The President May Have Been the Last Person in America to Find Out About RBG’s Death

President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Bemidji Regional Airport on September 18, 2020 in Bemidji, Minnesota.Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

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While the whole country was processing the breaking news that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died—and was trying to figure out just what her death would mean given how close we are to the election—President Trump was seemingly unaware of her death. Trump, in fact, spoke at his Minnesota campaign rally for almost two hours Friday night, making his typical jokes about political opponents.

After Ginsburg’s death was made public, I started watching the rally (which had already started before the news broke) to see what the president would say about her death. Instead, I saw a typical Trump off-script speech. He made fun of Democrats, talked how tough he was with Boeing, downplayed the “China virus,” and polled the crowd on which nickname they preferred for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden: “Sleepy Joe? or Slow Joe?”

Time went on and Trump remained on stage uninterrupted. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put out a statement asserting whoever the president’s nominee is will get a vote on the Senate floor. Lawmakers from both parties took to social media. Even when the rally was over, Trump continued to dance on stage and wave at the crowd of supporters on his way to Air Force One, apparently without his staff alerting him of the news. 

Trump finally made his way to a group of reporters who seemed to break the news to him. “She just died?” Trump asked a reporter. “Wow, I didn’t know that, you’re telling me now for the first time.” Trump then took a second and said: “She lead an amazing life, what else can you say, she was an amazing woman whether you agreed or not, she was an amazing woman who lead an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that, I am sad to hear that.” 

Perhaps what was even weirder than this complete shift in tone was that at the beginning of the rally, before most of us knew of Ginsburg’s death, Trump joked that if given the chance, he would nominate Ted Cruz to the Supreme Court because Cruz was “the only one [he] can think of” who would get full support from Congress. “They’ll do anything to get him out of the Senate, but I joke when I say that to Ted, but I say that to him all the time.” 

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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