'This Week' Transcript 9-20-20: Nancy Pelosi, Ted Cruz, Bill Clinton

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, September 20.

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, September 20, 2020 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: An American icon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE, U.S. SUPREME COURT: It was beyond my wildest imagination that I would one day become the Notorious RBG.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GINSBURG: The progress I have seen in my lifetime makes me optimistic for the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Feminist hero, pioneer for gender equality, known for her fierce opinions and pointed dissents.

This morning, we remember her remarkable career, as her passing upends our politics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We won. And we have an obligation, as the winners, to pick who we want.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The voters should pick the president. And the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Trump prepares a nomination. Mitch McConnell pledges a vote. Democrats promise a fight, an epic showdown just 44 days until the final votes.

Our guests this morning, Bill Clinton, who nominated Ginsburg in 1993, America's top elected Democrat now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Republican Senator Ted Cruz, plus analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.

ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, this is a special edition of "This Week."

Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week."

Call it the year of chaos. The 2020 election has already seen it all, impeachment, a pandemic, economic turmoil, racial protests scarred at times by violence, and, Friday night, the loss of an American giant, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A champion of equality, she broke barriers as a law professor and advocate, achieving greatness, in the words of Supreme Court colleague David Souter, before she became a great justice.

Outside the court where Ginsburg served for 27 years, admirers have been gathering to mourn her passing, prepare for the titanic political battle to come, many carrying a simple sign: "Honor her wish," the request dictated her granddaughter days before her death: "My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear Friday that he would schedule a vote on President Trump's nominee. And, late Saturday, the president promised supporters in North Carolina that his pick is coming fast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: We begin this morning with the latest from our Washington team, chief White House correspondent Jon Karl, senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce.

And, Jon, let me begin with you.

The president wants to move this week. And he does have a short list.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president wants to move without delay, George.

At his rally last night, you actually saw Trump supporters chanting, "Fill that seat," less than about 24 hours after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The president seemed almost gleeful to have something else to talk about, something besides his handling of the pandemic. And he -- yes, he does have a short list.

About an hour after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death, we were told that at the very top of that short list is -- excuse me -- Amy Coney Barrett. There are other names on that list, including Allison Jones Rushing and Barbara Lagoa.

And I would say, George, keep a close eye on Barbara Lagoa. Barbara Lagoa is the former chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court. She is Cuban American.

And if the president calculates that, by picking her, it would help him win the state of Florida, a state that he absolutely must win, I believe that would move her right to the top of the list.

In fact, I would not expect this president to make any major decisions between now and November 3 without calculating the impact on his campaign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Mary, Mitch McConnell has promised a vote on the Trump nominee, but he didn't say whether it would be before the election or after.

MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, he notably did not.

And Mitch McConnell here is facing a real balancing act with monumental implications. If they rush to do this before the election, it could potentially hurt vulnerable Republicans who are up for reelection, hurting the chance that Republicans will be able to hold on to their majority.

Now, if they wait to do this after the election, well, then have less time to try and get this done. And also, if there's a decisive shift in power on Election Day, well, then it could be much harder to push this through.

So, Mitch McConnell is likely going to have to prioritize between his Senate majority and a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

And, already, George we are hearing from some of those key Republicans who could break ranks and block a confirmation. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are both expected to oppose a vote before Election Day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the Democrats would need four Republicans to defect in order to stop this nomination.

So, do they have any other power to stop it or slow down the nomination? And who are the other Republican senators to watch, Mary?

BRUCE: There is simply very little the Democrats can do. They just don't have the power here. What they can do is try to ramp up the pressure on this handful of key Republicans.

So we are keeping a very close eye on Mitt Romney, who, of course, voted to impeach the president earlier this year; also Chuck Grassley, the former chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He has said before that he would not act on this in an election year. And Cory Gardner of Colorado -- he is in a tough re-election fight there. It's a state that Trump won. If he votes on this before the election, it could potentially hurt him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Jonathan, have the president's team settled on whether a vote before or after the election is better for them?

KARL: Well, they fully know that the timing here, George, is up to Mitch McConnell. That said, this is something that they believe is energizing the campaign, giving them something else to talk about regarding -- you know, aside from the pandemic.

So my sense is that they would be happy to see this happen after the election, very shortly after the election, but something that they can keep talking about, making a central campaign theme right until Election Day.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jon Karl, Mary Bruce, thanks very much.

Let's get more on this now from the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi, thanks for joining us this morning.

PELOSI: My pleasure. Good morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You wrote Friday that the passing of Justice Ginsburg is an incalculable loss for our democracy. How do you remember her, and how will the House honor her?

PELOSI: Well, I'm so glad that the country is providing such an outpouring of love and support to honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- petite, tiny in size, huge in impact, and powerful, brilliant brain on the court.

She was so remarkable. And I -- I can't help but thinking the good person that she is. As we extend condolences to her family, she would want us to keep our eye on the ball of the 200,000 people who will be, probably this weekend, will reach -- sadly reach that number.

This challenge that we have is directly -- if the president thinks this isn't about the coronavirus, it is. It's about health care. So the president is rushing to make some kind of a decision because he -- November 10th is when the arguments begin on the Affordable Care Act. He doesn't want to crush the virus. He wants to crush the Affordable Care Act.

He -- so, again, in terms of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, any one of us who knew her, who loved her, who respected her, and that includes almost anybody who had an appreciation for greatness, mourn her loss, but would want us to move forward to protect the people who are sick, those with coronavirus who now have -- millions of them now have a preexisting condition. That's what the president wants to crush when he says he wants to replace the chief justice in this very -- excuse me, the justice, in this short period of time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, you're the speaker of the House, not a member of the Senate. Is there any way Democrats can slow this nomination down or block it?

PELOSI: well, as you say, that is a matter for the Senate, but I will say this. It's really important for everyone to get out there and vote. The day the justice passed away, 10 votes -- 10 states started early voting that day. We just want everyone across the country who cares about health care for all Americans, who cares about crushing the coronavirus, who cares about a woman's right to choose, who cares about LGBTQ rights -- the list goes on and on -- to vote. The election is very important.

Let me just remind that, when we had the Lilly Ledbetter case before the Supreme Court, the court ruled against women in the workplace. Justice Ginsburg wrote the dissent. That dissent became the Lilly Ledbetter law that was the first bill signed by Barack Obama.

So the Congress has the ability to overturn the injustices that spring from the Supreme Court, and that's why we have to have a big turnout in this election, not for politics, not for anything other than what it means to people in their homes, in their lives.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You are in the middle of negotiations over government funding. The government runs out of funding at the end of September. Is there any way you can use leverage in those negotiations to slow this nomination down?

PELOSI: Well, none of us has any interest in shutting down government. That -- that has such a harmful and painful impact on so many people in our country. So I would hope that we can just proceed with that. There is some enthusiasm among some exuberance on the left to say let's use that, but we're not going to be shutting down government.

I do hope, though, that the focus on health care and what it means in terms of the courts will have public opinion be of such magnitude that the Republicans will finally -- finally -- address the coronavirus crisis, finally subscribe to a plan to crush the virus, to listen to scientists about testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, sanitation, ventilation, social distancing.

Why have we not adopted that as a country? That is a place where we can slow the growth and perhaps crush this virus.

Instead -- well, I don't want to go into instead. You know what instead is.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you though on what happens. You said you want people to get out there and vote. But even that's no guarantee that the White House and Senate Republicans won't try to push through a Supreme Court nomination in a lame duck session even if Joe Biden wins on November 3rd, even if Democrats win -- pick up seats in the House, and maybe even the Senate.

So what can you do then?

Some have mentioned the possibility if they try to push through a nominee in a lame duck session that you and the House can move to impeach President Trump or Attorney General Barr as a way of stalling and preventing the Senate from acting on this nomination.

PELOSI: Well, we have our options. We have arrows in our quiver that I’m not about to discuss right now, but the fact is we have a big challenge in our country. This president has threatened to not even accept the results of the election with statements that he and his henchmen have made.

So, right now, our main goal and I think Ruth Bader Ginsburg would want that to be, would be to protect the integrity of the election as we protect the American people from the coronavirus, and that’s -- I have faith in the American people on this Sunday morning. I hope and pray we have a vaccine, and that it would be soon, but it must be safe and efficacious when we do, not one day sooner, not one day later than that.

But the fact is, this administration has been a total failure in protecting the health and well-being of the American people, and it has had an impact on our economy. The lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy are threatened by this administration.

So, again, when people say, what can I do? You can vote. You can get out the vote, and you can do so as soon as possible.

Ten states as I said, on Friday, started their early voting, the day that we lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But to be clear, you're not taking any arrows out of your quiver, you’re not ruling anything out?

PELOSI: Good morning. Sunday morning.

Yeah. We have a responsibility. We've taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people.

That is when we weigh the equities of protecting our democracy requires us to use every arrow in our quiver.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, finally, if the Republicans still are successful, many of your colleagues have called for, again, if a majority is voted for Democrats in November, expanding the court in retaliation. Your response?

PELOSI: Well, let's just win the election. Let's hope that the president will see the light.

Again, there's many, many people in our country, and millions more now because of coronavirus who have preexisting medical conditions. The president has not been truthful in what he has said about that. He is in court to crush preexisting conditions as he crushes the Affordable Care Act instead of crushing the virus.

So people have something at stake in this decision, and how quickly the president wants to go. I don't think they care about who said what, when, and all the rest of that, but they do care about their own health and well-being and the financial health and well-being of their families if they are subjected to unlimited costs because of preexisting conditions, as well as eliminating the caps that have been placed by the Affordable Care Act on what insurance companies can charge.

So this -- again, this is about the people. It's about their health, their economic well-being, the health of our democracy. We have a great deal at stake here. I think we should be very calm. We should be inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

She was brilliant, and she was strategic, and she was successful. And she did more for equality for women in our country than anyone that you can name, and women appreciate that, and I think that you will see women weighing in on all of these decisions, be the elections, confirmations or the rest.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Madam Speaker, thanks very much for your time this morning.

PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Ted Cruz is our next guest. Here's what he said about election year vacancies in 2016 when Barack Obama was president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don't do this in an election year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator Ted Cruz joins us now.

Good morning, Senator. Thanks for joining us this morning.

You and your colleagues were pretty clear back in 2016 that in an election year it is a matter for the people to decide. Is it fair for people to conclude right now that you've changed your tune because the president is a Republican not a Democrat?

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Well, George, I'm happy to talk about that, but I -- but I want to start by -- by just acknowledging the -- the extraordinary career Justice Ginsburg had. She was a -- a trailblazing advocate, one of the finest Supreme Court litigators to have ever lived. She -- she served for nearly three decades on the court. I -- I argued nine times before Justice Ginsburg on the court.

She was a brilliant Justice. She was -- she was -- her questions were always incisive. She was a careful lawyer. And she's led a -- a remarkable legacy. And -- and -- and Heidi and I, our -- our prayers are -- are with her family, who -- who are grieving the loss of -- of someone who led an extraordinary life.

Now, when the vacancy occurs, that naturally leads to the -- to the question of what will happen next. And the answer in terms of what's going to happen next, as we know now, the president is going to make a nomination. I -- when I called for the president to make the nomination this coming week, he's announced he's going to make the nomination this week. And I believe the right thing to do is for the Senate to take up this nomination and to confirm the nominee before Election Day.

Now, on the question of precedent, look, we had this fight at the end of the Barack Obama term. And -- and at the time all the Democrats were says, confirm the nominee, confirm the nominee, and all the Republicans were saying we're not going to confirm the nominee. And so we've got a situation -- you just played a quote from me in 2016. We can play that game all day long where you can play a quote from Chuck -- Chuck Schumer saying you've got to confirm the nominee.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but I -- I don't disagree with that. I don't disagree with -- that's what I'm just trying to get you to concede. This is really about who has the votes and who has the power at any given time, right?

CRUZ: So -- so, no, actually it isn't. If you look at history, if you actually look at what the precedent is, this has happened 29 times. Twenty-nine times there has been a vacancy in a presidential election year. Now, presidents have made nominations all 29 times. That's what presidents do. If there's a vacancy, they make a nomination.

What has the Senate done? And there's a big difference in the Senate with whether the Senate is of the same party of the president or a different party of the president. When the Senate has been of the same party of the president, and a vacancy occurs in an election year, of the 29 times, those are 19 of them. Of those 19, the Senate has confirmed those nominees 17 times. So if the parties are the same, the Senate confirms the nominee.

When the parties are different, that's happened ten times. Merrick Garland was one of them. Of those ten, the Senate has confirmed the nominees only twice.

And -- and there's a reason for that. It's not just simply your party, my party. The reason is it's -- it's a question of checks and balances. In order for a Supreme Court nomination to go forward, you have to have the president and the Senate -- in this instance, the American people voted. They elected Donald Trump. A big part of the reason they elected Donald Trump is because of the Scalia vacancy, and they wanted principle constitutionalists on the court. And the big part of the reason why we have a Republican majority, elected in 2014, re-elected in 2016, grown even larger in 2018, a major issue in each of those elections is the American people voted and said, we want constitutionalist judges.

And so the president was elected to do this and the Senate was elected to confirm this nomination.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, generally those picks in an election year have been consensus picks.

But I do want to move on. You've made your point right there.

What I want to get to now is whether you're in step with most Republicans right now in voting before the election? Senator McConnell seems to have not made up his mind on whether that's best for your majority. You're pushing him here, right?

CRUZ: Well, let me point out one quick thing in terms of what -- what has been done in the past, which is, when you worked in the White House, you worked for Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton made two Supreme Court nominations, Justice Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. You know, Stephen Breyer, when he got to the Court of Appeals, it was an even more dramatic situation than this.

Jimmy Carter appointed Stephen Breyer on November 10, 1980. So it was after the presidential election. Jimmy Carter had just lost to Ronald Reagan and he appointed Steve Breyer anyway right after the election. And you know what the Democratic Senate did? By the way, the voters had just thrown the Democratic Senate and said we're going to have a Republican Senate. The Democratic Senate took it up in December and confirmed it in the lame duck.

That was Bill Clinton's second Supreme Court nominee. So there's a long history here. And everyone knows that if the president were Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were the majority leader, the odds are 100 percent -- 100 percent -- there's no universe in which Nancy Pelosi would not have been the previous speaker saying, we are going to confirm this seat. And at the end of the day, how do you resolve those differences? Well, the American people do. And the American people did by electing a president and a Senate committed to justices who will defend free speech and religious liberty and the second amendment and our fundamental rights. Because all of those rights are one vote away.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you have the votes now to have -- to confirm before the election?

CRUZ: You know, I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I believe we will. I think it is particularly important that the Senate take it up and confirm this - this nomination before the election.

Because Joe Biden has been explicit. He has said, if he doesn't win, he's going to challenge this election. He's going to go to court. He's going to challenge it. He's already hired a big legal team. Hillary Clinton has told Joe Biden, "Under no circumstances should you concede." Given that, there is a serious risk of a constitutional crisis, if Joe Biden is bringing litigation, like we had in Bush v. Gore but in five or 10 states...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, I have to stop you. As you know, it is -- it's President Trump who has been the one talking about rigged elections. Joe Biden has not explicitly said he's -- he's going to challenge the election. Of course they're going to have teams of lawyers, as every campaign always does, to look at irregularities...

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... ballots.

CRUZ: George, true or false, did Hillary say to Joe Biden, "Don't concede?"

(CROSSTALK)

CRUZ: George, true or false, did Hillary Clinton say to Joe Biden, "Don't concede?"

STEPHANOPOULOS: I was asking if you said Joe Biden explicitly said it. He hasn't said it.

CRUZ: It's true. It's true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I did not challenge your statement about Senator Clinton.

CRUZ: OK. So you agree Hillary has said "Under no circumstances concede." Joe Biden has also hired a legal team headed by Supreme Court advocates. They intend to challenge this...

STEPHANOPOULOS: As has President Trump.

CRUZ: This is a topic -- this is a topic -- you know, 20 years ago I was part of the legal team that litigated Bush v. Gore for George W. Bush. I was a young lawyer then. In fact, I just wrote a book that's coming out in a couple of weeks called "One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History."

And one of the chapters there talks about Bush v. Gore. It talks about the epic battle where Al Gore challenged the election results, and for 36 days, the country was held in chaos. Well, if Joe Biden does that again this year and we have an 8-8 (ph) court, an equally divided court, 4-4, can't decide anything. That could make this presidential election drag on weeks and months and well into next year. That is an intolerable situation for the country. We need a full court on Election Day, given the very high likelihood that we're going to see litigation that goes to the court. We need a Supreme Court that can give a definitive answer for the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Senator, as you know, I mean, this is one of those situations where, again, Republicans and Democrats have switched sides. Four years ago, you and your colleagues dismissed the concerns of a split court. But I do want to get to a final question from Josh Hawley, your colleague in the Senate, put out a tweet yesterday where he said, "Two months ago, I pledged to vote only for SCOTUS nominees who understand and acknowledge that Roe was wrongly decided. I stand by that commitment, and I call on my fellow Republican senators to take the same stand."

Will you take that stand?

CRUZ: Well, I -- I don't believe that's the right question to ask. You know, I mentioned a minute ago the book I have, "One Vote Away," that's -- that's coming out in a couple of weeks. I have an entire chapter devoted to how you should make Supreme Court nominations.

And I think what you should look for is a proven record. Where Republicans have gotten this wrong is where we've rolled the dice. On the Democratic side, Democrats bat almost 1,000. Almost every Democratic nominee votes exactly as the Democrats want.

On the Republican side, we maybe bat 500. A full half of Republican nominees end up galloping to the left and undermining the Constitution.

Here's how you tell the difference. You look for a proven record of has this individual stood up for the Constitution, defended free speech, defended religious liberty, defended the second amendment, and have they suffered the slings and arrows? Has the press criticized them? Has the press attacked them, and have they stood strong?

If you look at the justices who stayed faithful to their oath, there are people like Antonin Scalia. There are people like Justice Thomas, people like Sam Alito, people like my old boss, Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Every one of them followed that pattern. That's what I've urged the president to nominate.

And, you know, I will say, one final observation, when I was clerking for Chief Justice Rehnquist, he obviously worked every day with Justice Ginsburg, and I will say he admired what a careful lawyer she was. Consistently, of the lawyers of the left -- of the judges on the left -- Chief Justice Rehnquist was always most willing to give an important opinion to Justice Ginsburg because she wrote narrow, careful opinions. That's important. But it's also important what the justices are doing. And I believe the American people want constitutionalists.

We're one vote away from seeing our religious liberty rights stripped away, from our free speech stripped away, from our second amendment stripped away. This election matters, and I think it is the most important issue in 2020, electing presidents and a Senate who will nominate and confirm strong...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator...

CRUZ: ... constitutionalists to the court.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Cruz, thanks for your time this morning.

CRUZ: Thank you, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bill Clinton is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 1993)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If, as I believe, the measure of a person's values can best be measured by examining the life the person lives, then Judge Ginsburg's values are the very ones that represent the best in America.

I am proud to nominate this pathbreaking attorney, advocate and judge to be the 107th justice to the United States Supreme Court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bill Clinton nominating Ruth Bader Ginsburg to be a justice on the Supreme Court back in June of 1993.

And President Clinton joins us this morning.

Thanks for joining us, Mr. President.

You know, you wrote that, when you chose Ruth Gader Binsburg (sic), you thought she had the -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- she had the potential to be a great justice.

Did she turn out to be the justice you imagined -- different in any way?

CLINTON: Well, she was only different as I never anticipated she'd become, later in her life, a cultural icon and we'd all be doing her exercise routines.

But I must say, as I -- the more I think about it, the -- the less surprised I am, because, in a time where people were so cynical, Ruth Ginsburg symbolizes everything that's best about America. And she was always completely on the level. And people need that. They need to be able to hang on to something that's on the level.

I remember, you know, when she came to Arkansas to give a speech for me a couple years ago. There were -- we couldn't fit the people that wanted to come in the library or in the convention center. We had to move to the basketball arena. And 15,000 people came, and almost that many wanted to come. And this was in a very red state, even though the capital city is still Democratic.

And she just seemed to be authentic and a person first. And she never disappointed on that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I remember when you were thinking of choosing her. One of the great selling points was that she -- everybody believed that she would be able to work with justices who had differing points of view. She, of course, did maintain cordial relations even with justices like Antonin Scalia, who she differed with on so many issues.

But later in her career she really became known for those dissents.

CLINTON: She did. Well, and, you know, the country became more and more polarized. But she maintained her relationships with Justice Scalia and cordiality with the others, even when she was clearly in deep disagreement with them over a variety of cases. And I think that's important.

You know, if we quit talking to each other, it's going to be very difficult to ever knit the country back together again.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Presidential elections haven't generally turned on the issue of the Supreme Court. Is this year different now?

CLINTON: Well, it depends on what happens. I mean, I think it's interesting that Mitch McConnell seems to -- he said we had to trust the American people and give the voters a voice in the last Supreme Court selection when President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, 10 months before the election. There has never been a rule on that.

But there is something to be said for it when the election outcome is in doubt and you're closer and closer to the election. When Abraham Lincoln had a vacancy in early October in 1864, when Justice Roger Taney died, he did not nominate anybody to succeed him until after the election, until he saw whether he won or not, because he thought it was so close, it was important (ph) not to.

Today it seems that Senator McConnell has lost his faith in the judgment of the American people and wants to hurry up and put somebody on the court. And the president does too. So they -- their position is do whatever maximizes your power. And it's totally inconsistent with what you said before, don't worry about it. Ruth Ginsburg was just the reverse.

She was on the level. Same set of rules for everybody. And so she should be -- she would be saying today, just wait until we see what happens in the election and see if people think that we should move court even further to the right, or is somebody who represents all views and everybody fairly should be given a chance to serve.

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: I hope that will happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you said, President Trump and Senator McConnell made it pretty clear what they want to do. How should Democrats handle it?

CLINTON: Well, they're going to nominate somebody. And that we should see if anybody cares that several people, including some who are up for re-election are clearly going to violate what they said they believed before. Lindsey Graham has said he wouldn't vote this close to the election no matter what president was there.

Chuck Grassley, Senator Grassley, said the same thing. And, of course, you have a number of others who went along with it before not giving Judge Garland even a hearing, much less a vote. It would be very interesting to see whether their position could only be justified is, if my party can do it now I'm for it, if their party can do it then I'm against it.

And if that's the rule of life in America, then who knows what the consequences will be.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, thanks very much for your time this morning.

The roundtable's up next.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH R. BIDEN: If the president consults and cooperates with the Senate or moderates his selections, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justice Kennedy and Justice Souter. So now I hear all this talk about the "Biden rule." It's frankly ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: I want you to use my words against me. If there's a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say "Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination," and you could use my words against me, and you'd be absolutely right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Lindsey Graham's position now? He will move hearings on the president's pick and also a vote this year.

Let's bring -- let's talk about this on our roundtable with Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Kate Shaw, professor of constitutional law at Cardozo Law School, and Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network.

And, Rahm, let me begin with you. It seems like, all through the summer, nothing changes this race, not the conventions, not the Bob Woodward book, not other revelations. Is the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg different?

EMANUEL: Well, I would say the short answer is no, because the centrifugal force of this election is your opinion of Donald Trump. I mean, you have major, major events, things we haven't seen in 100 years, 75 years, 50 years, obviously four years, and nothing changes. The race stays incredibly stable in these most uncertain of times. And that's because, at the end of the day, Donald Trump hasn't improved one iota over his job approval or disapproval. And that's where this race is, as recent polling -- you can go back to January -- it basically moves within a bandwidth of a point either way.

I do think the -- and you'll also find, going from 2018, 2019, 2020, incredibly energized electorate. And I think that's going to continue. I think this will have more of an impact in the senate races than it will in the presidential race.

And if I can, George, one other thing. A lot has been said about Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- I worked for President Clinton when he nominated her -- about her judicial mind, her experience as a woman, how it influenced her life, but also being a Jewish-American, and that experience of seeing how justice and -- has expanded, more and more Americans become part of the American experience.

That is when America is enriched. And that experience, as a Jewish American and the part of being a minority discriminated, and then reaching great heights because we lived up to the American creed, is also a part of her story.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Chris Christie, let's pick up on where Rahm -- what Rahm was talking about, just this could have more of an impact on the center races, perhaps, than the presidential race.

First, do you agree with that? And, number two, when do you think the president should move on this? Should he try to get it done before the election or wait for the lame-duck?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's going to have an effect on both races, George. It clearly will have an effect on the Senate races.

And I agree with Rahm there. But it's going to have an effect on the presidential race, because there is now a new dominant issue, looking -- looking at the American people straight in the eye, which is, who do you want picking the next Supreme Court justice? Who are the people that you trust the most to do that?

And it's going to give people a lot to talk about in these times leading up to the debate. And I think the debate will now be reframed a bit by the fact that Justice Ginsburg has passed, and now we need to make a new selection.

I think the president should do what presidents have done in all these other instances when these vacancies have come up in election years. The president should make a nomination. He should make a nomination quickly, I believe, so that he gives the Senate all the options that they can have in terms of how they want to proceed with the nomination.

In the end, though, this is going to be Mitch McConnell's call and the call of the caucus, the Republican majority caucus, in terms of what they want to do and when they want to do it.

And the president is going to have to rely upon Mitch McConnell to do what he thinks is best.

I think, most times, when he has relied on Mitch McConnell to do that in the course the last 3.5 years, he's done very well. So, my suggestion to him is, pick the very best person you can for the post, and then leave it to the Senate to make their decision and provide their advice and consent.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Carrie Severino, you and your organization worked very hard for President Trump's two previous nominees to the Supreme Court. Who stands out on his short list? And what advice would you give to Senator McConnell about whether to move this before or after the election?

CARRIE SEVERINO, PRESIDENT, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK: Yes, well, we know there's ample time to get this done before the election.

You look at Justice O'Connor, 33 days was confirmed unanimously, Justice Ginsburg herself in 42 days, nearly unanimously, Justice Stevens in 19 days. So there's clearly time to get this done.

Some of the names we're hearing a lot, George, are people like Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, two judges that were elevated by Trump to the appellate court, really outstanding women, mothers, scholars, judges. They have incredible stories of trailblazers.

And I think this is an exciting time for women. These are the kind of women, I think, who could follow and Justice Ginsburg's own trailblazing footsteps and really make an incredible mark on the court.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kate Shaw, pick up on that.

Assess the picks and the likelihood of getting them through that quickly.

KATE SHAW, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I do think it bears pausing for a moment to reflect on what Lindsey Graham was talking about in the clip that you played and what you were talking about with Senator Cruz earlier, which is, in 2016, when President Obama had an election year vacancy, all of the arguments against moving forward on a nominee sounded in democratic legitimacy, right?

The election was looming, and the American people should be permitted to make their voices heard before the president moved anyone forward.

And fast-forward to 2020. We're not just on the eve of an election. The election is happening. States already have early voting. Absentee ballots are already going out.

So, in some ways, the democratic legitimacy concerns are just exponentially greater if there is a moving forward with any nominee, I think, before we know who the winner of the election is.

I think that, on the short list, there are more and less potentially polarizing nominees. I think Amy Coney Barrett, who Carrie mentioned, seems to be the top of the list, and perhaps is the most conservative individual on the list, has come as close as anyone on a sitting federal appeals court to saying that Roe vs. Wade should be overturned.

And I think her nomination could really put the future of legal abortion in America on the ballot, in a way that the president would need to think hard about whether that is to his political advantage to do. I don't know that it's obvious that it is.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie, let's...

EMANUEL: George...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm, I'm going to come back to you in a second, but, first, I want to ask Chris a question.

Is it realistic, if this is held over until after the election, for the Republicans to push through a nominee in a lame-duck session, if Joe Biden wins, if Democrats pick up seats in the House and the Senate?

CHRISTIE: Well, listen, George, I think what you have to look at is what really happened with Merrick Garland.

I heard what Kate just said. And I know that rhetoric like that was being used. But let's face it. This is politics. And these confirmations are -- have become about politics.

There will be no longer 96-0 Antonin Scalia confirmations or unanimous Sandra Day O'Connor confirmations. Those days of politics, unfortunately, in my view in our country are gone now. And the reason Merrick Garland did not get confirmed is because he didn't have the votes because the Republicans controlled the Senate.

And when you look at Donald Trump's two nominees, you know, Brett Kavanaugh got one Democratic vote, and, you know, Neil Gorsuch got three. If that didn’t happen for Merrick Garland, even if he gotten three Republicans to switch sides back in 2016, he still would have been at 49 votes and would not be able to confirm.

And so, the fact is, who’s got the votes, who the American people are putting in charge of the Senate and that's why Merrick Garland didn't move forward. If there had been pressure on Mitch McConnell for people in his own caucus saying, we want to vote for Merrick Garland, put him up, he would have been put up.

And so -- and as far as your question on the lame duck session, I think you take this one step at a time, and they have to decide, can they do this?

I think -- I think we're right that, you know, in the end, this can be done. There's certainly practical -- with both those federal appeals court judges if one of them is a nominee because they just had their FBI background checks a year or two ago, and freshening those up will not take a long time.

So, if you want to do it, you can, but the question is, does Mitch McConnell have at least 50 votes with Mike Pence as a tiebreaker to be able to get it through before the election or not? That's for Mitch to determine. And when he determines, I think that will determine what's going to happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm, it was pretty striking to hear Speaker Pelosi say she's not taking any arrows out of her quiver, even keeping the possibility of impeachment on the table if the Republicans try to push through a lame duck appointment after losing the election.

RAHM EMANUEL, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: But, you know, one thing that has not been brought up, George, President Trump never received the popular vote, and the idea you would be nominating a person to not get the popular vote, it's impossible at this point based on all the polling for him to actually win the popular vote this time as well, and that is the tyranny of a minority, and the idea he didn't have the votes or that somehow he was elected to do this as Senator Cruz, no, he wasn't.

He never even received the popular vote for this effort, and that proves to me, once again, when you look at Mitch McConnell and you look at Lindsey Graham, it's what I said about Republicans from Washington. They're firm in their opinions. It's their principles they're flexible on.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, does that justify keeping something like impeachment on the table? Does that mean that that’s --

EMANUEL: Look, I don’t think -- the reason I reject that politics and I understand the speaker -- I would never underestimate her to look at all of her efforts and all of her tools, but the idea of talking about impeachment as retribution, that is what is corrosive to our political system that somehow we have to one-up them.

As you think, when you look at Ginsburg, one of the things people loved about her, was even when she disagreed with Scalia, she had a friendship. And that's why I think one of the most iconic pictures of this week that’s going to -- that’s going to pay to Joe Biden’s benefit is that picture where he elbow bumped the person who was protesting him, he said, “I will also be your president.” That is the America people are yearning for, not the Mitch McConnell/Donald Trump, even when we don't have a majority, we're going to ram something through and then destroy the fabric of this country.

It's not in the spirit of what Ginsburg/Scalia's friendship was which people yearned for, and admired when they disagreed, they heard each other. That's what President Clinton talked about --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Carrie --

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: -- and that’s why that picture of Joe Biden in Minnesota will stand the test of time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to bring in Carrie Severino to respond to that point Rahm made about having justices picked by presidents who didn't win the popular vote. You now have four justices appointed by presidents who didn't win the popular vote.

What will it mean to have the majority of the court appointed by presidents who didn't win the popular vote? Does that create a question of legitimacy?

CARRIE SEVERINO, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK PRESIDENT: Not at all. This is how the Constitution designed the system. We have the Electoral College for a reason.

And as Justice Ginsburg herself stated, the president doesn’t stop being the president just because it’s an election year. So, she actually had said they should go forward with Merrick Garland’s confirmation. If we were having a consistent rule, we would go forward here.

I think you look at the kind of women who are in line to potentially replace her. Amy Coney Barrett, mother of seven, incredibly accomplished scholar, now judge.

Barbara Lagoa, daughter of Cuban immigrants. She speaks so eloquently about the rule of law because that’s what her family fled in Cuba is a rule of a tyranny for a system where you have equal justice under law.

I think those women deserve to have a vote and to go through this process.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kate Shaw, what options do Democrat have here?

CHRISTIE: George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Which ones should they use?

KATE SHAW, CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW PROFESSOR: You know, I think they need to make the argument to the American people that it's just not appropriate to move forward yet, and that after the election has occurred and we know who the winner is, then of course, if President Trump is re-elected, the arguments they are making now are off the table and the president has every right to move forward with his new nominee to the court, but that all that they are asking for is essentially a delay until it is known who the winner of the election will be.

And, you know, one thing we haven't talked about is the possibility of election-related litigation. It seems quite likely that litigation will follow the election and the Supreme Court could be asked to weigh in on a case that could end up resolving the winner of the election. And for that Supreme Court to include a member who was rushed forward, placed on the court and then casts a vote, you know, that essentially results in the president winning re-election I think could create just a massive crisis in legitimacy and sort of undermine acceptance of the result among the American people. And that, I think, is a consideration that's an important one as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris Christie.

EMANUEL: George --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Chris, go ahead.

CHRISTIE: George, listen, Rahm's -- Rahm's argument is ridiculous on its face regarding the tyranny of the minority. Let's remember that Bill Clinton never got a majority of the vote in either of his two elections. And he nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Does that mean that Stephen Breyer is currently an illegitimate justice because the man who appointed him never received a majority of the vote in either one of his presidential elections? If Rahm wants to re-write the Constitution, then let's get a constitutional convention going, if he can get it going, and have Rahm re-write the Constitution, as terrifying as that prospect might be. You know, the fact is our --

EMANUEL: One Jewish mother would be happy in America.

CHRISTIE: That's absolutely true, Rahm. I have no doubt about that. Until she saw what you wrote, then maybe not so much.

You know, in the end, what this is about is the Electoral College. That's the way we -- we select presidents. And they -- each one of those presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump got majorities in the electoral votes. That gives them the right to nominate Supreme Court justices.

EMANUEL: George --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Rahm Emanuel.

EMANUEL: Yes, I would just say this, for the Democrats, first of all, I would continue to remind people this is a lifetime appointment. So the idea that we would rush something that's a lifetime appointment doesn't actually bode to common sense.

Second, it's not about the ACA, it's about pre-existing conditions. It's about Roe v. Wade. And when you look at what's happening, these decisions in the sense of taking the time and legitimacy -- I think the -- given people's views of Donald Trump and what he has done to the fabric of this country and the fabric of the political system, the notion that we would do this right, that everybody could then therefore have a sense of that it was done right and fairly, and not just for power, actually will work for Democrats.

But I'll say this, you try to rush this decision through, and given the consequences of both pre-existing conditions, Roe v. Wade, also the idea of other types of rights for other minorities and efforts, you are going to actually be playing with what I think is dangerous politics for the Republicans, but also a very dangerous set of politics for this country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's --

EMANUEL: And that, to me, is that precedent that is so important.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's -- and that is going to have to be the last word today.

Thank you all very much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."

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