tv Lockup Raw MSNBC February 13, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm PST
we are in special live breaking coverage discussing and reporting on the death of justice antonin scalia, dying today, 79 years old. he was found in west texas, on a hunting vacation, doing something he loved. justice scalia was the longest serving member of the court, 30 years. not the oldest. he was the same age as justice kennedy. and younger than ruth bader
ginsburg, a liberal justice who he had a personal friendship with, despite their well-known differences on high profile cases. we begin appropriately in our 8:00 p.m. hour with pete williams, who has been covering this story, this seismic event, unexpected event, given that justice scalia was seen by all accounts as healthy and of sharp and keen mind. i go right to you pete, with the latest. >> the latest is that the court is now in the process of arranging for the memorial service and consultation with his family. we may hear statements from the other justices. we won't hear much from the supreme court now for another couple of days. this comes at a time when the supreme court is in this period of dead in the winter where the court is not in session very much. they adjourned in late january. they don't come back until the last couple of weeks in february.
so this is the normal period when the justices are off doing teaching, things like justice scalia was doing down in texas on their own time, getting ready for the big push to get to the end of june when the supreme court puts out the last opinions. so the court was really widespread around the country, and now the justices will be coming back here for the memorial service and the funeral, which we'll hear the details on soon. we understand that he died in a guest ranch in texas where he was down on a trip and that he was given last rites by a local catholic priest who arrived at about 2:45 mountain time, 2:45 west texas time, about 4:45 in the afternoon eastern time. he was apparently in good spirits yesterday. attended a party last night. but then didn't appear for any of the events today, and his body was discovered earlier today.
so it's quite a shock, quite sudden. justice scalia has been robust in every sense of the word. very active. he was an outdoorsman, a hunter, a fisherman, and somebody who was very involved in the court's business. very aggressive questioner during oral arguments. and he had a very sharp pen. he was one of the court's most talented writers. his opinions, whether they were dissents or majority opinions were always among the most readable of the courts. and it now leaves a couple of questions here. in addition to the nomination question, which i know you'll be exploring with some of the other folks yet to come, there's the question of cases before the supreme court, on a court that was divided 5-4 on so many issues. now you have the prospect of 4-4 ties on some of the big questions yet to be decides and some yet to be argued before the supreme court, such as the future of the president's immigration policy, what is to become of public unions,
restrictions on access to abortion clinics in texas, a law if upheld would be copied by other states. affirmative action in college admissions. the question of religious affiliations, religiously affiliated institutions, what they have to do to provide contraceptives under obamacare. those were likely to be decided 5-4. if there's a tie, whoever won in the lower court will prevail. lit be as though if there's a tie, the case never happened in the supreme court. and there will be no precedent to the decision. the decision doesn't count. so those questions would have to come back in another time if they're going to be before the supreme court. >> it's usually significant for the very interrelated issues you mentioned, the denomination battle that could draw out for some time. that would leave those 4-4 splits on a host of cases. i want to ask you, you also mentioned his sharp writing.
viewers watching will remember you, as our lead voice and reporter on the supreme court, out there every day when these decisions come down. and you're the first person bringing that news based on the opinions as you yo get them. walk us through as a chronicle of the court, what you thought of his opinions when you spent more time with him, or his dissents, because for folks who read these opinions, i think it's fair to say he was out of the current members of the court, the most crackling, the most flowery at times, and the most passionate at times in his writing. >> and the most entertaining frankly, the most interesting to read. he liked to quote popular songs. he liked to quote poetry. he was a sharp writer. an entertaining writer. a vivid writer. some justices write opinions that don't even excite the people whose cases are before the court. they're full of the legal
jargon. his were very, very dynamic opinions, very readable to anybody. he liked that kind of very alive language. it's the way he talked. it's the way he spoke. it's the kind of questions he asked from the court. but he also had a very consistent judicial philosophy, and that came through, as well. as i'm sure you've been talking about here, sometimes those dissents specially could sting. he could really stick it to his colleagues when he thought they were wrong. he just described someone's views once as legal argle-bargle and apple cause and used other terms to dismiss what he thought were the wrong opinions. but they never did any lasting damage. as i'm sure you talked about, one of his closest friends on the court was his idealogical opposite, ruth bader ginsburg. they got to know each other on the appeals court here in washington. they were both opera buffs. they enjoyed each other's company, as unlikely as they may
seem. and justice kagan made a point of going hunting with him when she came to the court. so he made friendships with lots of people, not just his idealogical soul mates, but he enjoyed the combat of ideas. and he also loved the law. as he told me in an interview a couple of years ago, it's a great job for somebody who loves the law. it was his great passion. and sometimes he got carried away with it, but he left a very strong impression. >> pete williams, nbc justice correspondent, thank you for your reporting on this. we go now to the white house where kelly o'donnell has some new information. >> reporter: we can now tell you that president obama will be making a statement about the death of justice scalia at 8:30 eastern time, 5:30 pacific. the president is in california, and he had a day where he was sort of on a down day, playing golf. but his purpose for being in
california is to host a summit of ten asian leaders. he now has some time to reflect on the death of justice scalia. he was informed while he was out on the golf course. he's getting himself together and we expect he will make a short statement talking about justice scalia's service and perhaps giving us some more specific information about his own intentions in the unique role of being able to nominate someone to serve as a successor to scalia. so for the president, this is an opportunity to talk about the importance of the court, how he would like to see the court reflected in a new pick. but i suspect more importantly, in this moment, he will give more thought to the loss for this family, the loss for the court and the supreme court community, and really taking us back to a more traditional moment where, when the death of an official like this happens, there is a bit of a pause before all of the gaming out of next scenarios takes place. in our hyper speed society,
we've already got on the that place. politically seeing some of the conversations that are already happening in an election year, and with so much at stake. but we can tell you the president will make short remarks coming up in the next half hour from california, where he is taking some time -- >> kelly, the issue is what we see now is that may make perfect sense. indeed, i think most normal people not in the hustle bustle of washington would say this man just died. it's the weekend. let's pause and reflect on that, as you've said. but the reality, as you know, it's not just the presidential candidates who are doing the debate tonight. but now the leader of the senate republicans and the senate judiciary committee are saying point blank to the president, don't even send us a name. we don't think this should be any process. so sooner or later through the remarks tonight or in short order through aides we would expect the president to make it clear that he's going to exercise his constitutional authority. i've heard not on the record but
just generally from the administration they're going to proceed as normal. not hold back on their right to nominate. >> you would expect that. the president is not going to be told by those in the senate what he should do. all i'm saying is that the president plays a unique role in moments hi s like this, to focu country's attention on things like the service of justice scalia. who of course the president disagreed with in terms of ideology. but the importance of the court. so i just think that when you're talking about something that reaches a presidential level statement, it's not going to be something that is, you know, out of the likes of twitter. it's going to have a more somber tone. it's going to be more reflective. of course, as the days pass, there will be more practical concerns. >> as it should be. and your context is appreciated there for sure. the president striking a different tone and playing a different role, especially when
you have an unexpected death of a public official. moving more broadly from just those logistics, speak to us about president obama's relationship with this supreme court. i'm thinking of how it all began with chief justice john roberts swearing him in, in a way that the chief justice later said was so nerve-racking with such a large crowd that he flubed the lines and they redid it, to the obamacare case where is the chief justice went one way, while justice scalia, very vigorously went the other way. to the issue of guns, an issue where this president has called for major reform and tried to address the legal and constitutional concerns about gun control while justice scalia, from his perch on the supreme court, expanded gun
rights in this country. your thoughts on that larger relationship here? >> reporter: i think you can also point to the very tense relationship that they had over state of the union nights when president obama spoke very pointedly about the citizens united decision. and we have seen since that time that the full complement of the court would not attend the state of the union. and that was in part a protest, and in part a sign that, as two co-equal branches of government, i think there was a sense that the justices did not feel it was appropriate to be lectured about their decision from the president. of course, the president felt very strongly that the court did not get that right. so there has been some tension. the president also has had an opportunity to make a real mark on the court with two nominees, justice sotomayor and justice kagan. and i was on the hill and watching that process that we may be going through again, where a name is offered.
we begin a very vigorous process of watching the senate go through a very, very detailed background check and questionnaire. even for those who might have been confirmed by the senate for some other position, even on the federal bench, to go through the supreme court nominating process is much more rigorous, much more time consuming. and it is something that even at a best case typically takes a few months because of all of the process of the behind the scenes details that are involved in that. and then, of course, typically the nominee would spend time on the hill talking to senators personally. first those members of the judiciary committee who have the initial responsibility to decide if the nominations should go forward. then all 100 senators. so president obama, through justice sotomayor and justice kagan, has been able to shape the court already.
and i think there was much more of an expectation that perhaps there might be a retirement like ruth bader ginsburg, there was some talk, and there was some thought that perhaps the president would be able to replace someone from the liberal wing of the court in the last few years of his presidency. and that did not happen. >> kelly, i want to break in. you learned that the president is now about to speak, obviously a sudden statement announcement given the sudden news of justice scalia's passing. we now have the first statement from hillary clinton, which, unlike president obama, she says that her thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of justice scalia, of course. but she goes on to say, the republicans in the senate on the campaign trail who are calling
for justice scalia's seat to remain vacant "dishonor our constitution," hillary clinton saying in this brand new statement tonight. "the senate has a constitutional responsibility here that it cannot abdicate for partisan, political reasons." i know you're at the white house, but you've also been out on the trail for us. i wonder if you could handicap what we're seeing here in this political back and forth. >> reporter: those on the campaign trail cannot wait for a process to unfold. decisions about their candidacies and how they position themselves are measured in minutes and seconds sometimes. so that makes sense for secretary clinton, who is a member of the senate, knows how it works, to push back sharply. there are two different universes, though, in the republican party. the republican candidates are really about this election year politics. mitch mcconnell is calling the shots on capitol hill. he will certainly have in his mind how it will affect the campaign trail. but one of the things i have
learned covering the hill and the white house over the last decade, there is a real difference in how members of the senate in positions of power view their role compared to the broader political landscape. so mitch mcconnell is making very strong statements tonight, followed up by the judiciary chairman chuck grassley who are saying this position should remain vacant. the more likely outcome, the president will make a nomination. it might be someone who is not a consensus candidate, someone who might appeal to republicans. and we would go through the process and perhaps the nomination fails because they cannot get it through. that could be one scenario that could happen. if that is the way it looks politically for the president, perhaps he goes for a more ambitious choice from a democratic or liberal perspective in making a selection opposed to one that he might try to win over some republican votes. that will all be in the
president's domain to figure out. but politically, you can see that happening, where the president has a constitutional obligation. the senate has a role to play to confirm. and those could come really into a clash over the next several months. and we may end up with a vacancy, even though the president will likely ask the senate to consider a nominee. >> as you say, and you follow this closely on the hill, there are a lot of legal experts who say that the justices who are on the current court from president obama's appointments, kagan and sotomayor, were carefully selected, were not as progressive in their record as say someone like justice ginsburg who says she doesn't think she would make it through confirmation process today. but for many republicans, that is a bridge way too far. senator lindsey graham spoke to me within the last hour and said he would need an orrin hatch time to consider voting for them. so this will be front and center
on the hill. kelly o'donnell, thanks for your reporting from the white house tonight. we are going to be hearing from president obama as we've said, tonight, around 8:30 p.m. eastern time. a chance for the president to address what has been now a complete chorus of calls by republicans for him to abdicate any attempt at appointing a replacement for justice scalia. all of that within the next 12 minutes. we will be back after a short break. [car driving] ♪ [engine revving] ♪ ♪ [car engine] [car speeding away]
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covered justice scalia in the supreme court for many years as the chief supreme court correspondent for "the new york times." we're also awaiting the first reaction from president obama. he is supposed to speak within the next eight minutes. we will go directly to the white house when he speaks live. you see that in the lower corner of your screen. linda, your thoughts on justice scalia's passing, a man you've observed for a very long time up close? >> of course, i was as shocked as anybody else. you know, i think his influence on the court is perhaps being a little bit exaggerated. he tried to name the important opinions that he actually wrote, not the ones that he voted with the 5-4 majority, but the one that he wrote. it's not a very long list, i think in part he was a very polarizing figure, and if there was a very close case, the chief justice was not going to
necessarily invite justice scalia to hold the majority together. so i think we have to be kind of clear eyed about that. >> i think you're raising an important nuance about the supreme court, which is they're the people who write the opinions and their words have the force of law. then there are the people who use the court as the purge to do other things. i was mentioning in an interview earlier that at the 25-year mark, he was asked about his victories, and he said "damn few." so his assessment himself, similar to yours, at least with regard to the idea of writing controlling opinions, was not as many as he would like or to take your point as many as some might have suggested. i think in the broader sense of being a supreme court justice with a large following, in law schools, and as we await a republican debate tonight, among republican politicians who talked about who they would want to see on the court, he may have been second to none, linda.
>> well, sure. i think the major takeaway from what happened today is now this election is a referendum on the future of the supreme court. you know, i do think that it always should have been a referendum. but now we can't resist that. so let the games begin and the games have begun today within minutes of the news breaking. and i hope that, in the coming months, we'll hear some sober thought about what has been going on at the court, what the possibilities -- what fork in the road we've now arrived at. and it will be plenty fascinating, and there's really nothing more important about this election in my opinion. >> absolutely. that was probably true to begin with, certainly true with his vacancy as that becomes issue one in 2016. we're talking to linda
greenhouse who covered the supreme court for "the new york times" for many years. perry bacon joins us, as well. so linda, stay with us. but perry, respond to linda's point. this is now the number one issue in election. do you agree? >> i do. i assume we're going to hear the president, i think he's going to at least suggest that he has ten months left in office and some may be thinking he should get to pick the next appointee, despite what republicans are saying. so you've seen the senate democrats saying they want him to push for someone. so i think that process will be important going forward. but it does raise the issue -- we're talking about the fifth justice, scalia is part of a five republican appointee majority. i think now it comes who controls the court. the court has been rarely discussed in this campaign so far. but now it becomes a really --
probably the number one or one of the top two issues in this campaign. you'll hear about it in the debate tonight. you've already seen ted cruz say we should hold off on appointing a new justice. you'll hear hillary clinton talk about this. i'm sure she'll say obama should pick someone later -- >> i'll cut in to say we have a new statement from hillary clinton just ten minutes ago, i received it from her aides saying it would be an abdication of the constitutional obligation of the senate to block this, which is what is now the position. bringing back in linda greenhouse on that point, how unusual would it be, in your view as a matter of history, for the senate republicans to take a position that no nominee is acceptable for the president here? >> i think there's some historical precedent for that.
when lbj was in this position, the republicans said no at that time. and then of course, he left office and was replaced by richard nixon who named warren berger. so i get where the republicans are coming from totally. but i think they should see this in the perspective of how republicans have behaved on judicial nominations generally. just the other way, the president nominated a really distinguished district judge from alabama to be on the appeals court that includes alabama and an excellent record and terrific educational background and so on, and the republicans said no, we're not going to confirm him. i mean, that was just like nuts.
so i'm not holding my breath for anything very productive to happen in the next ten months with respect to a confirmation of a supreme court nominee. >> perry, go ahead. >> mostly i've heard republicans saying there should be no consideration of any kind of appointment. the one dissenting voice we've heard from that is lindsey graham of south carolina, a more moderate. he said i'm open to a consensus choice if we and the president can agree to that. the name he gave after that is orrin hatch, who is a fairly conservative member of the senate from utah. i don't think democrats view hatch as a consensus nominee. >> he said that in an interview with me in our breaking coverage here from south carolina. and what was fascinating to me, he made the argument that he has voted for obama nominees before
but the democrats changed the rules. it's certainly a fair precedent to know with regard to the senate both sides have tried to move the goal posts on how to do nominees. and to linda's time, there have been periods in history where this has been a roadblock. andrea mitchell had the reaction to see it this forceful this quick with no nominee of any kind being acceptable to the chair of the judiciary committee, to mitch mcconnell, with all the republicans running for president, it was unusual and extreme in her view. and the orrin hatch example, i thought it was laughable. it's one thing to say you want someone center left. but if they're center right, they're closer to what a republican president would pick. >> it's not just the republicans that have already signaled they don't want president obama to appoint a nominee. republicans have been saying we're -- they said they don't want to work with obama on a lot
of different issues. they want him to stop being president. so it's hard to imagine they're going to cooperate much for the next ten months. so that's what i think what the president says tonight will be telling -- how does he think he can move -- he hasn't had much success in moving the republicans, so making the idea can we really afford to have the court to have no ninth justice for ten months? so this is a case to the public and hoping they influence the more moderate members of republicans in the senate. it will be a very tough case, because the republicans are not -- they're blocking a lot of appointees of obama. they're blocking a lot of things period that he's trying to do on almost every issue. particularly now, the republicans see the end of this term is near. we can stop him and hope we win
the election. >> i want to bring in kerry sanders. this conversation has been partly about justice scalia's record and life, but it's also been immediately about the high octane politics here. what are you seeing out on the trail? >> interestingly, i'm hear at the debate site just outside where you can imagine there are lots of people who have gathered, voters that are very enthusiastic, so i stopped and talked to some of them. they're here supporting their individual candidates. but each one seem to agree that the death of scalia scalhas rai what's been an emotion aal campaign and make it even more emotional and making this current primary here for the republicans and democrats that much more important. because they realize what is going on. in fact, i was curious to see what sort of issues do they follow from the supreme court?
and i also spoke to the former u.s. attorney from -- u.s. attorney from the southern district of florida. all of them seem to agree to say that issues like roe v. wade are always on the tip of people's tongues, citizens united, it's those issues that voters say to themselves, okay, i may not follow the supreme court that closely, but i do recognize the importance of it. of course, if president obama is blocked with an appointment, then they're all wondering which candidate plays best? when i spoke to the former u.s. attorney from the southern district of florida, he said at first blush you might think this might play to those who are more traditionally politicians, like jeb bush or hillary clinton. but he points out that he has been wrong, as so many people have been, about the impact that donald trump has had on the campaign. so many of the voters who are supporting donald trump somewhere around 9% or 15% are
people who have never voted before and they're coming out specifically to support donald trump, because they're energized by him. donald trump tweeted earlier today and he said -- >> i think the word i pick up on there is conservative movement. as you know, within the republican party, there has been some division here whether donald trump is a true conservative. and he chooses that word i think rather specifically so that he can address those who have been questioning whether he's a true conservative. ari? >> linda greenhouse, i want to put the question to you, one that i think in all your years covering the court, which is what kind of justice would donald trump appoint? >> well, i think that's what is kind of intriguing about donald trump. nobody really knows what he's going to -- what he would actually do about anything.
i think that's why you read the conservative blogosphere, there's a great mistrust. it's a real wild card for that side of the street. >> wild card indeed. it's maybe a wild card in disappearing ink, given how he's already moved around in the primaries. we're doing special coverage of the death of justice antonin scalia. we are awaiting president obama, and white house aides said he would begin speaking. so we're watching, waiting for him to come out. and we're speaking with kerry sanders out on the trail, and linda greenhouse and perry bacon. perry, the next question is, you look at justice scalia's record. i've said on air today that he really had become something like the ronald reagan of legal
conservatives. it was as if he could do no wrong, and he was a standard -- we heard about litmus tests, like roe v. wade or on the liberal side, overturning citizens united. but when you talk about names, when george bush was asked in 2000, he said he would look to somebody like thomas and scalia. what about that, and the idea that legal conservatives, as well as the republican party, in this death have lost someone who, even if he didn't write many majority opinions, someone who had come to define what a good legal conservative should be. >> he had. you saw tonight in fact greg abbott, the governor of texas, he put out this statement which he said, i hope the next justice lives up to scalia's respect for the rule of law.
and i think the idea that scalia was the primary author of this vision, the sort of idea that there were too many activist judges out there, i think scalia had been a symbol for a kind of legal approach that conservatives we hiked. i think tonight you'll hear that in the debate. i assume the candidate also be asked for the first time really what kind of justice do you like. who do you think -- what mold do you want to pick somebody in. and like in 2000, you'll hear a lot of scalia, a lot of clarence thomas, not as much of john roberts, who has annoyed conservatives by defending obamacare now twice. so i think you'll hear from that. i will be interested to watch tonight, ted cruz, a justice -- a clerk on the supreme court. so tonight is the one time where in terms of these candidates, he is much more versed on legal issues than the other candidates. i think this is a night for him to show that and to really speak
more eloquently about the issues. >> you make such an interesting point. what you're saying is it's not just where people stand, and from what we can tell, the entire leadership of the republican party within a few hours has taken the same position. it's not just so much where they stand on that, but who knows what? you make the point that ted cruz who has done well so far, is by any stretch the best lawyer on the stage, the most practiced legal mind. he already has that reputation. he had an exchange with donald trump about who was going to take advice on who on constitutional issues when the eligibility issue came up.
>> you saw that debates matter and not appearing to know the depths of issues can tell you. marco rubio will tell you that firsthand. so in this case you have someone who is a clerk on the supreme court. so i think it will help. these guys are all going to have the same position on the supreme court. no obama appointee now. we want to pick someone who is going to follow the written letter of the constitution, not an activist. they're all going to say something very much like that. so the key thing is we'll have followup questions and real discussion about the court and what it does. this happened very recently, so cruz is very advantaged in the fact that he argued many cases, won cases in front of the supreme court. he can talk about that legal experience. that's a big -- usually debates
are about donald trump says i ran a business, i'm effective. and rubio and cruz talk about the votes they cast in the senate. but tonight you'll have cruz can talk about this real world experience he has in a place which he was very effective. >> as you're speaking, i want to tell the viewers what's going on. you look this the lower corner of the screen, you'll see what looked like remarks, papers just set out at the presidential podium.
we are eager to see what the president says. what is the president's right tone to hit in this moment? >> he has a perfect try it nominate someone. you can say it is his obligation to nominate someone. it is an interesting political moment. given the fact whoever he nominates is most likely not going to be confirmed and given that as i said earlier, this election becomes a referendum on the future of the court. if the president nominates someone who has great appeal to people in the country, who is blocked by the republican senate, that's just, it just heightens the debate as people go to the polls. >> i heard you say he or she may likely not be confirmed. i don't think we know any of that as you allude to. it depends on who is nominated. it may be very popular for republicans to immediately seize
the most anti-obama ground here in their political primary season. and that is all about a hypothetical against whoever this president appoints. certainly one can imagine names of people with broad appeal who want to go in and get work done as the court is tied up. go ahead. >> that's my point exactly. given the republican stance, nobody no how, the president could claim the upper hand. the moral high ground or the political high ground by nominating someone with great appeal. so it is a very important moment for the democrats. >> kerry sanders, if you're still with us with this debate -- we don't have kerry sanders. going back to perry bacon -- and he is there. live television. kerry, if you can hear me -- >> i'm trying to get a little information from an insider. give me a couple minutes. he doesn't want to use his name.
>> go ahead. i appreciate your reporting. that's how it looks when we're all doing our reporting on one hand and doing breaking coverage with no commercial breaks on the other hand. thanks for staying with us. we're still looking at the presidential podium. you see reporters moving in and out of the shot awaiting the president's remarks about the death of justice scalia and what comes next. going into the start of the debate you already talked about how ted cruz may benefit. i question whether donald trump, who has been basically bullet proof and impervious to so many other moments people thought might have hurt him. i question whether he is prepped. you can only do so much reading and twittering going into tonight. you mentioned marco rubio suffered from the idea he had talking points. if this is a detailed discussion, can donald trump name anyone other than judge judy that he would consider for the court? >> it is a great question. i would argue for a lot of candidates, this is a great question to ask. trump particularly. if they're asked, who would you
consider to name on the supreme court? i think that's a hard question. not just because, like you said, donald trump may not know a lot of appellate judges who would be qualified but that does box you into a potential list of names. you start naming people who you might pick for the supreme court, that gets into all kinds of, you own, what have their writings been? who have they donated money to? i think hillary clinton should be wary of who she would pick for the supreme court. this is a very tough question to ask. even asking them, what their litmus test would be. that's a hard question too. voters have an aversion to hearing that you will not pick a judge because you have this litmus test or that one. we know there are tests in reality. a democratic judge has to agree with roe v. wade. conservative judges have to have some conservative stands in reality. but it's going to be hard to figure out -- these guys are
going to be asked who would you name to the court and what kind of criterion would you put on your choices? and i'll be very curious about donald trump or a ben carson, a very detailed response to that question. >> you mentioned ben carson. i asked him that question last week in new hampshire. he didn't want to name anyone. he said i'm not naming names. i said who on the current court reflects the type of jurisprudence you might use. which is a question i've seen candidates answer. he didn't want to answer that. i want to give an update. we're told by the white house on this obviously fast unfolding story, the president will speak within the next 60 seconds. i'm telling you what i'm learning as i'm learning it. i can also tell that you bill clinton just weighed in on this for the first time. he spoke glowingly of justice scalia. we're going to show that you video later because we're waiting for the president. president obama coming out any moment. we'll bring that to you. after that, president bill clinton, who has had his share of nomination battles.
we'll show you that, as well. a lot to get to here. linda, as we await the president do you expect him to say anything about justice scalia's opinions? he is a law professor in his own right. >> it would be very presumptuous of me to say what i expect. i really have no idea. >> perry, do you feel presumptuous? >> he night talk about scalia's quality, the way scalia writes. he is known for writing colorful opinions. you can talk about that without necessarily talking about, my understanding is obama disagrees with most of what scalia has written. there is probably a way to talk about his influence on the court. his relationship with ginsburg and so on. i don't presume to know what the president will say. >> i don't presume to know either. i can tell you from past precedent, this is a president who knows the law well and is fluent in it. we were talking about how the republicans might sound if they're catching up on the fly with this story. obviously, constitutional law
professor barack obama who studied, taught at chicago and good study at harvard i wouldn't be surprised if he might discuss the way that justice scalia influenced thought on the court. influenced conservatives. we see the president coming out. let's listen in. >> good evening, everybody. for almost 30 years, justice antonin scalia was a larger than life president on the bench. brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, incisive whit, and color opinions. he influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students and profoundly shaped the legal landscape. he will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequenceal judges and thinkers to have served on the supreme court. justice scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our
democracy. the rule of law. tonight we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time. antonin scalia was born in trenton, new jersey, to an italian immigrant family. after graduating from georgetown university and harvard law school, he worked at a law firm and taught law before entering a life of public service. he rose from assistant attorney general for the office of legal counsel, to the judge on the d.c. circuit court to associate justice of the supreme court. a devout catholic, he was a proud father of nine children and grandfather to many loving grand children. justice scalia was both an avid hunter and an opera lover. a passion for music that he shared with his dear colleague and friend, justice ruth bader ginsburg. michelle and i were proud to
welcome him to the white house including in 2012 for a state dinner for prime minister david cameron. and tonight we join his fellow justices in mourning this remarkable man. obviously today is a time to remember justice scalia's legacy. i plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time. there will be plenty of time for me to do so and for the senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote. these are responsibilities that i take seriously, as should everyone. they're bigger than any one party. they are about our democracy. they're about the institution to which justice scalia dedicated his professional life and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our founders envisioned.
but at this moment, we most of all want to think about his family. and michelle and i join the nation in sending our deepest sympathies to justice scalia's wife maureen and their loving family, a beautiful symbol of a life well lived. we thank them for sharing justice scalia with our country. god bless them all and god bless the united states of america. >> we've been listening there to president obama speaking from rancho mirage, california. his first public remarks on the unexpected death of justice antonin scalia at the age of 79, having served 30 years on the supreme court. the longest serving member, a darling of the conservative movement and an influential member by any measure. perry bacon is with me. we heard the president talk about justice scalia as someone who influenced a generation and
profoundly shaped the legal landscape. the president reference to justice scalia as referring his life to the rule of law. that is as you know, one of the highest compliments you can pay a judge. the notion even if they had strong views, even if they were embroiled in legal controversies as the supreme court invariably is, that they were a jurist and a person of the law first. not a person of ideology or opinion or god forbid, a partisan outcome. i thought that was to my ear, within the legal community, and the way lawyers and judges think about it. one of the highest compliments that president obama could pay justice scalia. >> right. and there were brief remarks but the president really tried to commend justice scalia for the influence he had on the law. he also commended him for energetic opinions, energetic style was the words the president used. h e tried to praise him for his
opinion writing one, and his opinions, two. the president, i assume, disagrees with many of scalia's findings within the law but he went out of his way to praise his achievements on the court. and as you noticed, scalia had a lot of influence for conservatives, which president obama acknowledged. >> then you get to the other point which he put succinctly. this is a white house that were it ever unsure about the intranceience of the opposition that it faces. it struck me that he really picked one sense to say it. he said i will meet my constitutional obligation to appoint someone to the court and i expect congress to meet its constitutional obligation to consider and vote on that person. >> the phrase he used was i expected -- the phrase was timely vote.
so i think that's the thing to take away from this. he expects there to be some kind of vote. obviously, there are 54 republicans in the senate. that means the vote could be no. the idea was to sort of force the republicans to have a vote period. and not just to drive this process along and have hearing after hearing after hearing and delay and never vote. you can see the opening argument here is to demand the republicans, consider the nominee and have a vote on it. that's an important thing today considering you've heard republicans say obama should not even nominate anyone. he should wait until the election is decided and let the new president elect someone. you saw the president, very brief remarks but very firm. he is going on nominate someone, period. >> one more question with you and then you'll hang with us as we go to kelly o'donnell. the headline on the screen is no longer justice scalia dies. it is president obama, i plan to nominate a successor.
and yet, perry, this is one of those moments. that's not really a headline in normal political history. the president always nominates a successor. indeed it would be weird not to. there is an obligation to staff the courts. there have been big fights. fdr famously overdoing and it trying to add seats to the court to break the pushback to the new deal that was coming from conservative members against his economic agenda. and there were times where there were road blocks. certainly, in normal functioning washington governance, it is not news that the president would fill the appointment of a deceased member of the court. >> exactly. we're in uncharted grounds a bit. i would argue if it were october of 2016, i think there -- the
dynamic would seem more complicated, a month from then the new president would be elected and would want to pick someone. we're in february right now. so we're talking about obama is going to be president for ten more months. it is in some ways not surprising that he would want to pick someone for the court. we're talking about a court that is now four republican appointees, four democratic appointees. the notion that both sides are being very highly aggressively partisan is not, and the republicans do view this as, you can imagine a scenario. if they sort of allow a fifth democratic appointee, a liberal to be on the court. that is a big setback for them. >> there's no question. sometimes you have appointments that don't make big a difference. bringing in kelly o'donnell at the white house. no question replacing an arch conservative with anyone in the obama mold would be a shift in the jurisprudence of the court. >> absolutely.
that's what's making so many republicans nervous. they did not anticipate this. as we talked about, i think the president's remarks followed the line that we had expected. needing to strike that balance between showing respect to justice scalia and then signaling but not getting really into the details about his own intentions. so we also had a clarification from the chairman of the judiciary committee. republican chuck grassley of iowa. and his office is telling me that he is making the point, in 80 years there has not been, a nomination or confirmation in a election year. small difference but a telling difference. republicans are not saying they didn't expect a nominee to be put forward. the question is will they confirm one? >> and this brand new sound, never been aired before, president clinton responding to this news today. here we go.
>> first of all, my prayers are with his family and his friends. justice scalia, he would find it hard to believe that i would say this. i always kind of liked justice scalia. he never pretended to believe something he didn't. he never pretended to be anything he wasn't. and i think that's one reason by all accounts, he became good friends with justice ginsburg whom i appointed to the supreme court. they disagree on nearly everything. but they treated each other with respect and they sat down and have honest arguments. that's all you can ask of a man. nobody is right all the time. >> that was bill clinton speaking to reporters on a rope line there. just reacting to the news of justice scalia's death and how he was not a pretender and that formed his friendship with ruth bader ginsburg. i want to say thank you to all the reporters in the field and
the legal experts who joined us here in our breaking coverage on what a sad day for justice scalia. and also a momentous day. when there's news in public life. we'll be live at 11:00 p.m. eastern tonight for a post gop debate coverage and more on scalia news. see us then and thank you for your time tonight.
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