WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was booed Thursday as he paid respects to late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He plans to nominate a replacement this weekend for the liberal justice, best known for her advancement of women’s rights.
The president and first lady Melania Trump — both wearing masks — stood silently at the top of the steps of the court and looked down at Ginsburg’s flag-draped coffin, which was surrounded by white flowers. Ginsburg’s death has sparked a controversy over the political balance of the court just weeks before the November presidential election.
Moments after Trump arrived, booing could be heard from spectators about a block away from the court building. They chanted “vote him out” as the president stood near the coffin. Trump walked back into the court as the chants grew louder.
As his motorcade returned to the White House, there were also chants of “Breonna Taylor” from some spectators standing on the sidewalk. Their calls came one day after it was announced that a Kentucky grand jury had brought no charges against Louisville police for her killing during a drug raid connected to a suspect who did not live at Taylor’s home.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said people have First Amendment rights, but she found the jeers “an appalling and disrespectful thing to do as the president honored Justice Ginsburg."
“The chants were appalling but certainly to be expected when you’re in the heart of the swamp," McEnany said.
Trump acknowledged hearing the chant, but dismissed it as not very strong. “We could hardly hear it from where we were,” he told reporters on the South Lawn later Thursday.
Trump has called Ginsburg an “amazing woman.” Her body will lie in state at the Capitol on Friday, the first time a woman receives that distinction, and only the second time it will be bestowed on a Supreme Court justice. William Howard Taft, who had also served as president, was also recognized in such a manner. The body of Rosa Parks, a private citizen and not a government official, previously has lain in honor at the Capitol.
Ginsburg will be buried alongside her husband, Martin, in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery next week. Martin Ginsburg died in 2010.
Meanwhile, the president is expected to announce his nominee to replace Ginsburg on Saturday. He has said he will select from a list of five women. Republicans are working to move quickly to a confirmation vote, possibly even before the Nov. 3 election.
A steady stream of mourners stood outside the high court Thursday. They packed the streets and hundreds waited in line to pay their respects to Ginsburg. The crowd was hushed and respectful, except for when the president arrived.
Attorney Laura French traveled to Washington from Athens, Georgia, to pay her respects. She said she owes her success to trailblazers like Ginsburg. She also said that GOP senators set precedence four years ago when they refused to meet with potential nominee Merrick Garland, and she questioned whether they now had the right to rush through a nominee. She said it was right for Trump to come pay respects, though she doesn’t agree with him politically.
“He should, he’s the president and she gave her life and service to this country and to these beliefs that are in our Constitution,” French said.
Rocky Twyman, who lives in nearby Rockville, Maryland, said Ginsburg’s death was a great loss for the country.
“She believed in equality for all people,” he said.
He said it was right for Trump to come, but questioned his motives.
“I thought it was good, but a lot of people said it was insincere because he’s going to go around and nominate someone for her seat,” he said.
Ginsburg’s granddaughter has said it was Ginsburg’s wish that a replacement justice be chosen by the winner of the November presidential election.
Associated Press videographer Dan Huff contributed to this report.