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Trump calls Ginsburg ‘an amazing woman.’ Biden says, ‘She was fierce and unflinching’

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VIDEO | 00:47
Trump comments on the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Trump told reporters after the rally as he headed back to Air Force One that he didn’t know Ginsburg had died. He called her “an amazing woman” who led an “amazing life.”

With news of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death upending the 2020 presidential race, the two contenders for the White House largely focused their reactions on the Supreme Court jurist’s legacy, with acknowledgement of the fierce political battles to come.

Both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden piled on the superlatives in somber tones, with Trump repeatedly describing Ginsburg as “amazing” and Biden lamenting the loss of a woman who was “not only a giant in her own profession but a beloved figure.”

News broke of Ginsburg’s passing of complications from pancreatic cancer while Trump was onstage at a Minnesota rally, where he gave a lengthy speech without mentioning her. He appeared to be informed by reporters of the news after his speech.

“She just died?” Trump said, raring his head back in reaction. “Wow. I didn’t know that, you’re telling me now for the first time.”

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Democrats insist President Trump hold off on filling the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Republicans offer no commitment.

With the sound of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” blaring in the background, Trump went on to praise the 87-year-old’s life.

“What else can you say? She was an amazing woman — whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life,” Trump said. “I’m actually sad to hear that.”

While Trump made no indication of his intent to name a successor to her seat, he had just minutes before at his rally alluded to the high stakes of the election regarding the courts.

“The Supreme Court is so important,” he told his supporters in Bemidji, Minn. “The next president will get one, two, three or four Supreme Court justices. I had two.”

Later, the White House put out a more expansive statement on Ginsburg’s passing, which praised her as “a titan of the law.”

“Renowned for her brilliant mind and her powerful dissents at the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg demonstrated that one can disagree without being disagreeable toward one’s colleagues or different points of view,” the statement said.

The statement conveyed thoughts and prayers to her loved ones and made no mention of whether or when the president intended to nominate a successor.

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VIDEO | 01:59
Vice President Joe Biden reacts to the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Biden laments the loss of a woman who was “not only a giant in her own profession but a beloved figure.”

Biden, the Democratic nominee, was more specific about how the newest Supreme Court vacancy should be handled.

“There is no doubt — let me be clear — that the voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider,” Biden said in New Castle, Del., after a day of campaigning in Minnesota. “This was the position of the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That’s the position the United States Senate must take today.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, after conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016.

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Biden noted that the election was 46 days away and said he thought the fastest confirmation to the highest court took 47 days, while most proceedings averaged 70 days. (In fact, there have been several confirmations completed faster than Biden stated. Justice John Paul Stevens was confirmed 19 days after he was nominated in 1975, for example, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s confirmation took 33 days in 1981.)

Biden focused most of his remarks on Ginsburg’s legal legacy, from her days as a pioneering young attorney to her jurisprudence in support for women’s equality. And he reflected on how their paths crossed at a pivotal moment in her career, when he as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman presided over her confirmation in 1993 as she became the second woman ever to ascend to the Supreme Court.

“She has been absolutely consistent and reliable, and a voice for freedom and opportunity for everyone,” Biden said. “She never failed — she was fierce and unflinching in her pursuit of the … civil rights of everyone. Her opinions and dissents will continue to shape the basis for our law for generations.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who championed women’s rights and was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, has died at 87.

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