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Trump vows to 'fill that seat' on Supreme Court during Toledo rally

Swanton, Ohio — President Donald Trump pledged to fill U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat during a Monday night rally outside Toledo as Democrats argued the winner of the Nov. 3 election should make the pick.

At multiple points, the crowd at the Eugene F. Kranz Toledo Express Airport in Swanton, Ohio, chanted, "Fill that seat." Trump responded: "We will. We will."

"It’s somebody that you’re going to have great respect for," the president added, saying he will "probably" announce his selection on Saturday.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Swanton, Ohio.

Trump spoke Monday, 43 days before the November election and three days after the news of the liberal justice's death broke on Friday night. He landed in Swanton around 7:40 p.m. after appearing at a rally in the Dayton area.

The president's 70-minute Toledo rally took place at night outdoors with lights positioned around the stage and thousands of people in the crowd.

The president reiterated he would nominate a woman for the open seat on the high court and that he's considering "five incredible people" and "women that are extraordinary in every way." Earlier in the day, he indicated Michigan's Joan Larsen, a federal appeals court judge, is among the five.

The Republican president also criticized the suggestion that Democrats could launch impeachment proceedings against him or U.S. Attorney General William Barr to try to delay the Supreme Court nomination process.

"I’m the only guy in the world that could get impeached for trying to fill a seat," Trump said.

Democratic lawmakers have contended that whoever wins the Nov. 3 election should make the nomination, citing a position Republicans argued to block then-President Barack Obama's nomination of federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland in 2016.

Obama wanted Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative jurist who died in February 2016. The GOP-controlled Senate refused to consider the nomination, which ultimately allowed Trump to choose Scalia's replacement.

A handful of Trump's supporters countered Monday that if the tables were turned and Democrats held the presidency and controlled the U.S. Senate in an election year, they would advance a nominee.

"This is why we elected him, so yeah, we absolutely want it done," said Brad Moores, 50, of Toledo, who was waiting outside the airport venue Monday afternoon.

Monday's rally occurred about 20 minutes from the Michigan border as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Thousands of people were gathering at the outdoor venue with many of them not wearing masks.

"This is a free country. This isn't China," Moores said when asked about attending a large event while the virus is still spreading.

Jaxcyn Nofziger, Aly Martinez and Ava Martinez, all of Swanton, hold a flag for President Donald Trump outside his rally at the Toledo airport on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.

In 2016, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, his smallest margin of victory nationally against Democrat Hillary Clinton. He won Ohio by a wider margin, about 8 percentage points, but Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign is hoping to make the race in that state closer.

However, Trump contended that Democrats weren't making a push this fall to win Ohio.

"I was told they're not even trying for Ohio because I love you and you love me and that's the way it is," the president said.

On Tuesday, Biden's running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, will visit Detroit and Flint.

In a statement about Trump's Ohio stop, the former vice president said Trump had bungled the nation's response to the pandemic.

"Ohio deserves a leader in the White House who will fight for workers and families — not just corporations and the super-wealthy," Biden said. "As president, I’ll ensure that we not only recover from this crisis and end this pandemic, but that we support the small businesses that fuel our economy and create millions of good-paying jobs.

"There’s nothing Americans can’t do if given half a chance — and as president, I will help bring this country together so we can build back better than ever before."

Trump claimed the country is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic despite health experts voicing concerns about a potential second wave coming this fall. Vaccines are coming "soon," the president added. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said he expects a vaccine to be more widely available by the second or third quarter of 2021.

Trump also called for the reopening schools to in-person instruction and touted the fact that the Big Ten conference plans to have a college football season. It looked like it was going to open without Michigan and a couple states, he said.

"May the best team win," Trump said. "In other words, Ohio State. Enjoy the football, enjoy it."

At one point, he called two Ohio high school football players on stage who were suspended from their team after carrying flags backing law enforcement for a game on Sept. 11. The two students wore masks as they stood on stage near the president.

Trump claimed that if Biden is elected, he'll "destroy suburbia" and suggested that Democrats will somehow cheat in the upcoming election.

"When you see them cheating with those ballots, those unsolicited ballots, those millions of ballots, any time you do report them to the authorities. The authorities are waiting and watching," the president said.

There were many Michiganians in the crowd for Monday's rally, which occurred fewer than two weeks after Trump spoke at an airport hangar in Freeland. Joe Pastorek, 63, of Highland, attended the Freeland event and was in line for the one in Toledo.

There's nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says Trump shouldn't nominate a replacement for Ginsburg, Pastorek said.

"If the Democrats were in power, I'm 100% sure they'd put somebody in before the election," Pastorek said.

Sheila Deyak, 58, of St. Clair Shores, made a 90-mile drive to see Trump's speech in Swanton.

"We love our president," Deyak said. "We want our country back."

On whether Republicans are being hypocritical in pushing Trump to replace Ginsburg while blocking Garland's nomination because it was an election year four years ago, Deyak said, "Hypocrisy runs both ways."

Likewise, Maureen Higgins, 59, of Plymouth said the seat isn't Ginsburg's.

"The seat belongs to the American people," Higgins said.

As of Monday, Michigan had confirmed 117,406 cases of COVID-19 and 6,665 deaths linked to the virus. Ohio had confirmed 137,309 cases and 4,325 deaths.

The economy has been a focus of the Republican incumbent's re-election campaign. During his rally in Freeland on Sept. 10, Trump claimed he had "saved" the auto industry even though auto manufacturing jobs in Michigan rose before he took office and declined during his presidency — before the pandemic hit.

In Ohio, auto manufacturing jobs increased slightly from January 2017, when Trump took office, to February 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the pandemic, the auto manufacturing job total has dropped: The total is down about 17% from January 2017 compared with July 2020, according to the bureau.

In a Michigan Democratic Party event Monday, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, slammed Trump's handling of the economy. She noted a May announcement from Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. that it would shut down three operations at AK Steel Dearborn Works, putting more than 200 people out of work, and a December announcement that U.S. Steel Corp. planned to indefinitely idle part of its Great Lakes Works site in Ecorse and River Rouge, affecting as many as 1,500 workers.

"People have empty refrigerators who don't know where they're going to get food to feed their families," Dingell said.

Trump's supporters have focused on his January signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. Under the new deal, automakers will have to produce cars with 75% of parts originating from the U.S., Canada or Mexico to qualify for duty-free treatment, up from NAFTA's 62.5% level.

"It's a big difference, like day and night," Trump said. "It's working out great. You know how I know that it's a good deal for us? Because they don't like it."

cmauger@detroitnews.com