tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC September 18, 2020 5:30pm-6:00pm PDT
"nightly news" will lester holt will be live with the latest of the passing of justice ginsburg. >> you may not agree with her policy but this is a woman who certainly changed our country. we'll be back at 6:00. this is nbc nightly news with lester holt. good evening, everyone, we begin with breaking news as we come on the air in the west supreme court associate justice ruth bader ginsburg has died at the age of 87. just weeks before the start of the court's fall session, and in the shadow of a presidential election, now just 45 days away. now a time for mourning for a remarkable career and life well lived. but also a loss rocking the political universe tonight the battle lines over the court's future already being drawn. let's begin with pete
williams >> reporter: ruth bader ginsburg was consistently one of the u.s. supreme court's moderate to liberal members, first as a lawyer then a judge and a justice, she believed the constitution guaranteed women greater rights. >> over the course of now over two centuries it has grown and developed so that more and more people are included in that concept we the people. >> reporter: rejected after law school for a supreme court clerkship because she was a woman she began her legal career as a law professor and pyre nearing advocate for women's rights -- sue for sex discrimination it was president carter who first appointed her to be a federal judge. >> she has genuinely distinguished herself -- >> reporter: then in 1993 president clinton put her on the supreme court. >> it contributes to the end of the days when women, at least half the talent pool
in our society, appear in high places, only as one at a time performers at her confirmation hearing she clearly stated her support for the right to abortion. >> this is something central to a woman's life, to her dignity. >> reporter: and as a justice she voted to uphold abortion rights she wrote the court's opinion putting an end to the men only policy at vmi, the virginia military institute saying it was based on outmod outmoded stereotypes shch she ruled, quote, death is not a suitable punishment for a mentally retarded criminal, she also voted to roll back bush administration policies on the war on terror, a blis terring opinion in a case about equal pay for women renewed her standing as a feminine icon she was nicknamed notorious rbg, a play
on a rapper's name and featured in a documentary movie. >> i am 84 years old and everyone wants to take a picture with he. >> reporr:maied a fellow student in college, martin ginsburg. they had two children. years later she recalled receiving some practical advice on her wedding day. >> it pays, mother said, it pays sometimes, to be a little deaf. i have followed that advice with only occasional option, not only at home, but in the places i have worked and even in relating to my colleagues at the supreme court. >> reporter: the passionate opera fan she appeared in several washington productions in full costume, but in silent roles. regular checkups and early intervention helped her recover from three surgeries for colon, pancreatic and lung cancer. and doctors inserted a
stint after discovering blockage in a heart artery. she missed surprisingly few days on the bench but now the court's most powerful liberal justice is gone. pete williams, nbc news, at the supreme court. >> and pete joins us now. pete, what more do we know tonight about justice ginsburg's death? >> reporter: the court said she died today at home, at her home here in washington, that she was surrounded by family members and they say the cause of death was pancreatic cancer, which of course is what everyone was fearing when that was diagnosed. the chief justice john roberts has issued a statement tonight. he says our nation as lost a jurist of historic stature we at the supreme court have lost a cherished colleague. today we mourn, but with confidence that future generations will remember ruth bader ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and res louis champion of justice, lester. >> pete, we know the conversations are going on right now in the halls of power what could this mean
for the balance of the court? >> reporter: well, it leaves it now a supreme court with two issues number one, it's a tied supreme court, just eight justices. the last time we went through this, after the death of antonin scalia, the court sat back and didn't make any important decisions but now you have a court that's with just eight justices, five solid conservatives, and just three justices on the other side so will this be a term in which they want to go ahead and try to make as many decisions as they can and remember, lester, just the week after the presidential election the court hears a very important case on the future of obamacare and this supreme court could be called upon to make decisions about the presidential election, if, as in 2000, a case about the election ends up in the supreme court. >> pete williams tonight, pete, thank you. and hallie jackson joins us now hallie, the president at a rally right now what are you hearing about his reaction to all this >> reporter: we don't know yet, lester and it's not even clear if
the president has been informed about the death of justice ginsburg he started speaking at this rally prior to the news breaking. we are still working to report out whether the white house was given or may have been given a heads up by the ginsburg family. based on the comments at the rally he has talked about judicial nominees in his campaign but it appears as though, looking at my screen to see him at the rally now, he may not have been told it's not certain if that is the case this would be truly an extraordinary split screen where most of the country, including the president's own family members, his own chief of staff now tweeting about this is the aware of the death of justice ginsburg and president trump may not be we can expect a statement from the white house. i'm told that by one white house official and another senior administration official says this is something, a scenario, that was not completely implausible. there is an expectation now that the ball in many ways is in mitch mcconnell's court, of course the senate majority leader but the white house in
this official acknowledging the potential that there will be a lot of pressure on some senate republicans, specifically susan collins and lisa murkowski on this issue of whether a nominee will get through, or could get through before either election day or an inauguration if president trump does not, for example, win reelection so a critical political moment, lester, this is really setting up drama like we haven't seen in washington, d.c. keep in mind that the president has made this issue of judicial nominees so central to his campaign, so central to his administration so far, it is something he talks about at every major speech he gives, including a u.s. have audiotape kl weeks ago at the republican national convention, lester the president over the summer when justice ginsburg was hospitalized wished her well in the rose garden but his chief of staff around the same time was asked what would happen, if, for example, there were a vacancy before election day and mark meadows said at the time ahead no reason to believe that the president would do anything other than move forward on another nomination keep in mind the president just released within the
last week or so his list of potential supreme court nominees were this scenario to happen, not in the context of any death, of course, of any nominee, but in the context of a campaign. this is something the president did during the 2016 campaign as well there are a lot of moving pieces and white house officials are very on top of this news tonight, even if the president may or may not be aware. >> anything coming from the biden camp? >> reporter: so he also was campaigning in minnesota today, lester, both he and the president had these campaign events. as this news is breaking joe biden was also, what we would call, out of pocket, he was on a plane, traveling back to wilmington, delaware so it would be surprising if we did not hear from the biden campaign, or from joe biden himself. we've already heard already statements from other presidents, including former president bush and carter and others, so clearly this is something that is reaching a critical mass now. >> all right, hallie, thank you. and ruth bader guns burg was an institution in washington, and had a
huge following what does this mean not just politically, but for the country? i want to bring in our political director and moderator of meet the press chuck todd chuck, ginsburg's death comes as 46 days before the election. what are the political implications here? >> well, look, it's obviously given how close we are to the presidential election, how central the supreme court has been as hallie brought up to donald trump's sort of political legacy, look, i will -- one of the things i will go to my grave believing is that i think donald trump won in 2016 at the end because of the vacant supreme court seat that had been sitting there vacant due to the death of anthony scalia i believe it had a huge impact on donald trump becoming president. i do expect the president to be pretty aggressive here, and likely attempt to at least perhaps name a nominee, almost to put somebody out there as a way to perhaps tantalize his political base, maybe in hopes that he can
somehow get skeptical republicans back but i'll tell you this, she is such an icon you know, you think about supreme court justices, not many, you know, people know there are nine, not many become as famous as her thurgood marshall, ruth bader ginsburg, leapt above the rest of the justices. you know, she -- i think this could stir some passions in the liberal base, of this country. in ways that i think could also fire up the democrats. so i think this is one of those things that it's political dynamite it's explosive it's all of those things because it's a a vacancy and it could be such a tipping point for the supreme court ideologically for quite some time. in some ways it's hard to think you can energize this presidential race anymore, but having this supreme court opening will. >> all right, thank you, chuck nbc's kasie hunt covers congress for
us kasie, justice ginsburg's replacement will have to be approved by the u.s. senate, which we've noted, which is controlled by republicans. how might this play out? >> reporter: well, lester, in many ways it is impossible to imagine a more combustible scenario in the u.s. senate the tensions are already so high. the partisan passions so intense just 40 plus days ahead of an election to have something like this happen, which under normal circumstances, or more normal circumstances, i should say, is already such a -- something that inflames passions on both sides, and drives people into their partisan corners it's going to likely be that much worse and there is going to be enormous pressure on some of the moderate republicans in the senate to potentially buck their leader, mitch mcconnell, who's been pretty clear, he's been asked, will you
fill a vacancy in an election year when control of the white house is on the line and remember, democrats very angry about how he handled the death -- or the nomination in the wake offant anyo of -- when he refused to confirmer rick garland to the court do republicans think they should use the same standard in this case, should they say it's up to the american people to select the president who's going to be able to nominate the person to fill this vacancy so there are in particular three senators, lisa murkowski of alaska, susan collins of maine, she is up for reelection, and mitt romney, the former republican presidential nominee, who are really going to be scrutinized under the spotlight here and who could potentially swing this against mitch mcconnell. but right now, of course, everyone in the senate focused on condolences, thinking about ruth bader
ginsburg's family, her legacy so i don't anticipate we're going to see too much politicking along these lines until tomorrow morning lester >> all right, kasie hunt, thank you very much. i want to bring in andrea mitchell. andrea, you've covered washington for a very long time. you've heard us set the table here as to all that surrounds this i want to hear your thoughts >> reporter: well, my thoughts are also personal because i knew her fairly well she married my husband and me back in 1997. i knew her as a great lover of classical music and certainly of opera, her relationship with justice scalia, the fact that she couldn't get a job coming out of law school, and she shared that with justice sandra day o'connor, the first woman on the court and she told a story, just after martin ginsburg died, only two weeks later, i saw her at a private dinner in aspen, at the aspen ideas festival and she had come to aspen with her grandson, and was
at a dinner for justice o'connor's 80th birthday and she told the most effecting story about how much justice o'connor meant to her and did an impeccable imitation of justice o'connor's high pitched voice telling her what to do when she was first on the court and the chief justice assigned her to write her first majority opinion and she was really scared, this woman who was indomitable, so strong, a teeny woman, with such a spine had done all of these remarkable things as a lawyer, as a feminist icon and then as a judge and now on the court, the second woman on the court and she was so frightened to write this majority opinion and she said justice o'connor said to her, just do it, put one foot in front of the other, you just do it. and justice o'connor was her sister on the court. she referred to her that way and that she gave her the road map of how to do this when justice o'connor of course had had to plow that territory for herself years earlier as the first woman.
she was an extraordinary woman and a feminist icon, of course, but also a great human being with a dry wit. she did enjoy the celebrity of being the notorious rgb. >> andrea mitchell, thank you for sharing that, appreciate it. this marks a grim milestone in the covid pandemic so roll up those sleeves. and help heal your skin from within with dupixent. dupixent is the first treatment of its kind that continuously treats moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis, even between flare ups. dupixent is a biologic, and not a cream or steroid. many people taking dupixent saw clear or almost clear skin, and, had significantly less itch. don't use if you're allergic to dupixent. serious allergic reactions can occur, including anaphylaxis, which is severe.
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do you have any idea how many people have sigh died of covid in this country >> i know it's high in the thousands. >> i believe they put outen estimation, like over 100,000 and then they restrakted that and said something like 1,900. >> i'm thinking the tens of thousands. >> reporter: in reality it's 200,000 but lost in the numbers, the names and faces. like cody lister, of colorado. >> we lost our son our 21-year-old son. >> reporter: cody was one of 1,874 who died from covid isn't the u.s. on april 8th. >> he pretty much wore his heart on he has his sleeve always finished a conversation with i love you, whether it was on the phone, or a text message. >> reporter: the learning curve to 200,000 dead has been steep and it has been costly remember when mask wearing was
discouraged? >> you may be increasing your chance of getting a disease by wearing that mask. >> reporter: the science evolved. masks, of course, are now encouraged but did it have to get this bad >> 100, 150,000 of the deaths, maybe more could have been prevented. we just didn't take it seriously. we didn't do it right. >> reporter: that our country's response has been muddled has been well documented, the miscalculations, mistrust and misinformation. >> it looks like by april, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. >> reporter: patrick never saw april. >> they took him to the nearest hospital once he left not ambulance we never saw him again. >> reporter: he worked in a train yard for the new york subway system he was one of 2,983 who died of covid on he had just turned 57. >> i look around, and a lot of people that used to work in these buildings are working at home. >> yeah. >> reporter: they're able to shelter at home your father didn't
have that option. >> he didn't have that option he had to go to work every day. >> reporter: globally in deaths, united states ranks in the top ten. there are encouraging signs, including rapid development of vaccines and therapeutics. >> several treatments that look like they work, hopeful we'll have one or two more in the upcoming months it's going to make the disease less lethal. >> reporter: hot spots like new york have been turned around, and others emerge cliek college campuses, we now stand at 200,000 dead, at least one projection tells us it will likely more than double to 410,000 by years end, meaning h more to a number. >> if by our sharing cody's story, if we can save one life, even just one life, it's like his death would not be in vain. >> reporter: globally covid deaths are
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talk to your asthma specialist about dupixent. if your financial situation has changed, we may be able to help. i'm janelle wang. as you've been hearing, justice ruth bader ginsburg has died at the age of 87. the flag on top of the u.s. capitol is already flying at half-staff. the news is next. tributes are beginning to pour in this evening after the death of justice ruth bader ginsburg pete williams is following this what are you hearing lester, one of the closest friends of
ruth bader ginsburg is nina totenberg she reports tonight that on npr before ginsburg died, she said quote, my most fervent wish is i will not be replaced until a new president is installed. she may or may not get that wish because tonight the senate majority leader mitch mcconnell just issued a statement that president trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the u.s. senate. but you're right, lester, the tributes are coming in. president jimmy carter says he was proud to have appointed her in 1980 hillary clinton says justice ginsburg paved the way for many women, including me. never be another like her. lindsey graham says tonight she's a trail blazer who possessed tremendous passion for her causes, she served with honor and distinction and eric trump, the only trump person we've heard from called her a
remarkable woman lester >> pete williams with that update from washington thank you, and that is nbc nightly news for this friday. thank you, everyone, for watching i'm lester holt. please continue to take care of yourself and each other good night we have breaking news. as you've been hearing, supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg has died at the age of 87. reaction pouring in from across the country. and here in the bay area. as the nation mourns her passing. the news at 6:00 starts right now. good evening, i'm janelle wang. >> i'm garvin thomas. she was small in stature but larger than life, both on and
off the bench. she broke countless barriers and championed equality issues. geo chief justice john roberts says the nation has lost a juryist of great stature. we knew ruth bader ginsburg as a tireless and resolute champion of justice. >> the announcement of her passing came down 90 minutes ago. immediately house speaker nancy pelosi ordered flags at the u.s. capitol to be lowered to half-staff in ginsburg's honor. justice ginsburg was diagnosed with cancer four times, including lung cancer and pancreatic cancer which ultimately took her life. she had several hospitalizations. every time, she got out of the hospital and was strong enough to return back to work, back to the high court. she died at her home in washington, d.c. surrounded by her family.