US President Donald Trump has been met with jeers and vows to “vote him out” while visiting the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s coffin.
Wearing coronavirus masks, the President and First Lady Melania Trump briefly stopped by the US Supreme Court on Thursday to pay their respects to the legal trailblazer.
Ginsburg – popularly known as “The Notorious RBG” – died on September 18 at the age of 87 due to complications from pancreatic cancer.
Her flag-draped coffin is resting at the top steps of the courthouse in a public show of respect ahead of a private burial next week, and mourners have flocked to the memorial to lay flowers for the lawyer who spent her career fighting for women’s rights.
But the Trumps’ visit to the memorial was disrupted by crowds who heckled the President, chanting “vote him out” and “honour her wish” – a reference to Ginsberg’s dying hope that she would “not be replaced until a new president is installed”.
Despite her final wishes, Mr Trump has promised to nominate a successor “without delay”, with a female replacement expected to be announced this weekend, as the country is just weeks out from the presidential election.
The issue is contentious because under the US judicial system, a president nominates Justices and the Senate confirms them, with each Justice appointed for life.
If Ginsburg is replaced by a conservative successor, if will significantly alter the balance of the court just over five weeks from the November 3 election, which is expected to be a nailbiter.
The heckling began almost as soon as the Trumps arrived, with some also shouting “Breonna Taylor” as he departed.
That chant was in response to news that no police officers would be charged with the shooting death of Ms Taylor who died during a botched drug raid.
The White House has slammed the behaviour of mourners, with press secretary Kayleigh McEnany describing their actions as “appalling”.
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“I think the chants were appalling but certainly to be expected when you’re in the heart of the swamp,” Ms McEnany told reporters during a White House briefing, the New York Post reports.
“I travel with the President all across the country – Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada – and everywhere we go, the streets are lined with support like I don’t think any other President has had previously.”
Mr Trump learnt of Ginsburg’s death last week during a campaign rally after a reporter asked for his reaction on the news.
Despite their differences of opinion, Mr Trump paid tribute to the “amazing woman”.
“She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman, whether you agree or not. She was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that,” he said of her death.
In an official statement, Mr Trump referred to Ginsburg as a “titan of the law”.
“Renowned for her brilliant mind and her powerful dissents at the Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg demonstrated that one can disagree without being disagreeable toward one’s colleagues or different points of view.”