Protesters shouting “Honor her wish” heckled US President Donald Trump as he paid his respects on Thursday to Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Supreme Court, invoking the liberal justice’s deathbed plea not to be replaced until after the November election.
Trump, wearing a black face mask, and First Lady Melania Trump stood solemnly behind the flag-draped casket of the progressive justice on the steps of the court.
The president did not appear to acknowledge the protesters on the street below who could be heard shouting “Honor her wish” and “Vote him out.”
Trump is not accustomed to honoring political opponents, and his visit to the Supreme Court to pay his respects to Ginsburg is a rare tribute by the Republican president.
He also rarely wears a face mask in public and has frequently mocked his Democratic opponent Joe Biden for doing so.
Despite Ginsburg’s plea and Democratic opposition, Trump is pushing ahead with plans to replace her on the court ahead of the presidential election.
“I think it’s going to go very, very quickly,” he told Fox Radio on Thursday.
Trump has pledged to nominate a woman to fill Ginsburg’s seat and the White House has been vetting candidates.
“I have five women. I like them all,” Trump said.
He plans to announce his nominee for the lifetime post on the nation’s highest court at the White House at 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Saturday.
– ‘Important we have nine justices’ –
Ginsburg’s death last week at the age of 87 opened up a crucial seat on the nine-member court and could allow Trump to cement a conservative majority on the bench for decades to come.
Democrats are demanding that the process of replacing Ginsburg wait until after the election, when it will be known whether Trump will serve a second term.
But Trump says the post must be filled, in case the election is contested and ends up before the high court — a possibility that is raising tensions in Washington.
“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it’s important we have nine justices,” the president said.
Republicans are insisting they have the right to vote on the nomination either before the election or during the “lame-duck” session before the inauguration of the next president in January.
Two Republicans have said they do not believe the vote should be held before the election.
But on Tuesday, Mitt Romney, who had been seen as a potential Republican holdout, said he will vote on the nominee “based upon their qualifications.”
Although Democrats have no way of stopping the procedure, they will seek to inflict political pain on the Republicans over what Biden called an “abuse of power.”
Ginsburg has been lying in repose at the court since Wednesday and her casket has been visited by a steady stream of mourners.
On Friday, she will become the first woman to lie in state at the US Capitol.
by Jerome Cartillier and Chris Lefkow