Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died

By Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 8:10 a.m. ET, September 20, 2020
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12:24 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

McConnell urges senators to keep "powder dry" and don't lock themselves into a position

From CNN's Manu Raju

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

In a message to GOP senators late Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his colleagues not to lock themselves into a position they may later regret and counseled them to be cautious about what they are telling the media about their views on how to process the nomination, according to a person who saw the note.

He urges them to "keep your powder dry."

McConnell doesn't indicate a timeframe for considering the nomination but makes clear he believes there's enough time to take up the nominee this year.

12:14 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Here's what happened when Senate Republicans refused to vote on Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination in 2016

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg less than two months from the presidential election has forced a reexamination of Republicans' 11-month blockade of Merrick Garland in 2016.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who had been a conservative stalwart on the Supreme Court since being nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan in 1986, died on February 13, 2016.

Within hours -- as other senators were offering condolences to Scalia's family -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a stunning, categorical rejection of then-President Barack Obama's authority more than 11 months before the Democrat's replacement would be sworn into office.

"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," McConnell said.

Four years later, McConnell said in a Friday night statement that President Donald Trump's nominee to replace Ginsburg will get a vote in the Senate. Doing so would be a complete reversal of his position in 2016, when the GOP-led Senate refused to hold a hearing or vote on Obama's nominee, saying it was too close to the election.

Read more here:

11:57 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

White House prepared to move "very quickly" on replacement once Trump signals intention

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins

The White House is prepared to move “very quickly” on putting forward a nominee to replace US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once President Donald Trump signals his intentions, a senior administration official says.

Officials feel confident in their ability to shepherd a potential nominee through the process on a condensed timeline, and say they will now await Trump’s signal on how to proceed. 

The official said the process will be based in the Counsel’s office, led by Pat Cipollone, though it is expected chief of staff Mark Meadows will be heavily involved on Capitol Hill. 

The official said several potential nominees have been through at least some type of vetting given the previous vacancies and the list Trump produced earlier this month, which could help expedite the process. 

An additional official said the campaign and White House had planned to put out a short list of candidates to fill a vacancy should one become available before the election. Ginsburg's passing has altered that planning, but shows the White House was already paring down candidates and making a shorter list. 

2:48 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Opinion: Filling RBG's seat now could break American democracy

From Joshua A. Douglas

Editor's note: Joshua A. Douglas is a law professor at the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

While a law student at the University of Kentucky, the institution where I teach, Senator Mitch McConnell surely learned about the importance of justice and democracy. In the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing on Friday evening, there is one action that McConnell can take that may very well save our democracy: announce that the Senate will not consider a Supreme Court nomination until after Inauguration Day 2021.

Ginsburg was a trailblazer in many ways: for women's equalityvoting rights, and so much more. Her passing leaves an amazing legacy.

But it also unfortunately occurred with only 46 days until Election Day, when the politics of the moment could not be more vitriolic. Within minutes of her passing, people were speculating as to whether Donald Trump would nominate a new justice and whether the Republican-controlled Senate would confirm someone before the next presidency.

Ginsburg herself made her wishes known as her dying declaration: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

Any other path, except for announcing a public pause to defuse the situation, would be extremely dangerous for democracy.

Read more here:

11:21 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Ginsburg's death means Republican senators will face the ultimate test of their loyalty to Trump

Analysis by CNN's Chris Cillizza

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday -- followed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement that "Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate" -- creates a stark choice for the 52 GOP senators that boils down to this: Just how loyal are you to President Donald Trump?

Republicans face the very real possibility of losing both the White House and their Senate majority in November. Ginsburg's death creates what many conservatives view as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to move the makeup of the court from its current lineup of five conservative justices to four liberal justices to a more dominant 6-3 majority. And for Trump to appoint a third young justice -- both Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are under 60 -- who could help serve as the conservative foundation of the court for decades to come.

The countervailing force against all of that is tradition, the weight of history and just how much a senator's past statements actually matter.

Read more here:

9:25 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Trump: "Today, our Nation mourns the loss of a titan of the law"

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Paul LeBlanc

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted the following statement on the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Trump's first comments on Ginsburg's death came after a rally in Minnesota on Friday night where he appeared to hear the news for the first time from reporters. "Just died?" he responded, when asked about her death.

"I didn't know that. I just — you're telling me now for the first time. She led an amazing life," Trump said. "What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agree or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I'm actually sad to hear that. I am sad to hear that."

9:15 a.m. ET, September 19, 2020

Crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court breaks into applause to honor Ginsburg

From CNN's Kelsie Smith

People gather to mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the Supreme Court on September 18 in Washington, DC.
People gather to mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg outside the Supreme Court on September 18 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Michael Wille was at the new Eisenhower Memorial on Independence Avenue in Washington, DC, when he learned of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg from a tweet from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.

He rushed to his car and drove to the Supreme Court to capture a memorial that has been set up on the steps for the late justice.

While gathered at the steps outside of the Supreme Court, a crowd broke out into applause to honor Ginsburg.

 “The applause was spontaneous,” Wille said. “Some people on the steps just started doing it. And it continued for about 40 seconds.”

Even though he disagreed with Ginsburg’s judicial philosophy, Willie said he found her to be a brilliant legal mind who paved the way for so many women in the United States.

“She was a friend to Justice Scalia and their example of friendship is what we all could use during this year,” Wille said.

“RIP to a legend,” he posted to Twitter.

Watch a moment of the applause:

10:51 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Scalia's son reflects on his late father's friendship with Ginsburg in a series of moving tweets

Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia  and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wait for the beginning of the taping of "The Kalb Report" in Washington, DC, in 2014. 
Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wait for the beginning of the taping of "The Kalb Report" in Washington, DC, in 2014.  Alex Wong/Getty Images

Christopher Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, shared a few stories about Ruth Bader Ginsburg who shared a close friendship with his father.

"I'm very sad to hear about the passing of my parents' good friend, and my father's wonderful colleague, Justice Ginsburg," he tweeted. "May her memory be a blessing."

He went on to share a couple of passages from his father's book "Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived" that he said "convey what she meant to my dad." The passages include his father's sentiments about his friendship with Ginsburg.

10:42 p.m. ET, September 18, 2020

Here are some notable names on Trump's list of potential SCOTUS nominees 

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue and Devan Cole

President Trump has updated a roster of more than 20 potential Supreme Court nominees in recent weeks, a list that includes prominent and lesser-known conservatives who would undoubtedly tilt the court further rightward if one were appointed.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, a liberal icon, provides Trump with an opportunity to appoint his third justice to the bench, a move that is sure to infuriate Democrats and satisfy Republicans looking to add a sixth conservative justice to the court.

Here are some of the more notable members of Trump's list of potential nominees:

Amy Coney Barrett: A former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett was Trump's pick for a seat on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals. Born in 1972, she served as a professor of law at her alma mater, Notre Dame. During her confirmation hearing, she had a contentious exchange with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who asked her about past writings concerning faith and the law. At one point, Feinstein asked Barrett if the "dogma lives loudly in her." Supporters of Barrett suggested Feinstein was attempting to apply a religious litmus test to the nominee.

Barrett is quoted in a 2013 publication affiliated with Notre Dame as saying she thinks it is "very unlikely at this point" that the Supreme Court is going to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion decision that legalized abortion in the US.

Amul Thapar: Thapar was handpicked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to serve as the US attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. In 2006, he went on to a seat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Trump nominated Thapar to the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. Born in Michigan in 1969, Thapar has served in government as well as the private practice. In 2007, he was the first American of South Asian descent to be named to an Article III federal judgeship.

Former US Solicitors General Paul Clement and Noel Francisco: Francisco, who stepped down as solicitor general in July at the end of the Supreme Court's last term, had served as many controversial issues came to the court, including disputes regarding the President's financial records, the travel ban, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, religious liberty and the effort to add a citizenship question to the census.

Clement served as solicitor general during George W. Bush's presidency. One of the most experienced appellate advocates in the country, he has argued more than 100 cases before the court, including those involving health care, religious liberty and voting rights.

Read more about Trump's potential picks here.