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Ginsburg's death turns 2020 into a SCOTUS showdown as U.S. toll from Covid-19 passes 200,000

Trump and the Republicans are ready to "fill the seat!" while Biden and Democrats are saying not so fast.
Image: People gather at the Supreme Court on the morning after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
People gather at the Supreme Court after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Saturday.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has set the stage for a Supreme Court showdown just 43 days before the presidential election.

Here's what we're watching this Monday morning.

Stage set for Supreme Court showdown

Within hours of Ginsburg's death on Friday, a fierce political battle between Republicans and Democrats over how and when to fill her seat on the nine-person Supreme Court was already shaping up.

President Donald Trump announced his intention Saturday to fill her seat "without delay!"

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday called for her replacement to come after the election.

On Sunday, the former vice president went further, accusing Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of trying to engage in "constitutional abuse" after Ginsburg's death.

"To jam this nomination through the Senate is just an exercise in raw political power," Biden said in a speech Sunday aimed at Senate Republicans. "I don't believe the people of this nation will stand for it."

Biden and other Democrats have accused the Republicans of hypocrisy for their haste after they thwarted President Barack Obama's Supreme Court pick in 2016.

In that case, Justice Antonin Scalia had died in February, months ahead of that year's presidential election, but McConnell refused to hold any hearings for Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland, saying voters should have a say in the selection.

So far, two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have come out against voting on a nominee before the election.

"I did not support taking up a nomination eight months before the 2016 election to fill the vacancy created by the passing of Justice Scalia," Murkowski said in a statement. "We are now even closer to the 2020 election — less than two months out — and I believe the same standard must apply."

But the fact of the matter is, there's not much Democrats can do to stop a nomination. With Republicans holding a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, at least two more Republicans would need to come out against voting in favor of a nominee ahead of the election to ensure no confirmation before it.

One way or the other, the issue is sure to motivate voters. Republicans think it will turn out the base, while Democrats say it will further motivate their supporters.

Interestingly, GOP voters are usually more fired up about the Supreme Court than Democrats. But that may be changing. Polls taken before Ginsburg died show that Democrats are now even more energized by issues surrounding the court than GOP voters.

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'Notorious RBG': Ginsburg transcended the court to become a pop culture icon

Ginsburg rose from a feminist advocate to the Supreme Court bench, but it was her transcendence to cultural icon that reverberated over the weekend as thousands expressed outpourings of grief over her passing.

In a country where women still crave female political leaders, Ginsburg was not only an idol for liberal women, but filled a void, NBC News' Alicia Victoria Lozano writes.

"Justice Ginsburg inspired the generations who followed her, from the tiniest trick-or-treaters to law students burning the midnight oil to the most powerful leaders in the land," former President Barack Obama said. "We’re profoundly thankful for the legacy she left."

Once unthinkable, the U.S. surpasses 200,000 coronavirus deaths

A prediction made in March — unfathomable at the time — has come to pass: More than 200,000 people in the U.S. have now died from Covid-19.

As we mourn all those who lost their fight with coronavirus, the country still faces many challenges in overcoming the pandemic, including agreeing on even the most basic facts.

Much remains unknown about how the virus could progress in the fall and winter. But experts stressed that maintaining vigilance will be one of the most effective ways to contain it and prevent runaway outbreaks.

"A storm will do what it's supposed to do. You can't do anything about it," Alessandro Vespignani, director of Northeastern's Network Science Institute. "With an epidemic, we can change the trajectory."

Many of the ways to do that aren't new, including wearing masks, practicing good hygiene by washing hands frequently and getting a flu shot, he said.

Secret documents show how North Korea launders money through U.S. banks

North Korea carried out an elaborate money laundering scheme for years using a string of shell companies and help from Chinese firms, moving money through prominent banks in New York, according to confidential bank documents reviewed by NBC News.

The trove of confidential bank documents offers a rare glimpse into how North Korea — and other rogue actors — move illicit cash across borders despite international sanctions designed to block Pyongyang's access to the global financial system.

The suspected laundering by North Korea-linked organizations amounted to more than $174.8 million over a period of several years, with transactions cleared through U.S. banks, including JP Morgan and the Bank of New York Mellon, according to the documents.

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THINK about it

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Apple Watch Series 6: What to know before buying.

One fun thing

The warmhearted comedy "Schitt's Creek" and the acerbic corporate satire "Succession" nabbed top honors Sunday night at the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards.

The ceremony was unusual this year, to say the least: Host Jimmy Kimmel took the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in front of rows of empty seats; winners accepted awards via video feeds from their homes and other remote locations around the world.

Check out the best moments from the (mostly) virtual "pandemmys."

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Thanks, Petra