Mourners flocked to the US Supreme Court on Wednesday to pay their respects to late liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death has opened a crucial seat on the nine-member bench that Donald Trump has vowed to fill before the November election.
Colleagues of Ginsburg, who died last week at age 87, as well as former president Bill Clinton honored the diminutive trailblazer, who became a pop culture icon late in life and a hero for American women.
But her death has been in some ways eclipsed by its political implications as Trump has pledged to quickly fill her seat, setting the stage for a bitterly partisan battle weeks before the November 3 presidential election as he seeks to tilt the nation's highest court to the right for decades to come.
"I think we should go very quickly," Trump said, three days before he is due to reveal his pick. He said he will name a woman to the lifetime post, and has five candidates on his shortlist.
On a crisp September morning, more than 100 of Ginsburg's former law clerks stood dressed in black on the steps of the austere court as her casket was carried into the building for a short service led by a female rabbi.
The progressive justice will lie in repose at the court on Wednesday and Thursday, when the White House says Trump will visit to offer his final respects.
On Friday, she will become the first woman to lie in state at the US Capitol.
Mourners who came to the court said they were focused on Ginsburg's legacy, not the looming political struggle.
"I'm not thinking that far ahead," said Heather Vandergriff, who came from Tennessee to honor the judge.
Democratic opponents, led by presidential challenger Joe Biden, are demanding that the process wait until after the election, when it will be known whether Trump will serve a second term.
But Trump says the post must be filled, in case the election is contested and ends up before the high court -- a possibility that is raising tensions in Washington.
"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it's important we have nine justices," the president said.
- 'Ginsburg shaped American history' -
As she waited for her chance to view Ginsburg's casket at the court, Michelle Mouton called the Republican rush to push through a nominee "disheartening."
"Her rulings definitely just made a difference in our world, so she's going to be known as a woman with power. Quiet power," she added.
"Ginsburg shaped American history, especially for women," said mourner Samantha Jacobs, while another, Virginia Blake-West, called her an "American patriot."
Trump's Saturday announcement will set the clock ticking on what is likely to be a contentious fight in Congress as Republicans push to get the nominee confirmed at an unusually quick pace.
Republicans say that with their current control of the White House and the Senate, which is tasked with confirming court nominees, they have the right to vote on the nomination either before the election or during the "lame-duck" session before the inauguration of the next president in January.
"We will certainly do that this year," Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said.
Two Republicans have said they do not believe the vote should be held before the election.
Although Democrats have no way of stopping the procedure, they will seek to inflict political pain on the Republicans over what Biden called an "abuse of power."