Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) put a GOP campaign strategist on blast Saturday, repeatedly asking her to defend a claim about why Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination was “held up” in 2016.
Franken and Alice Stewart, a CNN analyst and onetime aide to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), were weighing in on recent remarks by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
In those remarks, Roberts, in his first public appearance since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, defended the legitimacy of the court.
Franken told CNN host Jim Acosta that he disagreed with Roberts’ take.
He said the court’s legitimacy was undermined years ago, when a Republican Senate majority led by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t “take up” Garland’s nomination, submitted by President Barack Obama. At the time, McConnell cited what he called a “longstanding tradition” not to fill Supreme Court vacancies during an election year.
PolitiFact has described McConnell’s “longstanding tradition” claim as “misleading.”
Franken pointed out that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) later supporting filling Supreme Court vacancies in election years, which also had the effect of undermining the court’s legitimacy.
“They’ve stolen two seats: the one that Merrick Garland wasn’t given a hearing for, and the one that [Justice Amy] Coney Barrett, where she was seated a week before the  election,” Franken said. “That destroyed the legitimacy of the court.”
Stewart said she wanted to “throw a little accuracy” into what Franken said, claiming that 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 fired back: “That’s not what McConnell said.”
“But that’s the way, historically, this has been,” Stewart replied. “When you’re close to an election year and you have divided government ... there typically is an inclination 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.