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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  September 19, 2020 11:00am-12:00pm PDT

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good day, everyone. from msnbc world headquarters here in new york, welcomes to weekend with alex witt. today we are launching another hour of our show at 2:00 p.m. eastern. thanks for staying with us or if you are just joining us. we are going bring you up to date on the busy news day right now. as we begin in washington and the epic battle now unfoaling with many moving parts at this hour. if you missed it, we have heard from the president and senate democrats. in a moment, exactly what they are saying, and the implications this all may have as we head to
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the u.s. supreme court, where flags are at half staff and there is a constant stream of mourners along with a growing memorial for justice ruth bader ginsburg, who died last night at the age of 87. that set in motion all the activity on capitol hill. and within the white house. ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the u.s. supreme court. she survived several battles with cancer, serving for 27 years, and spend most of her career fighting for equality. chief justice john roberts described her as quote a jurist of stature and a cherished colleague. future generations will remember her as we knew her a champion of tirele tireless and resolute champion of justice. >> there is an empty feeling in your stomach when a leader of significance -- kennedy comes to
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mind. robert and john. martin luther king. certainly, i think ruth ginsburg's legacy may not be as powerful as theirs, but nonetheless, up there. of similar significance. >> similar, indeed. as ginsburg became a pop culture icon, earning the knick name know "notorious rbg" when she submitted her dissension after the court struck down a a court. democrats are holding a conference call. they have done so within this last hour. they are beginning to strategize how to handled this vacancy. the meeting coming after the president said republicans have an obligation to move forward with the selection of a new supreme court justice without delay. nbc's lee anne caldwell joining us once again from capitol hill. any new details emerging?
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have you learned anything from this conference call that began about an hour ago? >> i have, alex. well, the senate democratic leader chuck schumer he opened the conference wall with a moment of silence celebrating the life of justice ginsburg. he also had a few main points for his democrats including this is being to be an election issue, that they need to make extremely clear that this is a fight for the american people and for the balance of the supreme court. also saying that they have to say that everything is at stake, these democrats, gay rights, lgbt rights, women's rights. this is a critical issue for democrats to hone in on. and finally, perhaps his most important point, alex, is, he says, let me be clear, this is a quote, if leader mcconnell and senate republicans move forward with this then nothing is off the taebl for next year. nothing is off the table.
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what does the democratic leader mean by that? there is a long democratic wish list of thing that they want to do to change the senate, including get rid of the phil buster, the 60-vote threshold for legislation to pass here in the senate. also, some democrats, they want to what they call pack the court, which is expand the number of seats on the supreme court. so democrats, while they can stop this nomination from moving forward, if republicans decide to do it. they will, they say this could wreck the senate as we know it and this is all holds bars and they are going to move forward. meanwhile the senator majority leader mcconnell is trying to appease some of his nervous members with a letter to them overnight telling them if they are inclined to perhaps not want to move forward with this legislation -- or with this nomination, to keep their powder dry for the moment, don't say anything that might put you in a box. so, republicans and democrats on
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both sides are now in this strategy session figuring out how they are going to move forward preparing for this major battle that is before them. alex. >> they have their work cut out for them, certainly. thank you very much, lee anne caldwell. let's go to the steps of the supreme court. that's where mourners have been gathering since last night to pay their respects. and nbc's mariana soto my major is there. you have been covering the biden campaign. talk about their reaction to the death of ruth bader ginsburg. >> it has become a call the action for democrats of even last night, just monitoring twitter and what the campaign staffers were putting out there. they were saying they felt reignited to finish this fight. they have only 45 days left to elect former vice president joe biden. and senator harris, who actually came and visited the supreme court this morning per her own
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twitter account sent out a fund-raising email to supporters saying quote they have to fight like hello hello to make sure that president trump does not fill ruth bader ginsburg's seat to the supreme court in these final weeks. of course, even if the democrats are able to win, their being hurdle is the fact that senate republicans will still have the majority even through the end of the year, even past election day. take a listen to what former vice president joe biden said last night about what he hopes the senate majority leader mitch mcconnell will do in these next few weeks. >> let me be clear, that the voters should pick the president, and the president should pick the justice for the senate to consider. this was the position the republican senate took in 2016 when there were almost ten months to go before the election. that's the position the united states senate must take today.
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and the election is only 46 days off. >> now, alex, we haven't heard from the former vice president today about whether he stands on a number of these issues. however, thankfully, to the primary campaign, we have heard his positions on for example, packing the courts, which is something that democrats are looking at doing. biden has said doesn't want to do that, as a transitionist. he also has said he is not going to release a list of potential nominees that he would put to the supreme court simply because he doesn't want to follow what the president -- president donald trump has done in the last several weeks. however, one thing that he has pledged to do is that if he is given the chaps to sever as president, he would nominate a black woman to the supreme court if he is elected, alex. >> we can bet that if he is elected as well, that list of potential nominees would come after november 3rd or whenever things get settled. thank you so much. let's go to white house, new
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report being an emerging front runner to potentially fill justice ginsburg's supreme court seat. garrett haake at the white house. what do you know? >> amy coney barrett has been the lips of a number of people at the white house as it has been frankly on capitol hill really since the last supreme court fight that ultimately ended with the confirmation of brett kavanaugh. coney barrett was confirmed to the federal courts back in 2017 she is considered to be popular with religious conservatives. she has a well-known anti-abortion rights stance, she is of course a woman which is something that the white house is apparently taking into significant consideration as they are trying come up with a replacement for justice ginsburg. again, i would emphasize that coney barrett is at this stage a front-runner, not the front-runner. we know the president released his list with a couple of dozen names on there. but the idea of picking a woman does seem to be something that the white house is considering closely. we are told, alex that that
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announcement should be something we expect sooner rather than later although the white house is being very non-specific as to exactly how quickly they will act on this. >> garrett, as i look at this, this is somebody who, because of your point of that made, that her name was bawantered about frequently, she did have an exchange with senator dianne feinstein of california who told her that her religion doing wa ma was well-known. she is a catholic and has a number of children. she pushed back significantly. let me look for quote. she recalls saying it is never appropriate for a judge to impost that judge's personal convictions whether they arise from faith or anywhere else on the law. is there anything else that you have heard that would be a desubtracting sentiment for this particular nominee, should her name go forward? >> her relative lack of experience is one thing. only on the federal bench since
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2017. the president in concert with the majority leader mech mcconnell and i can tell you that at least the chief of staff here at the white house, mark meadows has been in dock with the majority leader. there has been reporting that the president and the majority leader have spoken by phone. that's not surprise. but the reality is they have to figure out a way to thread a electoral nields. there are senators up for re-election who will glue themselves to whoever donald trump selects to be his supreme court nominee because they need donald trump's supporters just as much as donald trump does, and perhaps more so to lift their fortune in places like arizona and north carolina. in some other races where you haveth got for example, susan collins running in maine a defender of roe versus wade. she might be put in tight spot if the nominee is considered to be too conservative or too only opposed to abortion rights.
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the reality is trying to keep the conservative republicans in play and pick the most conservative justice they can get away with, the most conservative justice who would be palatable to 50 republican senators to get that person over the finish line. >> garrett haake thank you for the perspective. appreciated. the political stakes, if republicans decide to russia vote on a supreme court nominee, how it could backfire on election day. the antes been upped. to lead the charge... good had to be amazing... and amazing had to become the expectation. the drivers feel it every time they get in. ♪ the power... ...has shifted. ♪ you know limu,g after all these years the power...
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now this on a remarkable and in some ways an unprecedented day of breaking news. another unprecedented moment in what seemed unthinkable just a few months ago is now a reality. the number of deaths from coronavirus here in the united states surpasses 00,000. morgan sheskey joins us from dallas. remarkable that we are here. what is the latest from where you are, morgan. >> reporter: alex, good afternoon.
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you mentioned we never thought we would be hitting this number. it is wild to think that just back a few months we heard those predictions from dr. fauci, from dr. birx when they came out and said that if the united states did everything right we would be looking at death toll from 100,000 to 200,000 before this virus has run its course. here we are in the month of september, alex crossing this 200,000 person threshold, 200,000 americans that have passed as a result of covid and now we are entering a potential fall and winter season that doctors are concerned about for a further spread of this virus. i will take you back to february 29th. it as the first confirmed death from the virus here in united states. almost seems like an eternity ago. it involved a death at washington state where an outbreak occurred in kirkland, washington, a suburb of seattle. from that point, we really
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watched this virus jump to the east coast, where new york city became embattled in trying to take on and contain this virus there. and then slowly but surely, we saw that hocdown go into affect that affecteder inially every state in the country. and it is -- affected every state in the country. the numbers were relatively low as a result this virus until the states started the reopen back in may. it was this the month of june, the month of july, that we really saw those southern states see the worst this virus. here in texas particularly, along the border, we saw health care personnel that were doing the best they could with limited resources from an influx of patients there that were incredibly hard hit by this virus. now as for when we can get potential relief, president trump has made what is a massive promise. and that is 100 million doses of vaccine, alex, before the ep of
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this yea -- before the end of this year. it is important to node the cdc's dr. redfield says vaccine doses may be available late this year, it won't be made available to the general public until late in the second quarter of 2021. we are a ways off from when americans can get that peace of mind hopefully from the development of a vaccine of covid. what is working, is what i am wearing right now. a mask. we have seen it time and time again. scientists say it can help stop the spread of the virus. we are looking at protests spots popping up all across the states where people say because they are being told to wear a mask their rights are being infringed upon. months ago in scottsdale, arizona a city council member there organized a protest
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against a recent mask mandate. that is not an isolated incident. as we enter these months where doctors say fall and winter could be more conducive to the spread of the virus we hit this 200,000 threshold of people that have lost their lives, we have a long road to go this will we can contain this virus. with a vaccine not available until later in 2021, experts say it is incumbent upon all of us to do whatever we can, to have basically some personal responsibility in trying to limit the spread of what we see today as still a deadly virus. >> amen to that, personal responsibilities. morgan sheskey, a remarkable story based on the facts and the figures of this tragic tale. let's go the our other breaking news. just hours after the passing of supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg senator mitch mcconnell
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issues a statement saying president trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the united states senate. president trump tweeting his support today from the senate to fill the seat without delay. joining me now, the editor at large for the daily beast and michael steele the former rnc chairman. welcome to you both. there is a lot to get into. we start with the statement from mcgregor connell. it is really an about-face from his stance this 2016. this is when he argued that the senate should not and in fact would not hold a hearing on president obama's election year nom nay merrick garland. here's what listen see graham had to say about a potential supreme court vacantsy in 201. then again repeated in 2018. >> i want to you use my words against me. if there is a republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occur this is the last year of the first term you can say lindsey graham said let's let the next president, whoever it
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might be, make that nomination. and you can use my words against me and you would be absolutely right. >> i will tell you this. if an opening comes in the last year of president trump's term and the primary process is started, we'll wait until the next election. >> okay. he's on record there. going to get you guys on record today as we had senator graham tweeting a response to the president's tweet saying he fully understands where he is coming from. >> molly, you covered neil gorsuch and brett kavanaugh's nominations. how quickly are republicans reversing their positions on this, can lipsy graham be held responsible to what he said multiple times in 2016 and 2018. it is amazing how fast these republicans are reversing their positions. merrick garland was nominated 237 days before election and
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they wouldn't even look at him, each before he was nominated mcconnell went to the floor and said that whoever it was would not get a hearing. and now we have -- we are 45 days from the election. people are already voting. and we have -- republicans are pushing. and even in this statement, the statement where, you know, he says we are going look at trump's nominee. it's radical about-face? radical indeed. michael we have the president piling on to this -- he has made it clear that he wants the see republicans fill this seat without delay. do you think republicans will pay a political price for this reversal? we are talking about vulnerable republicans like senator graham. susan collins, corey gardner. the hypocrisy of these statements and where we are today, will that be lost on voters? are they going to say wait a minute, not so fast? >> i think that remains to be seen, how folks digest all of
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this. how they want to hold these individual members accountable. remember, "access hollywood" tape came out right before the election and voters went, okay, thank you for sharing and they elected donald trump. so here you are now with the expectation that voters are going to somehow hold senate republicans accountable. we will see. but i think you need to fundamentally understand, this is not about hypocrisy. that was then. this is now. that's how republicans look at these situations. this is all a political process for them that they get to either control or be a victim of. and they find a way to be in control. so the words and the statements at the time -- i gaurn tie lindsey graham is going line up exactly where donald trump wants him to line up. now, the accountability will be in his race in south carolina to hold his seat. and south carolinians will decide whether jamie harrison is a better, honest broker on their
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behalf than lindsey graham. that's risk that lindsey graham is going to take. but for mcconnell, and the president, this is about getting a 7-3 -- or getting to a 7-2 consevertive supreme court at some point. whether this term or the next. >> i have the say, i spoke with jamie harrisonity. it has been almost two hours. the issue of integrity and what that means came up. milliony, do you find it possible that enough republicans would show an integral spine and be against appointing a new justice in an election year and did forth to block a potential senate vote? is that possible? >> it seems very unlikely. i would think the only senator you could look to for that would be mitt romney because he has been able to do that before and he has sort of -- you know, he sort of -- he has this sort of relationship with his state that is bigger than his party.
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but i don't think you can look to any of the other ones. but what's interesting is democrats really could use this to their advantage. i mean, this is an argued about choice. this is going to come down to abortion. and 77% of americans believe in some kind of abortion, legalized abortion, which means this is a losing argument for mitch mcconnell. and i think you really could see -- i mean, this could be the worst thing that could happen to cory gardner and susan collins. >> in terms of that 70% some form of legal abortion but the vast majority with some sort of caveats, certainly, to all of that. michael, this call with the senate democrats in just the last hour, we learning that chuck schumer said quote if senate republicans move forward with this then nothing is off the table for next year. nothing is off the table. what does that mean? how do you interpret that. >> it is the culmination of what began under majority leader
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harry reid when he made the fateful decision to change the presidential appointments during the time of the obama administration. what that may mean and likely will mean is that the filibuster rule will go away. in which case, for the minority, the senate will be no different than the house. and that has been one of the most distinguishing factors of the two -- [ no audio ] -- to participate in the processes of the senate. if the filibuster goes away, that will -- i mean, mcconnell and republicans might as well just -- you know, just check in and check out because that's all it is going to be for them. >> yeah. >> then other things come into play like expanding the size of the court. if donald trump gets this nominee through with a 6-3 conservative majority, look for an expansion to 11 or 15 seats
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by democrats at that time. and then other things like, you know, statehood for puerto rico. and the district of columbia. move up the line. this will fundamentally change, alex a lot for the united states' senate if this action happens between now and next january. >> yeah. molly, we have all watched bitter confirmation battles unfold. you have done so very, very carefully, each one with more intensity for the justices, neil gorsuch and brett kavanaugh. how do you view a nomination hearing for a new candidate. i have heard experts say it would make the angst around the kavanaugh hearings look easy. >> especially because this is about the oi borgs story. lot of american women are
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passionate about the rights over their own bodies. i think this could get really ugly, really fast. >> michael, before we let you go, i just want to ask you on a personal note how you feel about this whole supreme court situation. because you are a republican against donald trump. so give me your sentiments both now and then long term? >> loo, i always believed going back to the -- look, i always believed going back to the case of merrick garland that the established order of things is the established order of thing for a reason. not only does it promote the comedy within the senate, in other words the collegiality and ability to wok together but, et cetera respect for the rules and the process. and mitch mcconnell, for political reasons, violated that. harry reid, for political reasons, violated that. so now we are on this downward spiral, alex, that i think could be -- have detrimental impacts
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in how we govern going forward where it is almost a wild, wild west, whoever is in charge gets to control the process and i don't need to talk to the other side. so now and long term, we, as americans, should be concerned about what these next 45 days, and certainly the period between the election and the inauguration look leak and how they play out. and we have to step in and have some control in that. because if we don't, what comes afterwards starting january 21st could be a royal mess for this country. and that's not good for either the party and certainly not for the american people. >> i have got to tell you, you said we should be concerned. we are concerned. with a big exclamation point? we'll see. >> we'll see. molly, you guys come see me again. a rush to the polls. we talk to voters casting their ballots following the death of
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45 days until election day. early voting is under way in several states, including in virginia. the long lines began early today, and this for the second day in a row. moments ago a group of trump supporters showed up outside the fairfax county government center waving flags and chanting "four more years" let's go to nbc's amanda golden, who is there for us. welcome to you. what did the voters tell us first of all about justice ruth bader ginsburg? then i want to ask you about that real estate and whether or not that influenced anybody with their voting. >> alex, you set the scene here just right. from the very beginning today voters were lining up for hours ahead of the polls. the doors of the doors of the poll open hearing in fairfax. they wanted to come out and make sure that their vote was counted with some of the confusion around how best to cast your ballot also spark asked fueled
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by the passing of justice ruth bader ginsburg. that's what the beginning of the day looked like. then we had some trump supporters come out for a car sar van and gathering out in front of the fairfax county government center, the polling location cheering and chanting and calling attention to support of the president. as far as i can tell none of those spoeters went to early vote today. i want to you listen to what the early voters and the trump supporters were telling me both as to the passing of justice bins gerg and why they wanted to come out and vote. >> i think it should be filled as soon as possible. >> you do? >> yes, absolutely. >> politics should not be part of the process. it should be filled because that's -- that's what it calls for. >> i was planning on early voting, but this pushed it. like, i made sure i was here this morning. taking away gay rights, rights for women, you know, anything that my kids could see in the future, i don't want anything taken away from them.
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so i'm here. >> reporter: you really see the juxtaposition from both the trump supporters and the early voters that cam out that skewed more democrats. in talking to him and hearing what they were talking about it was on praising leadership or discouraging the leadership we see already and wanting a chain or saying that much of what we have been hearing around the debate of the politicization of the supreme court wanting to see that move forward in a way that best represents the country. you get both of those tastes here in fairfax, virginia today. >> keeps it interesting, amanda goalan thank you. in less than an hour thousands of thump support remembers expected to gather for a rally in north carolina in fayetteville. it marks the president's second campaign trip to the state just this week. josh letterman is there. what can you tell us about the possible messaging from the president this evening? who you do you know. >> alex when the president was last in north carolina just about a week ago up in winston-salem about two hours
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from here the big focus of his rally was on law and order. today i can't tell you how different thing feel on the ground here. in the wake of this news late last night about ruth bader ginsburg, the big question at his rally today, you can already hear some of the folk starting to line up, what will the president say about the supreme court vacancy? will he give any information about the sequencing how he intends to fill it. will they want to have a vote prior or after election day. so far all we have gotten from the president where he briefly mentioned filling the seat without delay. we tried to get the white house press seth to address this earlier today. didn't want to get ahead of the president but noted he would likely be talking about it at rally today. the other thing to watch, al e, is the dynamics playing out in some of the senate races. the republican senators are under so much pressure because of this.
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the senat we know democrats are eager to make this the key issue, particularly for the vulnerable republican senators. we will have to see what the president says about filling that seat and about any pressure that he knows that senators like thom tillis will be under here in north carolina. >> josh, before we let you go, can you tell me about what the president has said, if anything, personally, about the passing of justice ginsburg? >> yeah, the news actually broke about ginsburg's death last night while the president was on stage at a rally. as he came off stage a few minutes later he spoke to reporters as he was about to get on the airplane. seemed to indicate he was learn willing for the first time about her death. he called ginsburg an amazing woman, said she led an amazing
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life regardfuls whether you agree or disagree with her. he didn't make any custom about the row cess to replace her. that is the million dollar question today going forward. >> absolutely that is. in a moment insights about justice ginsburg from someone who clerked for her. the impact justice ginsburg had on her next. ginsburg had on her next.
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at this hour, mourners are gathering on the steps of the supreme court to remember justice ruth bader ginsburg. nbc's andrea mitchell writes of justice ginsburg, people are mourning her death because they admired her spirit, here fearlessness, and her determination to fight for equal justice under the law in part because they knew she understood what many of them were facing in their lives. joining we now, morgua sha langer of the university of michigan law school and a former law clerk for justice ruth bader
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ginsburg. and guy charles. as of today, guy is a new msnbc news and msnbc contributor. we welcome you particularly. though i am very glad to have both of you here. we will go ladies first. you have to get used to that. i tend to do that. morguo, what do you make of that quote from mitchell. that is that what you remember from your time working with justice ruth bader ginsburg? >> for shurm she was one of two ever civil rights lawyers who ended up on the supreme court. she and author good marshal. the value she cared about most was equality under the law. it was her north star both in her judicial writing and also in many of the ways that she ran her personal life and was able to model for those lucky enough to clerk for her -- model some of the ways that she, you know, interacted with people personally and professionally. >> margot, here is what is cool
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about your relationship with her. you were there at the gingham. it is my understanding you were there as a clerk for her first two years on the supreme court from 1993 to 1995. i am curious how you saw her evol evolve? >> i was there at the beginning. i remember one of my coclerks and i arrived a the supreme court a couple days before she did which was an odd experience. but she wasn't an inexperienced judge. she had been a judge for 13 years on the d.c. circuit. it's not like she came as a novice. she had to feel her way into what role she wanted in the supreme court, which -- how she was going to wield the power that she had when she was going to, you know, wave her arms around and make a fuss and when she was not going to. it was a real privilege to watch her do that. but she cared about equality and standing up for it from the very first opinion she wrote, which was in a gender-based harassment
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claim in the workplace. she wrote a very sort concurrence, which only she signed. but few years later it became the law and a guiding principle of that concurrence is remember this is about equality. what we are trying to accomplish in the workplace is equality for women. that was her very first opinion. i don't think she had to learn that piece of what she was about. that's foundational for her whole career. >> yeah. guy, talk about the legal legacy of justice ginsburg. what humanal rulings do you think she will be remembered for? >> following up on what margot just said the key case that stands out to me that i think everybody will focus on is the case in which the virginia military institute admitted only men. part of their argument is that their training process is so tough that women can't handle
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it. this was within the sweet spot of the justice's legacy and the many issues that she cared about. not only did it deal with gender inequality, but it was also about sex stereotyping, that saying, there are some things that women can't do. so easily she was able to refute that argument, wrote an opinion that six other justices joined striking down this unequal admissions policy. and in some respects, cemented her legacy. not just as a great litigator, but also having the opportunity as a justice to bring about the things that she cared about as a litigator. and perhaps the other case that i would -- that comes to mind is the voting rights case, the shelby county case. justice ginsburg was also a great dissenter. you see that when she is dissenting from chief justice roberts' position in shelby
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county. he struck down some parts of the voting rights act and justice ginsburg takes him to task. she was a great dissenter. her legacy as an equality -- not just a person who cared about equality as a litigator but as a justice who cared about equality. that's the legacy for which she will be remembered. >> guy, in terms of the big picture, what is at stake with this court vacancy? how will ginsburg's replacement, should it be a conservative shape what's next for the supreme court? >> ginsburg was the leader of the liberal wing of the court. we are going to lose somebody -- we lost someone who was pulling the court in a particular direction along with justice societ sotomayor, they were not willing to compromise on the issue they cared about.
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she have not a pragmatist in that perspective. she was deeply principle about the things that she cared about. you are losing one of the leading voices of the left on the court one of the two major voices on the left of the court, articulating a broader vision of equality and inclusion. and if you replace that person with a -- either a conservative justice or even a moderate justice, you are losing the balance. in some respects, the balance of a court that was already a 5-4 court. it really does change things. >> margot, given that you worked with her back in the day, do you have a specific memory that you hold that may give us some insight into how she was behind the scenes. you -- >> you know, i think the thing that many of her law clerks would point to as the thing they
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learned is a close-up view of her marriage. her husband was perhaps the best tax lawyer in america. they had this marriage that was visibly joyous and equally, professionally and personally equally, where they both parented and they both had these crazy, high-level professional liveless. and that was an amazing thing to watch. and to watch the joy that they took in each other while they supported each other professionally. so i -- i mean, i remember, you know, dinners at her house with the law clerks where marty would cook for everybody. and those are -- and i remember also one dinner she had at the time -- there were -- it wasn't when i was clerking. it was a couple years later. there were three couple who is had been law clerks for her. my husband also clerked for justice ginsburg two years after i did.
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we -- we met in between those two clerkships. and she took all six of us out for valentine's day once. and that is a memory that -- that was pretty amazing, thinking about what we could learn from their marriage. and she really cared about -- she really cared about familiar and treated us as part of her family. >> that is great. i couldn't have asked for you to share a better memory. let's hope that marty and ruth are reunited now together. margot sha langer and guy charles thank you. chief justice roberts says ruth bader ginsburg was a tireless and resolute champion for justice. after the break, a look at beginsberg's place in history and how her jewish heritage shaped her career. when the world gets complicated,
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tributes pouring in for justice ruth bader ginsburg whose death sent shock waves and grief throughout this country. with me now john meacham presidential historian and msnbc contributor. so glad to speak with you about this. i want to know, john, what first comes to your mind when you think of justice ginsburg and her mark on the supreme court? >> she is an iconic american figure devoted to the american experiment of making the promises of the declaration of independence available to all. that we had -- we stated words at the beginning of our national journey that we did not fully live up to and the story of the country at its best ever since has been the inclusion and the recognition of the full implications of a genuine promise of equality. and she was the embodiment of
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that experiment. she was the embodiment of a kind of collegiality that is vanishingly rare throughout american history but particularly rare now. almost extinct now. and so i think you have these two tributaries, her belief in equality, her insistence on using the law as a force for good. it was not her view that the constitution was somehow written in amber, that it was etched in stone and was only to be interpreted by the words on the page, but she was part of a hugely important tradition of jurisprudence that saw the document as a living thing and saw the american founding as an enterprise in reason, that we could, in fact, change our minds as the human journey unfolded. >> you know, john, our colleague
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nbc justice correspondent pete williams, was talking with me a bit earlier today and he spoke about the impact of the death of judge scalia on this country. there was a wide range of reactions because of that. but he did make a comment about the difference between potentially the reaction to his death and that of ruth bader ginsburg because of the multi generational approach. this is a woman who to your point was an icon but there are millennials that are mourning today. what set her apart? >> i think she represented, embodied in many ways because of her gender, because of her religious background, she embodied the possibilities of the country. and justice scalia was a distinguished figure in our history, but justice scalia argued for that originalist
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interpretation i was just describing. he believed -- i don't think this is unfair to say i'm not a lawyer, so let me have a little bit of a mulligan here. but justice scalia essentially believed that wisdom was found by looking back. justice ginsburg believed that wisdom could be found by looking around and looking forward. and i think that's a fair way to put it. and so i think that justice ginsburg had a multi-generational appeal, because people who did not automatically see themselves as part of the american main stream saw in her a pioneer who was blazing a trail that they could then follow. >> john, you mentioned her jewish heritage. is there a specific way that that heritage shaped her career and her legacy? >> well, i think it's, you know, there is a great biblical basis
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for both reason and law. and for an attitude of charity. the great commandment that christians see as the central point of jesus' teaching, to love your neighbor as yourself, is found in leviticus. it's found in the most ancient books of the judeo christian tradition. and so i think she had a respect for reason. i think she had an inclination to reach out as opposed to close your fist. and i think that that doesn't have to have religious, a religious basis. but i think it is in tune and in harmony with the best of what many of our common religious traditions can bring to our public arena. >> how do you think history books are going to judge this
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moment in time, her passing weeks before election, so much political polarization, the pandemic? >> we'll know in about 50 days. i'm a big fan of periods of time that change all of history like the weekend in march where president johnson gets out of the race and dr. king is assassinated and robert kennedy eulogizes king and the country erupts in riots. it was a week where modernity really came about. by the way, there was also a battle over a supreme court opening in that same year. you know, books will be written as long as the republic survives and even if it doesn't, i think, about this campaign. and perhaps this period, itself. between the pandemic, between the loss of justice ginsburg, and the ensuing struggle for power. that is something i would urge everybody to think about. as you're watching the people
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who in the aftermath of justice ginsburg's death are looking at constitutional norms, making up their own norms along the way, a question to ask, whether you're a president or presidential candidate or a senator, the question to ask is, is this person acting for the good of a republic that has endured for 240 years, or is this person acting to amass and cling to power for a particular group? and i think the answer to that will shed a lot of light. >> well, listen. as long as the many books of john meacham remain front and center on our book shelves that is a very good thing. thank you for your time, my friend. thanks to you for joining me. i'll see you tomorrow at noon eastern. up next my friend yasm yasmin vossougnar will continue our coverage. coverageiver your . and the peace of mind of knowing that important things like your prescriptions,
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good afternoon everybody i'm yasmin vossougnar welcome to my new show on msnbc. we'll be here every weekend for you 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. we have a lot to cover in our

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