SCOTUS battle reshapes 2020 election

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:58 p.m. ET, September 21, 2020
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10:56 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Trump says he has to assume Biden will do "great" in debates

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

In a Monday morning interview on "Fox and Friends," President Trump discussed the election and admitted that he has to “assume” former vice president Joe Biden will do “great” in the debates. The first presidential debate is set to take place next week.

“Look, I think he’s a professional. I don’t know if he’s all there but I think he’s a professional… and that he can debate,” Trump said when asked about debating Biden next week.

“I have to assume he’s going to do great — because he’s been there 47 years he’s been in the public service. A long time," he continued.

Trump then added digs against the Democratic presidential candidate saying, “ I don’t understand what’s going on he doesn’t seem to be answering questions and he can’t answer questions. And much worse, a little while ago when he was on stage with the democrats — he couldn’t do well. He did okay with Bernie — it was sort of a tie. It was nothing great… It was ok. It was fine.”

Asked about the Biden campaign’s huge financial edge on his campaign, the president pointed to the last election where he was also outspent by the Clinton campaign. When asked whether he would spend his own money, Trump said: “I would do that…if we needed money- but we don’t need money.”

9:45 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Biden campaign has not signaled a fundamental shift in campaign strategy after Ginsburg's death

From CNN's Arlette Saenz, Sarah Mucha and Tami Luhby

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images
Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden intends to make a push on health care in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death as a political fight over the Supreme Court vacancy is already underway.

In the immediate days after Ginsburg's passing, the Biden campaign has not signaled a fundamental shift in its campaign strategy, which has hinged on the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, as President Trump quickly moved to make the Supreme Court vacancy a central issue in his campaign.

Instead, Biden campaign officials say the former vice president plans to make defending the Affordable Care Act and its sweeping protections for pre-existing conditions a key focus, with an aide saying they view the President's efforts to dismantle Obamacare as a motivating issue for voters.

"Make no mistake: the fight to preserve protections for pre-existing conditions is on the ballot," a Biden campaign aide said.

Biden started that push with a speech in Philadelphia Sunday as he assailed Trump's support of a Republican-led challenge to the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the case one week after the election.

"In the middle of the worst global health crisis in living memory, Donald Trump is before the Supreme Court trying to strip health care coverage away from tens of millions of families, to strip away the peace of mind of more than 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions," Biden said in a speech at the National Constitution Center.

Biden also repeated his call for the Senate not to consider a nominee until after voters have selected the president in this year's election.

Visit CNN's Election Center for full coverage of the 2020 race

9:47 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Here's what is on Trump and Biden's schedules today

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

As President Trump and Joe Biden enter the fall sprint to Election Day, both candidates hit the campaign trail today and are set to deliver remarks.

  • Trump is expected to travel to Ohio, where he will first deliver remarks at a "Workers for Trump" event at 4:30 p.m. ET in Vandalia and then hold a "Great American Comeback" rally at 7:00 p.m. ET in Swanton.
  • Biden travels to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, and is set deliver remarks at 3:15 p.m. ET. This will mark Biden’s second trip to Wisconsin since becoming the official Democratic presidential nominee. He traveled earlier this month to the Milwaukee area and Kenosha, the city where the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake reignited protests over racial injustice.

Check out CNN's Poll of Polls which tracks the national average in the race here.

10:02 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Republicans are speeding toward a SCOTUS confirmation. Here's where things stand in the process.

From CNN's Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox

Senate Republicans, in less than 72 hours, have put themselves on the path to confirm a nominee to dramatically shift the balance of power in the US Supreme Court. And they very well may do it before the November 3 election.

Bottom line: There is no on-ramp or slow lead-up to what's happening at this moment, in the middle of an increasingly divisive election taking place in a fractured country. A colossal battle, the contours of which have been laid over years of judicial fights, disputes and wars, was under way within hours of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Republicans have grown more and more confident they can confirm the liberal icon's successor in the weeks ahead, according to senators and senior aides. But how ‚ and when — is still coming together.

What to watch today:

  • Senate GOP closed-door leadership meeting, 5 p.m. ET
  • Senate vote — and first opportunity to talk to rank-and-file senators — 5:30 p.m.

Days until the election: 43

The reversal: Republicans have had no issue doing a complete 180-degree shift on their 2016 position on holding open a seat in an election year. Officially, it's because the circumstances are different -- unlike 2016, the White House and Senate are controlled by the same party.

The reality is this is just a raw power play. Republicans have the power. They're going to exert that power, and no amount of video clips or old quotes that seemingly make them appear to be hypocrites will change that, according to more than a dozen senators and top aides to whom we spoke over the weekend.

"They'd do the same thing," a GOP senator told CNN, rationalizing the turnabout.

Read more here.


10:01 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Trump says Supreme Court pick is down to 4 or 5

From CNN's Allie Malloy

President Trump discussed his Supreme Court nominee in an interview with Fox and Friends this morning, saying he is still looking at 4 to 5 candidates “very seriously."

“It’s down to five. It could be any one of them,” Trump said on Fox and Friends Monday before adding it was “probably four” candidates.

He did discuss Barbara Lagoa and Amy Coney Barrett by name when asked about the women.

On Lagoa Trump said, “She’s excellent. She’s Hispanic. She’s a terrific woman from everything I know… I don’t know her. Florida. We love Florida.” When asked whether politics is a consideration, Trump said he thinks “less so than the person themselves.”

Trump was also asked about Ginsburg’s dying wish in which she told her granddaughter that she doesn’t want to be replaced until a new president is elected. Trump then claimed that he thinks that statement could have been written by Schiff, Schumer and Pelosi.

“I don’t know that she said that or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi? I would be more inclined by the second… That came out of the wind. Maybe she did or maybe she didn’t. Look the bottom line is we won the election. We have an obligation to do what’s right and act as quickly as possible. We should act quickly because we’re gonna have probably election things involved here because of the fake ballots that they’ll be sending out,” Trump said.

On timing for a vote on his nominee, Trump said he would prefer a vote before the election but said either way, he has a “lot of time.”

“Don’t forget we were put in this position by voters and we have a lot of time. It’s not like we have two days. We have a lot of time as this goes. Whether it’s before or after... I think it should go before. Whether it’s before or after — I mean after we have a lot of time,” Trump said of a vote.

10:00 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Biden and Harris are in contact with Democratic congressional leadership on SCOTUS vacancy

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A Biden campaign aide says that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris and their staff have been in contact with Democratic leadership in the Senate and the House about the Supreme Court vacancy following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, adding that congressional Democrats and the campaign will be “regularly coordinating."

The aide says that they are aligned on the message on the need to protect the Affordable Care Act.

“They are strongly unified in the belief that this fight underscores the stakes of the election more than ever — especially when it comes to Americans' healthcare during the pandemic,” said the aide. 
10:35 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Trump urged to move soon on Supreme Court pick as White House narrows down list

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Ariane de Vogue

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

President Trump spent the weekend preparing to make one of the biggest decisions of his presidency: naming a successor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. As he traveled to North Carolina Saturday and visited the golf course Sunday, Trump was essentially on the phone the entire weekend, two sources said, as he fielded advice and floated potential nominees. In those calls, he’s made one thing clear: he wants to move fast.

Where things stand: Trump had several conversations with lawmakers and spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell multiple times as he made clear his desire to have a confirmation vote on his nominee before the Nov. 3 election. As of Sunday, the White House did not appear to have made a final selection but had instead narrowed down its short list to a handful of candidates. 

On CBS Monday, Kayleigh McEnany said Trump will announce his nominee this week and possibly before Wednesday.

Possible nominees: Amy Coney Barrett has remained the favorite because she is seen as the safest choice in a situation where there is little room for error. A source familiar with the process told CNN Trump was leaning toward Barrett and McConnell, who wants a smooth process, has made his preference for her obvious. The White House is trying to keep the circle tight when it comes to the selection process, but Trump has also received a flood of calls with outside advice on which candidate to select, making that effort difficult at best. 

After Ginsburg died Friday, President Trump initially expressed interest in Barbara Lagoa, a Cuban American judge he had only spoken to once before. Trump’s allies advocated for the Miami-born judge, arguing her hometown could give them a campaign edge. 

Though a source familiar with the process said Lagoa was vetted for the appeals court and the High Court, there was an effort to find out more about her this weekend. Lagoa is not well known in typical judicial circles in Washington that can be tight knit. One point of potential issue that was discussed this weekend was how Lagoa recently joined the majority in a ruling over felons’ rights when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a requirement for fines to be paid before felons regain the right to vote. 

Trump’s initial excitement for Lagoa seemed to fade away as the weekend wore on. 

Chief of staff Mark Meadows, who is leading the process alongside White House counsel Pat Cipollone, is said to have favored Allison Jones Rushing during discussions, though at 38, her young age has been a concern. Cipollone’s deputy Kate Todd is also on the shortlist and has admirers inside the White House, but she is not viewed as a finalist, an official said. 

The White House has not made an ultimate decision about when to announce the nominee. Tuesday was discussed as a potential option, but there were concerns it would step on ceremonies honoring the life of Justice Ginsburg.


9:07 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Trump says he'll likely announce his Supreme Court pick on Friday or Saturday

From CNN's Allie Malloy

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

President Trump said earlier this morning that he will likely announce his Supreme Court pick on Friday or Saturday, and that he has narrowed his list of potential nominees down to four or five people.  

“I think it’ll be on Friday or Saturday and we want to pay respect. It looks like we will have probably services on Thursdary or Friday as I understand it. And I think the respect we should wait for the services to be over for Justice Ginsburg. So we’re looking at probably Friday or maybe Saturday," the President said during an interview on "Fox & Friends."

He added later: "I'm looking at five, probably four, but I'm l'm looking at five very seriously. I'm going to make a decision either on Friday or Saturday, I will announce it either Friday or Saturday."

Read about the notable names on Trump's list of potential Supreme Court nominees here.

9:09 a.m. ET, September 21, 2020

Biden lays out 3 reasons why he won't release his Supreme Court nominee roster

From CNN's Devan Cole and Sarah Mucha

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said Sunday that he won't release a list of potential Supreme Court nominees before the November election, as pressure mounts over the vacancy left in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on Friday.

The former vice president has committed to nominating a Black woman to the bench, but has not gone any further publicly. President Trump, who vowed to nominate a woman hours after Ginsburg's death, had previously named more than 20 potential nominees. Speaking in Philadelphia, Biden outlined three reasons why he won't release his roster, despite pushes from Republicans to do so.

"First, putting a judge's name on a list like that could influence that person's decision making as a judge, and that would be wrong," Biden said. "Second, anyone put on a list like that under these circumstances will be subject to unrelenting political attacks because any nominee I would select would not get a hearing until 2021 at the earliest. She would endure those attacks for months on errand without being able to defend herself."

He continued: "And thirdly and finally, perhaps most importantly, if I win, I'll make my choice for the Supreme Court not based on a partisan election campaign, but on what prior presidents have done ... only after consulting Democrats and Republicans in the United States Senate and seeking their advice and asking for their consent."

Prior to Ginsburg's death Friday, Biden said that he did not intend to provide his list of potential nominees ahead of the election.

Biden reiterated during his remarks in Philadelphia that if elected and given the opportunity to appoint someone to the high court, he would nominate a Black woman — a move that would make history.

Read more here.