President Donald Trump offered a blunt explanation for Republicans’ hypocritical support for confirming a Supreme Court nominee ahead of the November election: When you control the Senate, you can “sort of do what you want.”
During a Monday phone interview with “Fox & Friends,” Trump was asked whether he understood why Republicans are facing criticism for appearing to flip-flop on the issue of Supreme Court confirmations during a presidential election year.
After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a confirmation vote on Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s nominee. McConnell claimed at the time that the vote was too close to the 2016 election, and that whoever won that election should pick the nominee.
But hours after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last Friday, McConnell said Trump’s nominee would receive a vote on the Senate floor. The president said Monday that he would announce his nominee this Friday or Saturday, and that a vote should be held before Election Day.
“I think Merrick Garland is an outstanding judge,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” on Monday. “But the only problem was — and this is up to the Senate — the only problem was, President Obama did not have the Senate.”
″[Obama] didn’t get a lot of judges through because you know why? He didn’t have the Senate,” he said. “So again, that’s an election of a different kind. We had the Senate and the Senate didn’t want to do that, and Mitch didn’t want to do that.”
“So there’s a difference. When you have the Senate, when you have the votes, you can sort of do what you want as long as you have it,” Trump continued. “So now we have the presidency and we have the Senate, and we have every right to do it, and we have plenty of time.”
Trump said it might “look a little bit bad” if the Republican-controlled Senate were to vote on his nominee a couple of days before Nov. 3.
“But we have tremendous amount of time,” the president said, undermining McConnell’s purported justification for blocking Garland’s confirmation in 2016. Scalia died 269 days before the 2016 presidential election, while Ginsburg died 46 days before the 2020 presidential election.
“I think it should be voted on and done before the election,” Trump continued. “I think that will be good for the Republican Party, and I think it would be good for everybody to get it over with because it’s always controversial.”
Some Democrats were quick to decry Trump’s “do what you want” remarks.
“This trump quote probably sounds familiar from 2016,” Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) tweeted Monday. “It is also an encapsulation of modern republicanism. Raw power trump all other considerations. ‘We win, the hell with you.’ That should [be] the GOP’s permanent slogan.”
Twitter users noted that Trump’s call for the confirmation vote to happen before the election was impossible since in-person early voting has already begun in at least four states.
Others suggested that his comments were reminiscent of the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape that surfaced ahead of the 2016 election, in which Trump bragged that he could “grab” women by their genitals because he’s famous.