetic. Pathetic.
"Why even bother constructing a pretence for your position? Why say it's this rule or that rule and then do the exact opposite when it suits your interests?
"Why not just come to the floor and say, 'I'm going to do whatever is best for my political party.' Consistency be damned, reason be damned, democracy be damned. Just admit it."
Mr McConnell brushed off the outrage during his own speech on the Senate floor today.
"No Senate has failed to confirm a nominee in the circumstances that face us right now," Mr McConnell said.
"The historical precedent is overwhelming, and it runs in one direction. If our Democratic colleagues want to claim they are outraged, they can only be outraged at the plain facts of American history."
His argument is that no nominee has ever been confirmed during an election year when the White House and Senate have been controlled by different parties. That isn't strictly true - it happened once, when Ronald Reagan was president - but it is a rare occurrence.
Mr McConnell also cited the 2018 midterm elections, in which the American people returned control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats but actually increased the Republicans' Senate majority.
"The American people strengthened this Senate majority to keep confirming this President's impressive judicial nominees, who respect our Constitution and respect the proper role of a judge," he said.
Ultimately, the Democrats' protestations will not matter a heck of a lot here. It's all about the Republicans, and whether enough of them will vote against Mr Trump's nominee to stop them from being confirmed.
The Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and in the event of a tie, Vice President Mike Pence gets the deciding vote. So it would take four Republican rebels to halt the confirmation process.
So far, only two have indicated opposition - Maine Senator Susan Collins and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.
"For weeks, I have stated that I would not support taking up a potential Supreme Court vacancy this close to the election," Ms Murkowski said yesterday.
"Sadly, what was then a hypothetical is now a reality, but my position has not changed.
"I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia.
"We are now even closer to the 2020 election - less than two months out - and I believe the same standard must apply."
"In order for the American people to have faith in their elected officials, we must act fairly and consistently, no matter which political party is in power," Ms Collins said over the weekend.
"I do not believe that the Senate should vote on the nominee prior to the election. In fairness to the American people, who will either be re-electing the President or selecting a new one, the decision on a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court should be made by the president who is elected on November 3."
All eyes are on Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who was famously the only Republican to vote in favour of removing Mr Trump from office during his impeachment trial earlier this year.
But even if Mr Romney joined Ms Collins and Ms Murkowski, it would not be enough to stop Mr Trump's nominee. Mr Pence would still have that crucial tiebreaking vote.
Originally published as Trump's astonishing claim about dead judge