Former Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Saturday put a GOP campaign strategist on edge, repeatedly asking her to defend a claim about why Attorney General Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2016 was “held up”.
Franken and Alice Stewart, a CNN analyst and former assistant to former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R), weighed in on the recent comments from Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts.
In those comments, Roberts, in his first public appearance since the Supreme Court overthrown Roe v. Wade in June, defended the court’s legitimacy.
Franken told CNN host Jim Acosta that he disagreed with Roberts’s opinion.
He said the court’s legitimacy was undermined years ago when a Senate Republican majority led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Garland’s nomination, submitted by President Barack Obama, did not “take up”. At the time, McConnell called what he called a “long tradition” of not filling Supreme Court vacancies during an election year.
PolitiFact has described McConnell’s “long-standing tradition” claim as “misleading.”
Franken pointed out that Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) later supported filling Supreme Court vacancies in election years, which also had the effect of undermining the legitimacy of the court.
“They stole two chairs: the one for which Merrick Garland was not heard, and the one who… [Justice Amy] Coney Barrett, where she spent a week before the…  elections,” said Franken. “That destroyed the legitimacy of the court.”
Stewart said she wanted to be “a little accurate” in what Franken said, claiming the Garland nomination was held up because “we had a divided government — we had a Democrat in the White House and we had Republicans in control.” [of Congress].”
Franken immediately shot back: “That’s not what McConnell said.”
“But historically it has been,” Stewart replied. “When you are close to an election year and you have divided the government… there is usually a tendency to wait ”
“Tell me when this happened before,” Franken interrupted. “Tell me when it happened before.”
You can watch the exchange, starting around the 3:06 mark, below.