Return to Transcripts main page
ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Has Died at 87. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired September 18, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Erin, thank you very much.
For those of you just joining us now at the top of the hour, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was more than really a Supreme Court justice, has died.
She was only the second woman ever appointed to the court and was already a legend when she arrived in the fight for gender equality. Sandra Day O'Connor was the first, Justice Ginsburg was the second.
Justice Ginsburg died at home, in Washington, surrounded by family. We are told, from complications of pancreatic cancer. She was 87 years old, and despite her long bout with several different forms of cancer, and all of the complications, she seemed to many, indestructible.
Just last night, she appeared remotely at the National Constitution Center, where she was honored with the center's liberty medal.
In the coming hours, we'll be talking to people who knew her best, we look at her remarkable legacy, both before she got to the Supreme Court, and after, and, whether the president will fill her position with the election fast approaching.
Joining us right now by phone, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. On the phone as well is CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who's written extensively on the Supreme Court. Also on the phone, CNN's Ariane De Vogue, and Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Jeff Toobin, let's start with you.
First of all, just -- I know you were speaking to Erin earlier, but for our viewers who are joining us, just talk about justice Ginsburg.
Jeff Toobin, can you hear me?
Okay, we don't have to win. Let's check in with Sanjay Gupta, just to talk about the medical aspect of this.
Sanjay, pancreatic cancer is obviously an extremely different form. She has been through so much. There were so many people pulling for her, hoping that she would go on for years.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, she's really dealt with a lot, Anderson. I mean, you know, you go back to 1999, 20 years ago, and she was dealing with colon cancer. She was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer back in 2009, so 11 years ago. And, you know, at the time, I think, the thinking was that maybe she may have been able to get through that, and that she was sort of disease free.
In fact, you may remember in January of this year, Anderson, she made an announcement that she was cancer free. Two years ago, before this, she had another type of cancer as well, lung cancer, as well as colon, pancreatic, and then lung cancer. I think it was in May, of this year, Anderson, you may remember, when she had this recurrence, this question of her recurrence. And then again, in July.
And at point, she made it clear that she did have a recurrence. She had dried medications like immunotherapy, and really did not have a response to it. So, at that point, she had a procedure, basically, to open up some of the docks that sometimes become affected by this type of cancer. She was put on a therapy that doctors sort of said was not curative.
It would not be a cancer that would be cared at this point. It's amazing Anderson, she got through the therapy, she got out of the hospital, she was out and about again, she said she would resume her duties. It's a tough therapy she went through. It's a lot to go through, for everybody, obviously, someone who is in her mid to late eighties, even harder.
But she was -- seemed to be doing, OK, but I think at that point, Anderson, I think going back to July now, it was clear, this cancer would not be something that would be effectively treated. We just didn't know how quickly it would spread.
COOPER: Douglas Brinkley is also joining us.
Doug, your thoughts on her passing?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, it is an incredible loss to America. I think of her, and when I teach about her legacy at universities, about being this women's activist. She was an extraordinary fighter for women's rights.
And, you know, Anderson, when Bill Clinton selected hurt, no one thought she would be picked in 1993. They were looking at -- when Bryon White was going to be retiring, and the thought was going to be Breyer. No one thought about Ginsburg.
But Hillary Clinton knew all about her. She was so influenced by her, Hillary Clinton, she told her husband, really, look at her. She has something extraordinary.
It is a funny story because Bill Clinton did not want the press saying it, so they told Ginsburg to come in on a Sunday evening, at the White House, to be incognito, and wear regular clothes.
It was supposed to be an informal, and there is Bill Clinton, watching a football game, all dress in a suit and tie. She was in lounge clothes, and she was deeply embarrassed.
But it took Bill Clinton around 10 minutes to realize that Hillary Clinton was right that this was the winner. And he went to bat for her, and we have to remember, when Bill Clinton picked Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that there have been Republicans in the White House in 12 prior years.
But this was a big thing, like every year, really every 5 months, and Supreme Court justice, appearing to the legend we know. President Clinton told me not that long ago, over the summer, that when had her once come at the Clinton Library in Arkansas, she had so many people waiting, like 15, 000, they had removed from the presidential library to get a sports arena, because her popular was so great.
So, when we look at one, some of Bill Clinton's great moves as president, picking her surely was one of them.
COOPER: Yeah, tonight there is a lot to focus on. There is both the life that she lived, her legacy and also, obviously, the political ramification. The judicial ramifications of this moving forward just in the next several weeks and months. Hillary Clinton just tweeted, quote: Justice Ginsburg paved the way for so many women including me. There will never be another like her. Thank you, RBG.
Dana Bash is standing by, as well.
Dana, just talk about what -- there's a lot of people tuning in wondering what this means for the Supreme Court, what this means for Capitol Hill and a confirmation process and the election.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you think that we have seen bitter partisanship and very divide conference, you haven't seen nothing yet. And this is the crown jewel when it comes to what a president can do and what a Congress can do that lasts a lifetime, and that is to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, especially as important when it comes to the balance of the bench as Ruth Bader Ginsburg's.
The fact that as Manu was talking about earlier that it was four years ago that Republicans who were also in charge of the Senate refused to allow even a hearing for then-President Obama's nominee Merrick Garland because Mitch McConnell said that the American people deserve a voice. You would think that there would be some consistency and that that same Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would say, OK, we're close to election, the American people deserve a voice.
But that's not how it is going to work. What is going to work is the Republican leadership is going to try to do something in the short term, if not is what is known as the lame-duck session, after the election. They're going to try to push this through and, Anderson, when I say this, a presidential nominee to replace her, and the rules right now not to get into nitty-gritty but this matters a lot is they just need a simple majority, and Republicans right now have that.
There is going to be a lot of fighting and I will just tell you real quick, that it was not an accident the Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer released or sent out a tweet saying something along the lines of the American people should have a voice in the selecting of their next Supreme Court justice. He clearly intentionally took the verbatim, verbiage from Mitch McConnell four years ago, to throw it back in his face.
This is going to be a huge, huge brawl.
COOPER: Well, Dana, just to layout because man knew because Manu said it would be unlikely that the Republicans would be able to get a nominee passed by Election Day, but there is a lame-duck session after Election Day.
BASH: Exactly. That's exactly right. They would start the ball rolling and you better believe that particularly Mitch McConnell despite the accusations that are already flying about this blatant hypocrisy, Mitch McConnell in particular, the Republican leader of the Senate, now the majority leader, he has been singularly focused on filling the bench, the federal bench at every level with conservative judges.
It has been remarkable because so much news is going on. We haven't maybe been able to pay attention as much as we could have but it is remarkable how many Trump appointees are now on the bench.
And when it comes to the Supreme Court, that is the ultimate and it is a number one goal and has been his whole career for Mitch McConnell.
So he's probably going to be impervious to accusations of hypocrisy. But I'm already getting texts from Democrats saying that they want to figure out the way around it, to try to block McConnell from doing that, at any time, either now or more likely as Manu saying, in a lame duck session after the election.
COOPER: I want to bring in Jeff Toobin who has written extensively about the Supreme Court in a number of books, "The Nine", "The Oath".
Jeff, first of all, talk about Ruth Bader Ginsburg in person and we'll talk about the politics next.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of the very, very few Supreme Court justices who would have been an epic figure in American history not just American law if she never even served on the Supreme Court. That's how big her influence was as a lawyer.
I mean, she was the Thurgood -- as Thurgood Marshall was the civil rights movement, the general counsel, she was the general counsel of the women's movement, of the arguments that we now almost take for granted that the law has to treat men and women equally.
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg started litigating cases, mostly for the ACLU, during the 1960s and '70s, the differences between how the law treated men and women seem like they came out of another age. And through a series of cases in the Supreme Court which she argued, the law changed. And now, it is almost impossible under the American constitution to
draw distinctions between men and women and that is largely the work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and that contribution is just gigantic in American law.
Now, of course, she was named first to the Circuit Court of Appeals by Jimmy Carter, and then to the Supreme Court in 1993 by Bill Clinton.
She was a liberal justice in conservative times, and she did not have the ability to write majority opinions like the conservative justices like John Roberts, like Samuel Alito have been able to do, but she became an extraordinary icon even in dissent, and she's so associated with dissent during her tenure. And --
COOPER: Jeff, there was a time --
TOOBIN: Her loss to the court will be an enormous one to the country but in particular, to the liberal causes she believes in.
COOPER: And there was a time between -- correct me if I'm wrong -- I think it was 2006 to 2009 where she was the only woman justice on the Supreme Court. Sandra Day O'Connor had retired, Justice Sotomayor had not yet been confirmed or named to the bench.
TOOBIN: That's exactly right. From 2000 -- I think it was 2005 to 2009, she was the only woman.
And she really hated that. I mean, she was someone who believed -- she wasn't someone who wanted to bring up the ladder behind her. She was someone who always wanted to promote women. She was very active in mentoring and supporting other women.
She has become very close on the Supreme Court, to Elena Kagan, who is younger than Ruth Ginsburg's daughter. They have a very close relationship. They are both legal academics before they become judges. She certainly has a mentor relationship with Elena Kagan.
And Elena Kagan is going to be in a -- just a trio of liberal justices now if Donald Trump can succeed in confirming someone, which is not a forgone conclusion. We can -- I'm sure we'll talk about that.
Because Donald Trump wants to fill the seat and just because Mitch McConnell wants to fill the seat, they still need to hold Republicans or 49 or 50 of them so they can get Vice President Pence to fill a tie, to break a tie, you know, it's not over.
So let's, you know, we're going to put a pin in that discussion but that's not a forgone conclusion.
COOPER: Also, Jeff, when you look at her past, you talk about the career she had before. But the life she had before the career she had before the Supreme Court is also just really extraordinary where she came from, raised in Flatbush in Brooklyn.
[20:15:10] She had a sister who had died as a child, I think, when she was still very, very young. Her mother died when she was just about to graduate high school. She went to Cornell. She then met her husband -- future husband at Cornell. They get married like a month after she graduates from Cornell and she ultimately had a child and then after being married and had a child, went to Harvard Law School.
And I want to play something from a documentary RBG. This is Justice Ginsburg talking about her mom who passed away when she was 17.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT: My mother died when I was 17. I wish I could have had her longer.
NINA TOTENBERG, NPR: Her mother must have been a very steely person because she had cancer a long time and lived trying to get her child through high school.
GINSBURG: She had two lessons that she repeated over and over. Be a lady and be independent. Be a lady meant don't allow yourself to be overcome by useless emotions like anger, and by independent, she meant, it would be fine if you met prince charming and lived happily ever after, but be able to fend for yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Erin Carmen, co-author of "Notorious RBG", joins us by phone.
Erin, that loss that she lived through as a teenager in high school, the fact that she was able to propel herself to Cornell and then after marriage and having a child to then go and go to Harvard law school and with all the discrimination she even faced at Harvard Law school where I think she was one of like six or nine women.
ERIN CARMEN, CO-AUTHOR, "NOTORIOUS RBG" (via telephone): She was one of nine. Yeah, one of nine women.
COOPER: Out of a class of like 500.
CARMEN: Yeah. Anderson, she was somebody who was shaped by loss very early on. She was someone who not only lost her mother but her sister, her husband struggled with cancer when they were in law school and she would stay up all night taking care of him. She learned to get by on two hours of sleep long before her cancer diagnosis.
I mean, you could say cancer was this shadow that haunted both her family and herself. And yet, the fact that she really wanted to fulfill the dreams that her mother had for herself, for her, her mother had a dream of education for herself that was not realized. She herself dreamed of a life in the law, a life fighting for what was right and to have a profession in a very practical sense, and the kind of perseverance and tenacity she showed throughout her life, throughout cancer, broken ribs, repeated hospitalizations, the loss of her husband, being the only woman on the court, seeing the politicization of the court, seeing how jaggedly it moved to the right when President Bush was able to replace the moderates on the court, throughout all of it, she really beat the odds.
Unfortunately, she couldn't beat these odds. It was a life repeatedly defined by defying people's views of her.
COOPER: Defying people's expectations. I read a story that when she got to Harvard Law School, the dean, I think of Harvard Law School I think took -- brought all the nine women to dinner who were students and I don't want to paraphrase but said something to the effect, what did he say?
CARMEN: He asked all of the women to stand up and justify how it was they could take the place of a man. And Justice Ginsburg was honest a fault and perhaps she was joking. But to my knowledge, what she said was not true. She said she was hoping to be a better wife to her husband.
The real reason Justice Ginsburg was at Harvard Law School is she had a passion for the law. She loved her work. It was a great love of her life, the law.
She used the law as an instrument to expand rights and equality for people who have been written out of the original "we, the people," but she was just somebody who whole heartily devoted herself to the task. And so, no, she was not at Harvard Law School to make a better dinner conversation with her husband, although they had a wonderful relationship.
COOPER: And she loved Harvard Law School, ended up going to Columbia graduating like first on her class, or tied for first in her class.
CARMEN: Yes, she did. Yes, in fact, when she got to Columbia, everybody sort of had been warned of her. She joined the law review at two different Ivy League institutions which I believe broke a record at the time. But despite that sterling achievement, Anderson, she was not able to find a job for the longest time.
She said that there was three strikes against her. She was a woman. She was a mother and she was a Jew. And it was in fact, having so many doors slammed in her face that led her to the cause of gender equality.
She -- you know, she might have ended up at a law firm had she been given more chances and instead, her own experience with discrimination both as a mother, as a woman, religious discrimination instead led her to think about how to broaden opportunities for a greater range of people, instead led her to figure out how to use the Constitution to make we the people more than just an idea, more than a broken promise.
COOPER: Erin, thank you so much.
I want to bring in Joan Biskupic.
Joan, can you talk about Ginsburg on the court and the role that she has played in her time on the court? JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Yes, Anderson, it's been a
transformation. She came on in 1993 as more of a centrist. She wasn't that liberal. She had had a very moderate record on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
But over time, she became the left ward flank of this court especially in -- after 2010 when Justice John Paul Stevens retired and she became the senior liberal and was in charge of assigning -- usually the dissents, sometimes majority opinions but usually dissents, and she really found her voice then. She actually became the Notorious RBG after her 2013 dissent in the case known as Shelby County versus Holder when the five justice conservative majority cut back on the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
And with each year she dug in harder and harder on the left and frankly was more critical of President Donald Trump. You probably remember in 2016 when she ended up speaking a bit out of school saying he's such a faker. He has such an ego.
She ended up retracting those statements that she had said to me in an interview but she's remained pretty harsh against him and during the recent Trump documents cases at the Supreme Court, she noted that he still hadn't turned over his tax returns. So, she only became more outspoken and moved more to the left, a sort of personal transformation.
COOPER: And she really did not want to have President Trump be a president to fill a vacancy that she would leave. Is that correct?
BISKUPIC: That -- you know, that's certainly the presumption. I know that she -- people close to her have said that she said she was holding on for dear life certainly. The last public statement she made following some treatment in July was that she's going to stay as long as she can and as long as she can keep doing the job and she certainly went right up to the very end.
Anderson, she really believed in being as visible as possible. I think that's why she kept trying to tell people what was happening with her health as she learned new information, and I noticed you asked earlier about the time when she was the only woman on the court from January of 2006 when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stepped down until August of 2009 when Sonia Sotomayor came on.
And there was a time in there when she was suffering from cancer during a period in 2009 when she was first treated for the pancreatic cancer, and she got up off her sick bed to show up at a joint session of Congress, right after Barack Obama had taken office and I remember asking her, why did you do that? How could you do that? She was being treated for very serious cancer back then.
And she said, I want to be visible. I want to show all people watching that joint session that the Supreme Court had at least one woman on it, and that was something that she always used her voice to be more present and sort of spread the credit to other women, always helping others come up a long with her. So I would say between the transformation and her efforts at
visibility that are much different than other justices now on the court in that realm, she will -- this is a true national loss.
COOPER: We should point out that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at half staff at the Capitol.
Joan, just in term of what the court looks like without her and where the -- how the balance tips.
BISKUPIC: Well, that is an excellent question because, you know, it's now the liberals really are on the downside. They come out of a good material. The 2019-20 term was a pretty good one for the liberals, even though they are on the minority, they held on to -- they stopped a lot of reversals of law and managed to work with two justices on the right wing to expand for protections for gay and transgendered workers. So, managed to preserve abortion laws out this point.
So, now, with the possibility of Donald Trump nominating a third person to the court, nominate and get confirmation of a third conservative appointee, this is going to become a 6-3 court and no longer four liberals hoping to woo over Chief Justice Roberts feels a sense of balance at the court, now Chief Justice John Roberts, it won't be in his hands. It could potentially be in the hands of a Brett Kavanaugh depending on what happens, depending on what happens, Anderson.
But it's a much -- it's a much different court today than it's been at any other point. You know, we've -- since the '70s, we've talked about this consecutive court but we're now tipped to a place where the right wing controls like it never has before.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, I know you wanted to say something.
TOOBIN: Well, that is certainly, certainly true. When you look at the list of potential nominees that the President Trump has put forward, this is a deeply, deeply right wing court and John Roberts who has shown signs of moderation would be irrelevant because you have Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and the new nominee. So, Roberts would be irrelevant.
But, you know, I do think -- you know, we're going to talk politics here. You know, the Democrats can pretend they are powerless in this situation or they can pick a fight for once and it will be -- the idea that Mitch McConnell could engage in the greatest act of hypocrisy by stopping Merrick Garland who faced a vacancy in February of an election year and jamming someone through when there is a vacancy in September of an election year, you know, I don't think that's a forgoing conclusion.
I also recognize that there are only 53 Republicans in the Senate. And, you know, will Mitt Romney go along with this? Will Lisa Murkowski, will Susan Collins, will Lamar Alexander? I mean, the idea this is somehow a forgone conclusion Donald Trump can jam someone through before election day or during the lame duck, I don't think is necessarily the case. So, you know, we'll as the president says, we'll see what happens. But
it's not a done dell.
COOPER: There's we have some sound of Mitch McConnell talking about vacancy. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Should a Supreme Court justice die next year, what will your position on the filling that spot?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): We fill it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, Jeff, you say it's not a forgone conclusion. What are the options for Democrats?
TOOBIN: Well, the -- there are several. First of all, there is political pressure on the Republican Party. I mean, it is not a complicated political issue to say, you know, you said all of you Republicans said that February was too late. Why was February too late but September is okay?
The -- and, you know, there are Republican whose are politically vulnerable on this issue. There are Republicans running for office right now. Are they all going to just say to their voters, you know, we are going to be the greatest hypocrites in American history? I mean, you know, maybe yes, some will. But it's not a guarantee that all will.
And, you know, the Senate is also a body that works on the concept of unanimous consent. If they want to go proceed with anything. The Democrats can force a vote on absolutely everything to delay this. Now, can they delay it until January 20th? I don't know. What will Republicans do if Joe Biden wins the election? Will they really try to jam through a nominee including senators who lost the election?
I mean, I again, I don't know the answers to these questions. There are only two formal rules that the Democrats have at their disposal. One, is that after the Senate Judiciary conducts a hearing, they have a right to delay for one week. The vote in the committee. Then in the Senate itself, they have the right to insist on at least 30 hours of debate before the cloture, before they move to a vote. Now, neither of those are enough to go till January 20. But the senate procedures have a lot of flexibility in them. And if Democrats want to want to fight they can fight.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I'm going to Jim Acosta, who is monitoring for reaction from the White House. Jim, are you hearing anything?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, this White House is frozen right now in terms of a response to the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. President Trump took the stage at a rally in Minnesota. Just a few moments before Ruth Bader Ginsburg passing was announced. And so, talking to some White House officials. They are not certain that the President knows about this. They don't believe that he knows about this yet and will be briefed after he leaves the stage in Minnesota. But getting back to, you know whether or not President Trump would seek to fill the seat left by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I will tell you what a couple of Trump campaign advisers are telling me so far. And that is definitely yes. And in the words of one Trump campaign advisor, I just spoke with a few moments ago, Trump will follow the constitution period.
We should point out back in August, he was doing a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt and said absolutely, he would do it. The Democrats would do it and as Jeffrey Toobin was just walking us through they tried it. The Democrats tried to do it back in 2016. But Mitch McConnell and the Republicans blocked them from filling the seat of Antonin Scalia with Merrick Garland and now you have a situation where Mitch McConnell is going to try to fill the seat.
Now, obviously, there are huge political implications and all of this, whether or not the President seeks to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Of course, I think he will. This gives him a powerful weapon out on the campaign trail. The President or his campaign were concerned about depressed or deflated, Trump supporters. This kind of news is going to energize that base. And keep in mind in the last couple of weeks, he was putting out a list of potential Supreme Court nominees, people like Ted Cruz, people like Tom Cotton, some of the nominees, some of the ideas he put out there. Some of the people that he put out there were already saying if they're put on the High Court, they will seek to strike down Roe versus Wade.
And so, you know, this is obviously a mobilizing, energizing, animating issue for President Trump heading into the final weeks of this campaign. We do expect the White House to put out some kind of statement tonight. I expect that they'll lower the flags to half staff as Speaker Pelosi has done up on Capitol Hill and we may hear from the President shortly as he gets off the stage where he's been speaking about an hour now Anderson. But I suspect once he gets off in his brief that he will probably talk to reporters if not on camera before getting on Air Force One. Then on Air Force One in an off camera gaggle with reporters will get some kind of reaction from the White House. I think in short order Anderson.
COOPER: There had been some headlines, several I think it was a week or so ago about the President putting out other names of potential Supreme Court nominees.
ACOSTA: That's right. And he put out a number of senators names Ted Cruz, Josh Holley, Tom Cotton. I believe Tom Cotton almost immediately said that he would try to -- he would seek to strike down Roe versus Wade or that it's time for Roe versus Wade to go. A number of, you know, stars in the conservative movement, from a legal standpoint are also on that list. There has been, you know, a steady drumbeat of support for the President to nominate Amy Coney Barrett. Her name was floated the last time around when the President nominated Brett Kavanaugh before that battle royale up on Capitol Hill.
And, you know, we're told by sources that the President likes Amy Coney Barrett and that and that potentially she's very high on that list. Obviously, that's all in theory. All of that discussion was happening in theory, heading up until this moment, Anderson. And I think we are, you know, like we've seen just about in every other aspect of our lives in 2020, we are seeing something that is truly I hate to use the word unprecedented, because it feels like cliche, but just something extraordinary that the President would have the opportunity to fill three Supreme Court vacancies during his first term in office. I mean, obviously, he would have a massive effect on the court if he's allowed and able to push through pick.
COOPER: Jim Acosta, thanks very much. We're going to take a short break. We'll have more on the life, the legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we'll be right back.
COOPER: Bring you reaction to the passing Supreme Court Justice -- Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of cancer at age 87. Here she's speaking out about her late husband.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, FMR ASSOCIATE JUSTICE: I have had the great good fortune to share life with a partner. Truly extraordinary for his generation. A man who believed at age 18 when we met that a woman's work, whether at home or on the job is as important as a man's.
I became a lawyer in days when women were not wanted by most members of the legal profession. I became a lawyer because Martin supported that choice unreservedly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us is Betsy West, the director of the documentary RBG. Betsy, it's good to see you. Thank you for being here. I'm sorry to under these circumstances. It is extraordinary that they met in Cornell as undergraduates, got married right after she -- they had a child. And then I mean, Ruth Bader Ginsburg could very, very easily, you know, raise the child in those times. She chose to go to law school, went to Harvard Law School, and then transferred to ultimately Columbia.
BETSY WEST, DIRECTOR, RBG: Yes, I mean, you know, her husband was in law school. And actually, she initially said that she wanted them to be together in law school, she turned out to be an extraordinary student. You know, she was on the law review, both at Harvard and then at Columbia. And then, you know, she did have some discouragement in trying to get the kind of job that she really was trained to do. And she had a toddler at home and yet she kept on, you know, when she faced discrimination, I mean, against her as a woman, what did she do? She ultimately found a way to win a quality and for all women, not just yourself, you know, it's extraordinary achievement.
COOPER: And the, the resilience that she showed, I mean the struggle that she had with cancer, you know, it has gone on for so long.
WEST: Oh my goodness.
COOPER: And I mean, the amount of the pain that she has been in and yet continuing to work and keep a schedule that, you know, I couldn't keep up with.
WEST: Yes, I mean, the sort of lost track of the number of cancer incidents, and yet she would bounce back. I mean, this was an extraordinarily determined woman.
WEST: You know, energetic. But, you know, the one thing I want to say is that she loved her job. You know, she loved the work. And I think part of the determination was that she felt that she was making a contribution to our society. And she wanted to keep doing it.
WEST: And one time. We saw her on a on a Friday night late into the afternoon in her chambers, and when she said goodbye to us, she said, up back to the coal mine. And there, she was going back to her desk, to keep working.
COOPER: Besty, if you will just hold on one second. I want to bring in an NPR Legal Affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Nina, your thoughts tonight on the loss that that the court has suffered in this country has.
NINA TOTENBERG, NPR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: As an historic figure yet Chief Justice Roberts said that today. He said in the in the court statement, he said our nation has lost a jurist of historic stature with the Supreme Court have lost the chairs colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as we knew her a tireless and resolute champion of justice. And she was all of that. Betsy West is right she did love her job. She had planned, in fact to retire and be replaced by a nominee of the first woman president because she really thought that Hillary Clinton would be elected. And fate dealt her a -- the card is not that way. And she just soldiered on and she played.
I mean, she could have taught an NFL defense event how to play hurt. I've never seen anybody play hurt, broken ribs, chemo, radiation, shingles, you name it, this woman endured it and continue to do the most incredible quality work. And one of the last thing she said to she dictated a statement to her daughter, her granddaughter, it said, my furthest, most fervent wishes that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed. And by that she meant a new president, post election, whomever that may be. She knew what was to come that her death will have profound consequences for the court in the country. Inside the court that, the courts lost the leader of the liberal wing. Chief Justice John Roberts no longer holds the controlling vote in some of the closely contested cases. Like about DACA or the census that he where he is cast, deciding vote voting in those cases with the liberal justices or himself and himself writing the court's opinion.
But he will have a fifth vote anymore in all likelihood, that the court will either be at loggerheads, you know, and a tie vote. Or Republicans will be able to muscle through a nomination from President Trump to replace Ginsburg, which is clearly something that she didn't want.
COOPER: Yes, Nina Totenberg. I know you have to get to work. I appreciate your time tonight.
TOTENBERG: Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Back with Betsy West, the director of the documentary RBG. What was she like personally, I mean, just to be around?
WEST: Yes, I mean, very soft spoken and obviously very intimidating. The first time I met her because she has that sort of quiet aura. And yet, she had a great sense of humor. She really did love to laugh. And I think, also, you know, she was, I think proud of what she had accomplished. But she also had a kind of characteristic modesty. I mean, I look back at the question that Julie Cohen and I asked her about how she wanted to be remembered. And it's with this kind of modesty, she said, just as someone who did whatever she could, with whatever limited talent she had to move society along in the direction, she would like it to be for her children and grandchildren.
COOPER: It's an extraordinary documentary and what an amazing experience must have been to have that time with her.
WEST: Yes, no, it was. And to get a sense of how she did just keep on going. I mean one of my favorite moments and filming the documentary and it was an honor to be able to tell her story was when we asked her with some trepidation. Could we film that legendary workout that we'd heard about that she was working out with a trainer? We didn't quite know what to expect. We were a little surprised when she said yes. But I have to say that being in that gym with her and her trainer, Brian Johnson and seeing the focus and the determination that she was putting into keeping herself in good shape. I mean, she was a role model for older women. And, you know, I thought afterward well, yes, she did let us film it. She was she was proud of it and why not?
COOPER: Betsy West, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
WEST: Yes. OK.
COOPER: I want to go Manu Raju. Manu, let's talk about the politics of this and how the -- this fight which is no doubt. I mean, if you thought this election was intense so far, it's just ratcheted up significantly.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it and the fight over the replacement will be something that we have not seen in some time. The question for the Republicans right now is will they move on a nominee? How quickly will they move on a nominee? And from what we can tell and from talking towards sources, moving on a nominee, getting someone confirmed to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg before November will be difficult because there's just simply not as much time as it typically would take to get a nominee confirmed. Typically Anderson, is about two to three months to get a nominee through the process that paperwork, the FBI background checks, the confirmation hearings, and all the like that takes two to three months.
But there could be enough time to get some confirmed before the end of the year. And that's significant because on November 3rd, of course, the election, if the Republicans lose control of the Senate, if they lose the White House, then there'll be a change of power in January, there'll be a lame duck session of Congress that would have curve from after the election until January. And the question is whether the Republicans would be willing and would they move on a nominee in that lame duck session? The question that we're hearing from Republicans tonight is whether or not they would have the votes to move forward with someone. And if they have the votes, almost certainly they would move to confirm someone. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader has made very clear that he would confirm serve any nominee, any vacancy this year despite his position in 2016. When he sat on President Obama's replacement for Antonin Scalia, Merrick Garland, he said, let the voters decide in 2016, he left that vacant for almost a year for more than a year until the President Trump's replacement came in.
McConnell now says that that's different because there was a Democratic -- Democrat in the White House, a Republican Senate. Now there's a Republican senate and a Republican White House, so completely different situation. So he's willing to move. But he's only willing to move if he has the votes. The question is, will he have lose fuel than four Republican senators. There's a 53-47 Senate right now. And already Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has said she does not want to move forward with someone before November. Susan Collins of Maine also said the same thing. Collins is also indicated separately to the New York Times. She told them that she would not support a nominee in a lame duck session of Congress if Joe Biden worked when the White House.
So, that means that the Republicans will have to determine whether if they've already lost Collins in the lame duck session. Maybe Murkowski too, will they be able to stem their affections to lose maybe no more than one other senator to ensure that they could have in that 51 senators to essentially confirm a nominee? So, at the moment, Anderson, it's really a question of counting the votes. Will the conference be there, will there'll be enough support to move forward because if there is almost certainly Mitch McConnell will push ahead and that will call this momentous fight. Because of course, this could swing the court for generations affect Americans --
COOPER: Manu, let me just ask though, you're saying the -- it normally takes two to three months for an FBI background check and paperwork. You're telling me that if the Republicans -- if this White House really did want it badly enough that they couldn't fast track a confirmation process?
RAJU: It could certainly --
COOPER: In the 50 plus days that are left before the election?
RAJU: They certainly could and that would be harder to do. It would put a lot of Republicans in a tough spot. And it's not without precedent to move someone that quickly. Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself move quickly through the confirmation process. Of course, that was a much different time than we're in right now. But that's -- that is from what I'm hearing a less likely scenario. More likely is to see if someone could be confirmed in a lame duck session. But then that adds all those complications --
RAJU: -- that I just mentioned. And Anderson at the end of the day, it's are the votes there? And that's what Mitch McConnell is going to have to determine.
COOPER: Yes. Manu Raju, really appreciate it. Thank you very much. Gloria Borger, so much to talk about. Your thoughts right now?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, I can get into the Byzantine politics. And I will, because there's some things I want to add to what Manu said. And he's described the situation perfectly. But let me just say that this is a Supreme Court justice, that most people in this country feel that they know one way or another. This is an iconic woman who matters a lot to women, women of my generation, women of a younger generation. A Supreme Court justice, who had her story, her success, and the way she achieved it, and the battles she fought for women mean a lot in this country. So, you have the fight on one level in the Senate, and I'll talk about that. But you also have another -- you have another playing field here. And that is women in this country. This will one way or another, mobilize women. This is an important. She was an important person for women in this country. I mean, women stand in awe of her achievement.
And she told according to Nina Totenberg, who probably knows her, Betty, better than any other journalist, she, you know, she said that she did not want to be replaced until a new Senate was installed. I think those words might matter to some women, if this is trying to get shoved through the United States Senate.
And let me talk about that for a moment because Mitch McConnell will say this is different from Merrick Garland, and he's saying this is because there's a Republican Senate and a Republican White House. And so, he can play his kind of Byzantine political games here. Well, this is very different. Like maybe I can't do it right now, but I'll do it in lame duck. OK. What if the Congress changes hands in a lame duck? What if the Democrats take control of the Senate? And what if there is a new president? I mean, these are things that the voters are going to have to look at and say what is fair. One other thing I want to point out to you, which my producer Ann Colwell (ph) sent me, which is a great list of Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who are actually up for reelection now. So you have the chairman, Lindsey Graham, you have a John Cornyn. You have Ben Sasse, Tom Tillis, Joni Ernst, tough races. These are going to be tough fights. What are these Republicans going to do? They're going to fall in line behind Mitch McConnell, maybe. But we just don't know.
COOPER: We're going to take a short break. We're going to have a lot more on the life the legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And what happens next politics also. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Let's get our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, McConnell has made a statement understand.
RAJU: Yes, yes. And he makes very clear that the nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg will receive a vote in the United States Senate this year. That means a Republican majority in the Senate will try to confirm President Trump's replacement no matter what happens in the November elections. Now in McConnell statement, he doesn't specify a timeframe. So, the question is exactly when that would happen. From what I am told from Republican sources that it's more likely to happen after November 3rd. Then before November 3rd, there is a time period between November and January and so-called lame duck session of Congress in which the outgoing Senate Republican -- Senate Majority and outgoing President if the president loses, there'll be opportunity to pass some litigious legislative business. At that point, they may try to confirm a nominee but Mitch McConnell doesn't specify one way or the other.
Ultimately, the question for him is whether he has the votes say there's a 53-47 Republican majority right now. He can't afford to lose more than three Republican votes. If there are 50 loses for Republican votes, then there will not be someone confirmed. And at the moment, there are several Republicans are concerned about moving forward before the election. That includes Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has even indicated in the past some apprehension from moving forward before the election, there are lots of Republicans in difficult reelection races. And typically a timeframe for confirming a nominee takes between two to three months.
So, it seems that it's just highly unlikely someone could get confirmed before November.