Hillary Clinton lambastes 'extremist' Donald Trump in scathing Supreme Court speech

Clinton rebukes Republicans on Supreme Court
Clinton rebukes Republicans on Supreme Court

Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton targeted Republican counterparts Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and unloaded on Senate GOP leadership in a Monday speech on the battle over the Supreme Court vacancy.

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Clinton, the former secretary of state, painted elements of Trump's campaign as "racist," saying that the current Republican Party's leaders planted the seeds for the rise of "extremist" candidates in Trump and Cruz, the senator from Texas.

"The death of Justice [Antonin] Scalia marked the end of an era," she said during a speech at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "That fight is revealing the worst of our politics."

"The same obstructionism that we've seen from Republicans since the beginning of the Obama administration, the same disregard for the rule of law that's given rise to the extremist candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz," she continued. "It's corroding our democracy, and it has to stop."

Clinton called for an increased need to focus on the Supreme Court dispute. Her speech comes as Senate GOP leadership has insisted that Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's nominee to fill the vacant seat, will not get a hearing or vote before the Senate, even as some of the party's senators have begun to break off from the strategy.

Clinton called on Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to hold a hearing as soon as the Senate returns from its current recess.

"He says we should wait for a new president because the American people shouldn't be denied a voice," she said. "I'd say my voice is being ignored right now because of their obstructionism. ... We chose a president, we chose him twice. And now Republicans are acting like our votes didn't count."

She said the court "shapes virtually every aspect of life" in the US.

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"For a long time, the ideological bend of the court has been leading the country in the wrong direction," she said. "We need to focus on the court."

Clinton warned that, in just one term, with multiple additional seats potentially opening up, the next president could cause the Supreme Court to "demolish pillars of the progressive movement."

She asked her Wisconsin audience who it could see a theoretical President Trump appointing, citing his campaign pledges to temporarily bar Muslim immigrants and deport other immigrants living in the country illegally.

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Clinton tied the Republican strategy on the Supreme Court to larger developments within the party. She stressed that Trump's candidacy "didn't come out of nowhere" — it was a product of years of the GOP working to obstruct Obama by any means possible.

"They say a Trump nomination will set their party back decades — I agree," she said. "It will set their party back decades."

Clinton also connected what she called Trump's "racist campaign" of questioning Obama's citizenship in 2011 with Cruz's strategy of "holding the government hostage to get his way."

Republicans "may just give rise to candidates who promise to do even more radical and dangerous things, because once when you make the extreme normal, you open the door to even worse," she said.