tv The Place for Politics 2016 MSNBC March 16, 2016 7:00am-8:01am PDT
politics. and we're following breaking news out of washington. a live look at the white house. on what is a gorgeous morning in the nation's capital. but behind the scenes, a battle is brewing. in just about an hour, president obama will announce his choice to take the seat on the supreme court. there are reportedly three names on the short list. the president says he has picked someone who is, quote, eminently qualified for the job, but whoever the nominee is, the process is sure to set up a showdown with senate republicans. gop leaders have vowed not to consider any nominee sent their way. republicans instead say the next president should fill the vacancy. good wednesday morning to you. i'm jose diaz-balart from bayside marketplace in miami. we're here covering last night's primary results. we'll get to all that in a moment. first, very busy morning in washington. ron allen is at the white house. ron, good morning. so what do we know? >> well, we know that in about an hour, we will know who the president's nominee is for the supreme court vacancy.
a huge decision for president obama. a huge partisan fight that's been brewing for the past month or so while he's been deliberating this decision since the death of justin antonin scalia. now, this morning, the president finally released an e-mail note, o outlining some of what he's been thinking about. here's part of what it had to d say. in putting forward a nominee today, i'm fulfilling my constitutional duty. i'm doing my job. i hope our senators will do their jobs and move quickly to consider my nominee. that's what the constitution dictates and what the american people expect and deserve from their leaders. the white house is also relying on polls including that most americans say they want action on this nominee now. they want the senate to have a hearing and vote on the nominee. we're also hearing now that the two nominees who came down to the finals are judge merrick garland and judge sri
srinivasan. mar merrick garland is the choice for the nominee to the supreme court. he is a perennial choice. we have been told. he's someone who has been on the court for a long time. first nominated by president clinton in 1997, then he became the chief justice of the u.s. district court and the district of columbia. the appeals court in the district of columbia in 2013. i say perennial because he's been considered to be on the short list of other selection processes, including when president obama has gone through the process. so now, we have it. we have a name, justice merrick garland of the u.s. court of appeals for the district of columbia. expected to be the nominee from president obama for the supreme court vacancy. >> ron, when we continue now, covering this breaking news that nbc has been able to confirm, i want to go back to the graphic we showed. a little more information on merrick garland of the appeals court of d.c. 63 years old. as you say, confirmed in 1997 in
a 76-23 vote. after 1995, president clinton nominated him, but the senate didn't take up the vote then. he became chief judge, february of 2013, clerked for william brennan, and deputy attorney general from 1994 to 1997, he supervised cases among others, the timothy mcveigh case, the ted kaczynski case, and this is a guy imminently qualified. harvard college, harvard law school in 1977, and as you say, someone whose name has been heard over and over again as far as potential nominees to the supreme court. eminently qualified. >> he would be viewed as a safe choice. not some of the other judges and other lawyers that the president was considering, because again, garland is a well known figure. he's been on the court for a very long time. and that court of appeals and the district of columbia has sent a number of other justices
to the supreme court, including chief justice roberts, clarence thomas, scalia, and others over the years. there's going to be a lot of concern about this choice by many people who are obama supporters. who wanted to see more diversity on the court. this selection is a white male. sri srinivasan would have been the first south asian selection on the court. there are a number of other african-americans, other wim who were under consideration. that's a concern. but again, garland is seen as a moderate. he is a name you know, if you will, and this is perhaps a signal that the president believes in putting forward this name, it will be hard for the republicans to maintain their blo blo blockade against a nominee, let alone holding a hearing. republicans have been steadfast in their opposition of even meeting with a nominee. we'll see what their reaction is to this judge. >> ron allen at the white house, thank you very much.
i want to bring in msnbc chief legal correspondent ari melber. great to see you. let's talk about garland. this is a guy who has prosecutorial experience. graduated with honors from harvard. both university and then jd. i mean, this is a guy who clearly is very comfortable with the court system. and someone whose name has been listened to and bantered around for some time. >> that's right. merrick garland has been on president obama's short list in both of his other processes looking at this. that's why so many people thought seeing his name here again, a third time, meant it must have been serious. he brings some of the most impeccable judicial credentials of any name we have been looking at. many were highly qualified. as the chief judge here of the d.c. circuit, he is essentially the top judge on the top court in the land other than the supreme court. and has wide array of experience as a federal power reviewer, because he deal s with the ageny
action, executive power, guantanamo cases, guns in washington, d.c. these are all areas where he has overseen these cases and led the court as he has been chief judge over the past several years and before that, a d.c. circuit judge. he has tremendous experience and is seen as what orrin hatch once called a consensus choice. he's a choice that reflects the white house trying to put someone forward who is essentially in their view judicially unassailable. >> ari melber, stay with me. i want to go to pete williams who is the one who was able to break the news this morning on msnbc and nbc. tell us more about merrick garland and the choice president obama has made by choosing him. >> well, in one way, it's a surprising choice because merrick garland has been considered before by the obama administration, twice before. and twice before, he's been -- the president has decided to nominate a woman. so in one sense, as a white
male, it's an unlikely choice. in another sense, as a 63-year-old, it's an unusual choice. that is an age very close to my own heart, but it's also older than the traditional age for a supreme court nominee here in the last couple of decades. presidents like to appoint young people, younger people that can stay on the court for decades. so that's odd for merrick garland. on the other hand, as you have been hearing from ari and others, merrick garland is someone who is extremely well respected here in washington, in the senate, by republicans. when he was confirmed in 1997, 32 republicans voted for him. out of the 76 who voted to confirm him. and the only no votes were really based on considerations of the size of the federal court of appeals in 1997. there was and continues to be something of a controversy about whether the d.c. court of appeals has too many judges
given its work load, and that was really the issue. not many people opposed him because of who he was. he has prosecution experience, as you have said. he served in the justice department in the clinton administration. and worked very in a high visible role in the oklahoma city bombing case, and also in the unabomber case. so he has a lot of support, bipartisan support, and he's also well liked. that helps, too. he's a friend of many members of the senate, republicans and democrats. so what the white house hopes here is that they have put forth a nominee who will be hard for senators to oppose, a, based on a personal level. and b, on an idealogical level. so the goal here, of course, is to fight against this current in the republican senate right now. republican senators have said they don't want to confirm any nominee now. that that should be up to the next president. the white house either hopes to embarrass republicans into doing what they have said they won't do, or at the very least,
persuade them to confirm this choice of merrick garland if a democrat is elected president in november, and then the basic pitch would be, merrick garland is a moderate by anybody's measurement. and he would be more moderate than any nominee that a democratic president would put forward, so the senate republicans should cut their losses. that would be the pitch to the senate then. we knew it was either going to be him or suvee srinivasan, and now we know. >> if you go back to who the president has nominated successfully in the past, kagan and sotomayor, women, in one of the cases, a latina woman. you remove that aspect of it, this is someone who on paper is imminently qualified. harvard, harvard. you know, clerked with brennan. a guy who clearly has been in the judicial world for many, many years. takes it seriously, and as you
say, is a guy who is admired and quite frankly has good relationships with people on both sides of the aisle. >> yeah, i don't think what you're going to initially hear from the senate is that the president has nominated somebody who isn't qualified. senate republicans will simply say what they have been saying, which is it's too close to the election now. they harken back to a statement that joe biden made when he was chairman of the senate judiciary committee, when he said the senate shouldn't be considering nominees in an election year. and they say, you know, if it was good for them, it's good for us. this should be up to the next president. it's on that basis you'll hear the opposition to considering the nomination. and it's to this extent, jose, we have talked to a lot of senate republicans in the last week saying would you at least meet with the president's nominee, whoever that is? and many of them have said, no, we won't even meet with them. that's the tradition that nominees go up and meet with senators before the nomination comes to the floor for a vote.
several are saying, not only will we not hold a confirmation hearing, not only will we not have a vote, we won't even meet with him. it's an uphill battle for the white house. they're well aware of it and they have a huge operation in place now, ready to try to make it harder for the republicans to tand on that position. >> and pete, i think what you brought up here just a few seconds ago, the fact that his nomination and who this person is, there's also a message. and you were talking about it, about the next president should be a democrat, would probably nominate someone more maybe on one side than someone like garland. it is an interesting kind of challenge that the president is giving the senate. pete, stay with me. i want to bring in nbc's kelly o'donnell. she, of course, a congressional correspondent who covers capitol hill for us. kelly, good morning. there are political implications to garland's nomination. >> without a doubt. and one of the reasons you have senate republicans not even
wanting to have the meetings, the courtesy calls that i have covered a number of times with the past four nominees to the court, what you find is that by even opening the door, republicans say that puts them in a position of then being questioned about whether or not they would consider someone like merrick garland that we now know the president will nominate. someone who in any other circumstances would probably get a lot of praise from republicans, a well respected judge, as we have heard discussed here this morning. so what this does is put republicans in a position of having to kind of be all or nothing. why is this so critical for them? it is, as you have heard discussed, a political strategy to say in the final year of a presidency, there shouldn't be a nomination and confirmation. there's a lot of controversy around that idea to start with. but if they were to open the door to a judge who could be in fact more favorable to them than if hillary clinton were elected, it is a political sort of tactic
they're using here, by not even opening the door, they're in part trying to protect some of their senators who are in competitive races. republicans who could be kind of really on the bubble to be re-elected. that's a concern for the senate to hold its republican majority. certainly, democrat will make this case time and time again, putting a lot of pressure on those sort of swing state senators who are up for re-election. trying to get the advantage, to reclaim the senate. so this will be a huge political fight. if merrick garland cannot even be visited by the 54 republicans in the senate, that will bring up the political argument of stonewalling, obstruction for obstruction's sake. it will be a very strong argument for democrats. can they put a crack in that at all because he is so widely well thought of and as pete discussed at 63 and having been considered before, perhaps even the white house is considering this sort of a last opportunity for
garland to be put in this position to be nominated for something that is certainly the highlight of his career. so we'll have to see. so far, republicans are not officially commenting on the selection of merrick garland. i suspect they will wait until the president makes it official. but the strategy for them will be to try to hold their elbows together and to not crack that door open for consideration. democrats will say that's the wrong move. it's not good for the country. it's not a good precedent, and merrick garland deserves better. we'll see how that plays out over the next several weeks, possibly even months. jose. >> yeah, kelly, look, the president is expected to do that at 11:00 eastern, 8:00 pacific. you'll see it right here on msnbc. when in the past they have talked about a president not nominating a supreme court justice, you know, in the final part of his administration, we're in march. you know, the elections are in november. the next president takes over in january. and you know, we have the summer months coming up where there are
some key decisions that the supreme court has to deal with. and right now, it's 4-4. so we also have to put that context in it. we're in march. we're just in the beginning of a presidential campaign season. >> without a doubt. a strong argument for democrats. >> yeah, there are differences there. anyway, kelly, thank you very much. stay with me if you would. we're going to take a short break from miami where we're dealing with the day after the primary for the republicans. 99 delegates at stake, but the breaking news this morning, president obama will be nominating merrick garland to the supreme court. he is a chief judge at the united states court of appeals for d.c. the d.c. circuit court. we'll be right back with a whole lot more on msnbc. a heart attack doesn't care if you run everyday,
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just minutes ago. we have confirmation that president obama will be nominating merrick garland to the u.s. supreme court. this is going to be a very interesting nomination with political repercussions both for democrats and for republicans. ron allen is standing by at the white house. good morning. >> good morning, jose. >> tell me a little bit about the white house's thought process in nominating merrick garland at this time, when it seems so difficult that any republican on the senate will want to even deal with this. >> well, he's been described as the best candidate that the gop could hope for among the names that were mentioned. so the white house strategy seems to be to pick a consensus candidate or someone close to a consensus to try and drive this nominee through a reluctant
senate. the president has had meetings and discussions here at the white house. the white house insisted they have reached out to every one of the senators on capitol hill to discuss this nominee. they say they have taken names as well, and said they would look at names that they would put forward. the white house is trying to be as transparent as it can be. i expect it to continue going forward. >> sorry to interrupt you. we have harry reid on the senate floor. >> for 100 years, we had these hearings in public. back to justice brandeis's hearing. he and his caucus have no intention of considering the nominee. hard to comprehend, but that's what he said. and it appears at this stage basically all republicans have fallen in line with this. i hope that president obama's nomination of exceptionally qualified and consensus nominee will change senate republicans to change course. i do hope they will do their
constitutional duty and give his nominee a meeting, a hearing, and a vote. he's doing his job this morning. they should do theirs from this point forward. mr. president, would you announce what we're going to do the rest of the day? >> under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. >> thank you very much. that was harry reid, minority leader of the senate talking about merrick garland. let's go to luke russert on capitol hill. this is interesting. i'm looking at a little bit of the research here. when in 2010, garland was under consideration for the supreme court, vacancy that went to justice sonia sotomayor, senator orrin hatch of utah said he had known garland for years and he would be a consensus nominee. but that possible consensus nominee probably won't even get a hearing. >> and i think that's really the optics that the white house is trying to go for here, jose. and if you also look at that graphic we put up there, 1997,
judge garland was confirmed with 76 votes to the united states senate. we just heard from mitch mcconnell, the senate majority leader, that he will speak about this later on today. i think they're going to wait for the formal announcement at 11:00 a.m. from republican sources i have spoken to, expect nothing to change here. what they're going to do is say, hey, this is an issue that should be decided by whoever is the next president. despite the fact that there are hundreds of so days, over 200 days left in the obama administration, this is something that is unprecedented. shouldn't be going forward. democrats are saying not so fast. wait, wait, wait. the president is still the president. at least give this nominee a hearing. that's going to be the first fight in this process, jose. the republicans start it off last month after justice scalia died, i was at the press conference. mitch mcconnell said he wouldn't even have a meeting with whoever president obama nominated.
now, they eased up on that a little bit because they realized how bad that looks optically, that you refuse a meeting for someone nominated to the supreme court. so let's see if that happens. next, you have to see if the judiciary committee would even allow for there to be a hearing. if that were to happen, procedurally, this pick could be voted down in committee, and that is a way that republicans could get rid of it. essentially saying, hey, he's very qualified, we like him. he wasn't able to get the vote in our committee. we're not going to move him forward. even bourke, who they all bring up back in the late '80s, when they said this is when things started to get very, very testy and angry regarding supreme court nominees, is when the democrats killed off robert bork. bork, despite all the issues democrats had with him, they voted him down in the judiciary committee but still allowed his nomination to go to the senate floor where it was ultimately voted down. i think democrats are going to say, okay, fine, if you don't want to do this, that's one
thing. at least give our nominee the dignity of being voted down on the senate floor. or at least give them the dignity of being voted down in the judiciary committee. that's where the fight is going to go. obama selected this gentleman who prosecuted the oklahoma city bomber, who was once thought of as a consensus pick, is essentially him saying, the gop has gone so far to the right, they're so obstructionist, they're willing to vote down someone who in 2010 they said would be a consensus pick because he's more moderate and they liked him more than some of the liberals i was thinking about. so mitch mcconnell and chuck grassley, the judiciary chairman, they have a situation on their hands. they have to figure out now. i think they were preparing for president obama perhaps to make a nominee that would fire up one of the bases within the democratic party, either the asian american base, the african-american base, the latino base. by doing this, he's saying, look, here's someone who you liked in 2010.
got 76 votes back in the '90s. prosecuted terrorists, what's the problem here? you won't even give him a hearing. that's where they sit. >> yeah, and i mean, luke, let's talk about that. because there's a hearing, there's a confirmation and a whole senate vote. but before that, it's pretty amazing, and we talk about it in the world of politics. but the fact that some of them have said, some elected officials in the senate said they wouldn't even meet with the nominee. not even meet with him. and luke, you know this from our conversations in spanish. being courteous doesn't make you any less valiant. it just makes you not courteous. we have gotten to the point where people are saying they don't even want to hear, don't even want to meet, don't even want to open the door to someone who is a nominee? >> and that is what would be unprecedented, if the republicans stick to what they
said back in february. now, i suspect that if you have judge garland walking around here in the halls of congress, and he's knocking on doors, more likely than not, they're going to open up the door. think of that photo op. you have a justice, highly revered judge, rather, who is knocking on doors in the republican senator says i don't have time for you, sorry. well, i can tell you something, jose. they're not really doing much here on the floor for the rest of the year. they're all working on the election. so they do have time to meet with somebody if they wanted to. i think that's going to be the interesting story to look at, is to what degree of normalcy do the republicans in the senate embrace the process. do they have those meetings that are usually very cordial or do they say absolutely not? i suspect they will probably have some meetings and say i like the guy, he's great. if the next president nominates him, i'll seriously consider it, but not now. it's bad timing.
>> pete williams broke the news and indeed, he's the president's decision to nominate merrick garland to the supreme court. there are so many repercussions to this. the white house has already created a twitter handle handle, @scotusnom, where he says you can get the fact on the supreme court nominee from the white house's perspective. so there's movement on all sides on this, but there's also judicial repercussions to this. the supreme court has some incredibly important decisions to take up, supposedly, we'll be hearing some of those, including the president's executive actions on immigration. and what's going to happen to all of that. meanwhile, they're not even going to open the door? some of the elected officials to someone who is nominated. we'll be right back. born with a hunger to fly and a passion to build something better. and what an amazing time it's been,
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the united states supreme court. there you see at the white house, the podium has been set up. the president expected to make his announcement about 30 minutes from now. you will see it, of course, live right here on msnbc. it's about 11:00 in the morning eastern time, that's 8:00 a.m. pacific time. meanwhile, i want to go to pete williams, our justice correspondent, who broke the news that the president had decided to nominate merrick garland to the supreme court. gnaw everyone reacting with positive news to this? >> that's right. you're going to see a lot of this now in the coming hours and days and coming weeks, as interest group on both sides line up. but one of the challenges for the white house is to try to mobilize support from the left for this nominee, and as interesting response this morning from the national organization of women, who says in a press release, it's unfortunate that president obama felt it was necessary to appoint a nominee whose record on issues pertaining to women's rights is
more or less a blank slate, equally unfortunate that we have to continue to wait for the first african-american woman to be named. they describe merrick garland as a real nowhere man, none the less, they say as unhappy as they are, the senate should go ahead and move ahead on the confirmation. what we're probably going to hear from the white house on merrick garland is that he in the words of a white house official, has an ability to bring people together and has earned the respect of people he worked with. we'll probably hear that he has more federal court experience than any other supreme court nominee, 19 years on the d.c. court of appeals here in washington. that's the intermediate court of appeals, the one you would go through to get to the supreme court if you had a case from around here. 19 years there. three years as the chief judge. they'll talk about his personal story, his parents emigrating to the united states to find a
better life. he's been mareyed for nearly 30 years, has two daughters, and is a real outdoorsman. his family likes to hike and canoe, and they have been to many national parks. i also know that merrick garland was a high school debater. that's an important thing you have heard here first. >> and pete, you also, in the first confirmation that you gave us, noted that he was 63 years young. i think that that is an important aspect to bring up as well. this nowhere man, magna cum laude from harvard low school. this nowhere man who clerked for william brennan jr., this nowhere man who has his responsibilities in the attorney general's office, supervised cases like the timothy mcveigh case, the ted kaczynski case. this nowhere man who has deep experience, and pete, this is a time when the supreme court right now has some, and you have
been covering this like no one, no one could do a better job than you, pete, there are some really important decisions that the supreme court has to make this summer. >> well, let's be clear about this. there will be eight justices on the supreme court for the rest of this term. and possibly for the rest of this year. it may not be that they will be back up to nine justices until maybe midway, three quarters of the way through the next term. the supreme court's term ends in june. this one will get through with eight justices remaining. then the new term starts in october, and who knows whether we'll have nine justices by october of next year. these confirmations take a long time. an average of about two and a half months, when everything is working normally. but of course, we're not in a situation where everything is working normally, because of the current political situation. >> and pete, correct me if i'm wrong. if there is a tie, essentially, in the supreme court, on some of
these cases, they actually kick it back down, right? so there is no real decision that can be taken by the supreme court if it is a 4-4 vote, on some really important issues. >> right. so whoever won in the lower courts would prevail. it's as though the supreme court never took the case, if there's a tie. the current justices on the court are sort of trying to low ball that idea that there are going to be a lot of ties. we'll see. one of the big cases that's just coming up next week when the supreme court considers a challenge to a part of obamacare, a challenge brought by religious affiliated institutions who say that they should be just like churches. they should be exempt from the requirement to provide contraceptive care for their women employees. there had been some thought that that case might end in a 4-4 tie now with the death of justice scalia, although the lawyers for the challenging groups here say no, they're optimistic that even some of the people who voted with the administration last time may not this time because
of what's at stake here. there's a lot of sympathy for the groups that are bringing this case, notably for the little sisters of the poor, who have been opposing this. also, religious colleges and universities and all sorts of dozens of religious organizations around the country that have filed these lawsuits. >> pete williams, always learning experience to be with you. thank you very much. we're reminding everybody when they talk about the president making a decision, so close to the elections, we're in march of 2016. that's january, february, march. that's three months into the new year. just kind of bringing in the schedule a little bit. ari melber, chief legal correspondent. let's talk about the reason, you think, that president obama has decided on merrick garland. you saw pete williams was saying there are some groups who are already saying it's too bad that he's bringing in a nowhere man. >> i think when they say nowhere man, they're speaking idealogically. this is not a judge in his 19
years on the federal bench has staked out an expansionist or reformist set of ideas on the left or on the right. this is a judge who has seen widely as bound by precedent and being a careful jurist, something a lot of people in both parties they say they want. where so many big battles are going to be decided. i would make one other point as we talk about the wrangling and an unusual political environment where as you and others are pointing out there's a lot of talk about this nominee not even getting the courtesy of meetings or a hearing or a vote. let's be clear about what just changed here this morning. the white house has put forward one of the most powerful people involved in overseeing the fights between congress and the president. no matter who is in congress, no matter who becomes president. the chief judge of the d.c. court of appeals is the second most important judge outside of people who are on the supreme court. why? well, the d.c. circuit, you don't need to be a lawyer to
know this, you might imagine, is a place where a lot of these fights in d.c. that relate to the congress and relate to all of the executive agencies including some of the agencies republican candidates have lately talked about eliminating, the d.c. circuit hears those challenges, litigates that and decides and referees that. even if you imagine a scenario where this individual, merrick garland, is not ultimately confirmed, during this fight or potentially in the future if there's another democratic president who might renominate him, even in that scenario, he goes back to being a critical person. a sitting member of the bench, and more than that, a man at the center with life tenure of all these big fights. i'm not suggesting that's the reason he was picked, in other words, that overlaps with one of the reasons why the white house says he's such a good candidate. his experience, his nuances, his fluency with these issues. however, this is fundamentally different for senate republicans who care about all these issues, how they want to treat such an
important sitting member of the federal bench. in other words, a lot of what we heard before was, well, look at what you could do, how do you run the time out, and gosh, that's what might be popular among some constituencies. now you're not fighting a hypothetical. you're not fighting nothing. i have spoken to white house advisers over the weekend and up to today. now they're saying now you're fighting something instead of nothing. that's harder to do, whether that's orrin hatch's comments saying this was a consensus candidate, whether that's senators who have to think twice about what is at least the minimum level of decorum and respect you want to show someone who is going to be decided these issues for decades to come regardless of what happens in this nomination battle. >> remind me if you would what the responsibility is of the president of the united states, what the responsibility is of the senate vis-a-vie the supreme court. just remind me again of what each of those branches is supposed to do when something
like this happens. >> well, the constitution says the president nominates and the senate advises and consents. typically in our history, advice and consent meant review the candidate, have some sort of governmental process. that doesn't just mean fightish it out on the airwaves or the op-ed pages, but have a government lt process where you have someone in, you have testimony on the record, where the country sees that person, then you make a judgment. you send that nomination through the committee to the senate floor and have some kind of vote. that's typically the way it's been. republicans have said throughout, consent means they can say yes to consent, no to consent, or they can decline to answer, which of course has the effect of a no. in other words, they have argued that, look, although the history doesn't support a lot of this at the supreme court level, they argue that democrats and republicans have both certainly not afforded votes to every nominee by every president in the judiciary, although i will say typically election year
supreme court nominees have gotten hearings, have gotten votes. this is a new level of brinksmanship, according to precedent, jose. >> ari melber, thank you very much. i want to bring in "new york times" political reporter nick confessore this brings in a new aspect of politics being involved in something so important, like the supreme court of the united states. there are no doubt political considerations written large on this, today's decision. >> absolutely. i think, jose, what you'll see from the candidates on the republican side is immediate flat out opposition. it won't change much in terms of how they play it. i think the obama white house has decided to forego the longterm benefit of a nominee who could sort of rile up their base in november, for the long term benefit of amping up and ratcheting up the pressure on senate republicans. this is a guy who it's hard to think of a good reason to vote against him on the merits. he's qualified. he's not idealogical warrior.
not somebody who has any obvious bumps or knicks. he should be nominated or rather he should get a vote would be their perspective. so, the whole point here is that they can't use this guy to make people super, super angry in november, i think. but it's possible that it makes it harder and harder for the senate republicans to say no to a vote. >> well, and i mean, nick, correct me if i'm wrong. if you want to get political points on anything, how does it hurt you to at least give that person a voice? they can vote him up or vote him down, but you know, not allowing people to speak is not really something that you think of when you think of the most, you know, strongest democracy in the face of this earth. you know, like what can hurt you by listening? you can vote him down. >> well, look, i think jose, the hard part for them is that every step this process progresses along makes it harder to slow
the process. if he gets meetings and why not a vote? if he gets a vote, then how come they're voting against him? they have decided to best play for them is to shut the whole thing down from the start. stop the ball from getting rolling because once the ball does get rolling, there's more and more and more pressure against precedent for these senators to treat him fairly and give him a vote. that's the hard part for the republicans. >> i'll wrap it up, nick. thank you very much, with the saying in spanish -- being courteous, having manners, doesn't make you any less valiant or strong. but maybe that's just today something that we hear in spanish and not a lot of in english on capitol hill. nick confessore, thank you very much. when we continue, my colleague brian williams will be picking up our coverage, breaking news. president obama has decided to nominate merrick garland to the supreme court. brian picks up our coverage. thank you for the privilege of your time.
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well, good day from new york. i'm brian williams. as we have been saying in the proceeding coverage, it seems like just hours ago, we were talking about the choice of the voters in five primary states. now, this morning, one of those reminders that elections have consequences. a reminder that when folks go to the polls in november, it is likely our country will be deciding the presidency, the control of congress, and to some extent, the judicial branch. nbc news has been able to confirm that to fill the vacant seat of antonin scalia on the supreme court, the president is about to nominate and appear with merrick garland, 63 years old. chief judge of the u.s. court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. he is a chicagoan originally. his father ran garland
advertising in chicago. he was a presidential scholar who was called to the white house as a young man to hear richard nixon. he was a national merit scholar. he did what very few have. he graduated number one in his class at harvard, went on to harvard law school. to say he has been a stellar academic performer would be an understatement. around here, we would never enter into a day like this without the help of our chief justice correspondent, pete williams, who is standing by to talk to us in washington. pete covers the court, among other subjects. pete, merrick garland's name has been at or near the top of the list for the next available supreme court nomination before. he's been considered, vetted before. what is confirmable about merrick garland? >> well, very much so, it's his judicial philosophy, his
personality. he is -- it's going to be hard, i think the white house calculation here, brian, is it would be hard for republicans to vote against him on two basises. first of all, he's well liked. so it's not like there's animosity toward him. he's considered a moderate. his judicial views are within the mainstream. many republicans have already said in the past. secondly, he was confirmed when he was confirmed to the court of appeals for the d.c. circuit in 1997, with 76 votes, including 32 republicans. and at the time, if you go back and look at the votes against him at the time, they were more based on concern about the size of the court of appeals, that maybe they didn't need an additional judge. as opposed to opposition to him, based on his record. now, of course, one thing that's changed since 1997 is that he's been a judge for all these years. now, there's a lot of his judicial opinions to pore through. but the feeling of the white house is this is a person, perhaps a little to the left, but in the moderate mainstream
of the left. not somebody who would ordinarily under ordinary circumstances be opposed by a majority of the senate. so that's what merrick garland has going for him. his experience in the justice department as a prosecutor on the oklahoma city bombing trial, a top aide to janet reno when she was attorney general. he went out to oklahoma city and supervised the prosecution of timothy mcveigh. he worked on the unabomber case, that string of bombings that was eventually carried out by a person who ended up living as a hermit in a cabin in montana. ted kaczynski. he worked on that case. he has a solid reputation here. and you're right, he's someone that previous democratic presidents have looked at. president obama decided to go with two women appointees, kagan and sotomayor, but he was considered then, and now the white house has decided he is the best choice. a, because of his qualifications, and b, they
hope, because it will be harder for republicans to oppose him. but the republicans are saying they will oppose him. they believe this choice should be made by the next president. so they'll fall back, i think, for the white house here, is a hope that if they can't get a normal confirmation process now, that perhaps if a democrat is elected president in november, then the white house would be in essence saying to senate republicans, cut your losses, confirm merrick garland because he's a moderate, and whoever the next president is, if that person is a democrat, is going to send up somebody who is less of a moderate. so cut your losses and vote for merrick garland. so that's why they think they have in essence a 2-for here. >> the "new york times" posted on their website a story about a prayerful vigil going on in a village in southern india, based on the chance some saw it as the likelihood that today you and i would be talking about a 49-year-old indian-american
federal judge named sri srinivasan, who had been confirmed to the federal bench 97-0 by the u.s. senate. a lot of people woke up this morning still believing that it would be sri srinivasan to fill this vacancy. why do you think the obama white house, after a thorough vetting of not only both of these men, but more federal judges than that, has gone with garland over srinivasan? >> well, i think that's an excellent question. and it does seem pretty clear based on what we have been told, that it was down to those two that the president decided, was deciding on. the obvious factor for mr mr. srinivasan was he was confirmed unanimously and only a few years ago. it would be hard for many senators who voted for him then to say now he's unacceptable. what the senators would say is we have always treated supreme court nominations differently. i think it's what we have been
talking about. it's this depth of experience that merrick garland has, and in a way, his track is sort of similar to john roberts. they both clerked for the same widely respected federal judge, henry friendly. they both served on the d.c. court of appeals. they both have some private practice experience. they both worked in the justice department. different political philosophies, to be sure, but similar track records. i think either choice would have been a good one. and in the perspective of the white house and they would both have been in essence moderate appointees. but i think perhaps merrick garland has a little more -- you know, they know him better, i think is the feeling among the white house that senate republicans, the people who ultimately have to decide here, where it would be perhaps a little more comfortable because merrick garland is more of a known quantity. >> pete, final question before you have to go off and cover this, and that is in addition to the point you raised that he's a
known commodity, especially in the higher levels of what is a small company town at the end of the day, and that's washington, d.c., he has been sitting on the d.c. circuit, which is often casually referred to as the second highest court in the land. >> right. and he has a good reputation there. john roberts at one point said when he was on the court, boy, if you find yourself on the opposite side of merrick garland, you really need to think hard about that. that's the kind of sentiment there is about judge garland. he has friends in high places in both parties. so i think that's part of what the white house is thinking about here. i think they're thinking that he's just hard to demonize. >> pete williams, thanks, as always, for your expertise. we'll let you go cover the announcement. pete williams, our justice correspondent. ron allen is standing by at the white house. and ron, i note it's one of those beautiful, sparkling days
where spring seems around the corner. that is above the ground in washington. below ground, it's total chaos because the entire subway system is shut down for a regular check of the power system. we may hear some mention of that, at least it's not impossible. but ron, same question to you. in the case of federal judge merrick garland, why do you thing he is the choice apparently today of the obama white house? >> brian, i think a lot of people are asking that question. why? and i have been talking to some democrats, some activists who the white house that been talking with throughout the process, and who the white house is counting on to be out there beating the drums and trying to rally the base for this nominee. and the word that i'm hearing is uninspiring. i'm also hearing the word disappointing. remember, that's part of the white house strategy. a big part of it is to make this a very public fight. to try and essentially shame the republicans into holding a
hearing and a vote on this nominee. but the disappointment stems from the fact that garland is, his age, in his 60s. he's white. he's from the d.c. circuit court of appeals. he's from harvard, he does not bring what people see as more diversity to the court. diversity in terms of his legal background, diversity in terms of his ethnic background. so a lot of obama supporters are going to be questioning why would mr. obama make this his historic pick? where is the history in that? it has long been said that we expected president obama to do something unusual to bring diversity. i heard you talking to pete earlier about judge srinivasan. that's the kind of pick a lot of people were expecting. clearly, it would seem the white house is trying to put this forward as a nominee, this judge forward as a nominee who the republicans cannot say no to. he's been described as the best the gop could hope for. so the scene, the image of judge garland making his way through
the senate, around the senate, trying to get meetings and being turned away, perhaps will help the white house drive home the point that the republicans are just being obstructionists based on principle. they're not doing anything. that's what you hear from the white house, a constant refrain. what are they doing? what do they stand for? and the reaction we're hearing from the hill in the short term is that in fact they're not budging. they're not going to bow at all. the obama administration had said that they thought that once a nominee was named, once a person was out there, and this was less of a theoretical thing, that the gop would essentially relent. hasn't happened yet. will it happen in the days or weeks to come? unclear, but again, the bottom line from many of the activists in the activist community who are -- who the obama administration is counting on to really rally around this nominee, some are saying it's just uninspiring. they'll do it, but the question is what level of enthusiasm will there be out there? that is central to the obama
strategy to get this nominee through, is to make this a big public issue. and to essentially shame the republicans into action. brian. >> ron allen in the rose garden. and ron, while you've been talking, we've been looking at kind of the social swirl in the front row. we saw senator al franken, senator pat leahy, as he often does, has brought his 35 millimeter camera along. dianne feinstein just sat down next to dick durbin. and we have harry reid, head of the democrats in the senate, taking his seat on the aisle center. president obama is going to count on all of them and all of the friends they have ever met and more to go in to a bruising fight over this nomination. it's been said had he appointed the late mother teresa, he would have gone into a bruising fight over this nomination. because mitch mcconnell, head of the republicans in the senate, has said they won't take the
meeting. they won't consider this nomination. so the president's gearing up for an election year fight. tom goldstein is with us. and we're awfully happy about that. he writes the suburb scotusblog, the acronym for supreme court of the united states. he's an msnbc supreme court analyst, and for his part, he has argued 38 cases before the u.s. supreme court. tom, i read your voluminous report on all of the opinions of judge srinivasan. we were ready. we were in position. and here we are talking about merrick garland, who i should add, you rank as number one in terms of confirmability on your blog, which is a must-read for court buffs, watchers, and participants. why is that? >> well, brian, thanks so much. i mean, if you wanted to get a judge from hollywood central casting as a supreme court
nominee, you would reach out for merrick garland. and in that sense, if you just say, who has the objective qualifications, who would republicans have the hardest time saying no to, it's definitely merrick garland. but the thing is that he is the exact opposite of what you would expect if you were saying that the president was trying to motivate democrats to rally behind or trying to help a democrat in the presidential election. because he's a 63-year-old white guy. he is a deeply respected, probably the most deeply respected democratic appointee on the bench. in some ways, some narrow ways, he's slightly more conservative than justice scalia, particularly on criminal law issues. it's not surprising to hear people say that democratic groups are a little bit disappointed about the lost opportunity. i think i have a little bit of a different take than a lot of people about this. i think only barack obama would ever have made this nomination. he's a former constitutional law professor. i think he takes this nomination deeply personally. and there's an inib