Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s coffin arrives at Supreme Court as three days of tributes begin

By Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States began three days of tributes to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Wednesday, as pallbearers carried her flag-draped coffin into the white marble court building and members of the public lined up to pay their respects.

Wearing dark suits and black face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, dozens of the liberal icon’s former clerks stood at attention as the coffin was carried up the court’s broad steps and into the Great Hall, where a private ceremony was planned for friends and family.

Members of the public watched from behind barricades as they awaited a public viewing due to start at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT).

“It’s almost like I felt the hand of God on my shoulder saying you have got to come and pay your respects to this person who was a fierce champion of women’s voices and women’s rights,” said Cecilia Ryan, 64, who drove 12 hours from the Chicago area.

Ginsburg, who over the course of her long legal career championed gender equality and other liberal causes, in recent years became something of a pop icon for the American left. She died on Friday at age 87.

After two days of public viewing under the neoclassical court building’s massive Corinthian columns, Ginsburg will on Friday become the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol when her casket is placed in National Statuary Hall.

Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was also mourned at the Capitol in a similar ceremony in 2005, but as someone who did not hold government or military office, she lay “in honor,” not “in state.”

Both historic events for Ginsburg, however, come with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that, due to the pandemic, a formal ceremony to be held on Friday morning will be limited to invited guests only.

At the courthouse, which remains closed to the public due to the pandemic, the justice will lie in repose under the portico outdoors to allow for public viewing starting at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT).

Officials said social distancing and face coverings will be required to participate to guard against the spread of the virus. Flowers and other offerings are forbidden on the court’s plaza or its great flight of steps.

The justices for the first time in the court’s history heard oral arguments in May by teleconference, and will do so again next month. Though the building is closed, Ginsburg’s courtroom chair and the bench in front of it have been draped with black wool crepe to mark the occasion, a tradition that dates back at least to 1873. A black drape has also been hung over the courtroom doors.

“On a personal level, she was such an amazing person. She had a mind like a steel trap,” said Jill Alexander, 59, whose husband served as a clerk for Ginsburg when she was an appeals-court judge.

Inside the courthouse, the coffin was due to be moved on to the Lincoln catafalque, a pine board platform draped in black cloth that was used to support President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin when he lay in state in the Capitol’s Rotunda after his assassination in 1865. The catafalque was loaned to the court by the U.S. Congress for the ceremony. A 2016 portrait Ginsburg by Constance P. Beaty will be on display in the hall.

Public viewing runs until 10 p.m. on Wednesday and between 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday. A private interment service is planned for next week at Arlington National Cemetery. Ginsburg’s husband, Martin Ginsburg, was buried there in 2010.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Will Dunham and Scott Malone)

Justice Ginsburg to be honored at U.S. Supreme Court, Capitol

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The body of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week at age 87, will lie in repose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday so members of the public can pay their respects before she lies in state at the U.S. Capitol on Friday.

There has been an outpouring of public mourning for the iconic liberal justice, who became a pop culture icon in recent years, even as President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans who control the Senate seek to replace her with a conservative justice before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Crowds have gathered outside the court building, leaving flowers and other items in tribute, ever since her death on Friday from complications of pancreatic cancer.

A private ceremony will take place at the court on Wednesday morning, attended by Ginsburg’s family, friends and other Supreme Court justices, a court statement said on Monday. Some of Ginsburg’s former law clerks will serve as pallbearers and will be lined up on the court’s steps when the casket arrives.

Ginsburg’s casket will be placed outside, under the court’s portico, in a break from tradition prompted by coronavirus-related health concerns. Usually the casket of a dead justice is placed in the court’s Great Hall, where the public can view it.

On Friday, the casket will be placed in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a separate statement. A private ceremony will be held, Pelosi added.

Ginsburg will be interned at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia in a private ceremony next week, the court statement said.

Trump said on Monday he will announce his pick to replace Ginsburg on the high court by the end of the week. If the Senate confirms his nominee, it would leave the court with a solid 6-3 conservative majority ahead of his Nov. 3 re-election bid.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Chris Reese and Will Dunham)

As Taliban gain and U.S. weighs troop hike, a widow’s plea to ‘finish the job’

FILE PHOTO: Widow Alexandra McClintock holds her son Declan during a burial service for her husband, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, who was killed in action in January at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – On a cold morning in January, Alexandra McClintock shoved her bare hands into the pockets of her black jacket and gazed at the endless rows of graves in Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

Taking her hands out of her pockets and falling to her knees, she hugged a white marble tombstone as her sobs drowned out the bugle calls from a nearby funeral. Only the sound of her giggling one-and-a-half-year-old son, Declan, forced her to wipe away her tears and loosen her grip on the tombstone.

One year and a day earlier, a Green Beret soldier and chaplain had stood in her living room in Seattle to tell her that her husband, Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, 30, was killed in a firefight with Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

McClintock was one of more than 900 American and coalition troops killed in Helmand since 2001 — about a quarter of the more than 3,000 deaths in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

Now U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is contemplating sending more troops to Afghanistan to boost 8,400 others there more than 15 years after the Islamist Taliban government was toppled. A decision is expected within weeks.

Current and former U.S. officials say that plans being discussed call for sending 3,000-5,000 more troops into what has become America’s longest war.

Some relatives of the U.S. dead ask whether their loved ones have died in vain, particularly as U.S. administrations are reluctant to commit a large amount of resources to a conflict that is often forgotten.

“I feel like my husband’s death is being dismissed and like my husband died for nothing,” Alexandra told Reuters.

“We need to finish the job instead of just continuing to just barely get up to the line… we need to make my husband’s death mean something,” she said.

Some U.S. officials warn that the situation in Afghanistan is worse than they had expected and question the benefit of sending more troops there. Any politically palatable number of additional U.S. and allied forces — like the size of the deployment being considered by the Trump administration — would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security, the officials say.

Trump is likely to be sucked deeper into the war, which began when former President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Former President Barack Obama sought to pull out the remaining U.S. troops by the end of his tenure, but left thousands there to train and assist Afghan forces.

FILE PHOTO: Widow Alexandra McClintock (L) holds her son Declan while placing a rose on the casket of her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in January, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Widow Alexandra McClintock (L) holds her son Declan while placing a rose on the casket of her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McClintock, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in January, at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia March 7, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo


Large stretches of Helmand province, source of much of the world’s illegal opium supply, are again in the hands of the Taliban who have steadily pushed back Afghan forces which controlled less than 60 percent of territory earlier this year.

Last month, about 300 U.S. Marines were sent to Helmand, where McClintock was fatally shot in the head during an hours-long gun battle near the town of Marjah.

As far back as 2010, then Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, referred to Marjah as a “bleeding ulcer”.

McClintock’s last trip home was in October 2015 for Declan’s birth. He stayed a few extra days to help Alexandra deal with her postpartum depression.

“All he wanted to do was hold his son all the time or take pictures of me holding him and he was there for every single second,” McClintock said.

The couple last spoke on Jan 1, 2016 on Skype. He promised he would be home in a month. His last words were: “I love you most.”

Four days later, and just weeks before he was supposed to complete his deployment, McClintock was killed.

Alexandra had just returned from a therapy session when her doorbell rang.

“I remember the sound that came out of me when I collapsed, I remember crawling into my fireplace,” she said.

Two weeks later, she received a package.

It wasn’t addressed to anyone but sat outside her door. In the box was a late Christmas present from McClintock; two shirts that said “momma bear” and “baby bear.”

Resting in a case on a mantle in her living room, Alexandra displays the American flag that was draped over her husband’s casket during his funeral at Arlington Cemetery in March 2016.

What she does not put on display is a letter of condolence she received from Obama which now sits in a drawer. The generic letter, of a type traditionally sent to the relatives of deceased service members, made Alexandra feel “dismissed,” she said.

“My husband died for their war, for this war,” she said, adding that she nevertheless supported the war.

“It doesn’t get easier,” Alexandra said. “I still have dreams where I wake up thinking that Matt is in bed next to me, and I have to remember that he is gone.”

For a graphic on U.S. troop fatalities in Afghanistan, click:

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Alistair Bell)

Alexandra McClintock holds her son Declan with her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McCintock in this October 2015 handout photo provided May 24, 2017. Courtesy Alesandra McClintock/Handout via REUTERS

Alexandra McClintock holds her son Declan with her husband U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Matthew McCintock in this October 2015 handout photo provided May 24, 2017. Courtesy Alesandra McClintock/Handout via REUTERS

Astronaut John Glenn laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery

FILE PHOTO - STS-95 crewmember, astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14,1998. Courtesy NASA/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth who later became the world’s oldest astronaut and a longtime U.S. senator, was laid to rest on Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Glenn, who author Tom Wolfe once called “the last true national hero America has ever had,” died four months ago in his home state of Ohio at the age of 95.

After a private service at a chapel on the cemetery grounds, a horse-drawn carriage pulled Glenn’s flag-draped casket to his burial site. There was a short graveside ceremony broadcast online by NASA Television. Then, Gen. Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, handed the flag that had draped the casket to Glenn’s 97-year-old widow, Annie Glenn. She kissed him.

Glenn was a Marine Corps test pilot when he was chosen to be one of the seven original U.S. astronauts. He was the third American in space, the first to orbit the earth.

His three laps around the world on Feb. 20, 1962, in a space capsule called Friendship 7, forged a powerful link between the former fighter pilot and the Kennedy-era quest to explore outer space as a “New Frontier.” After his mission, he received a hero’s welcome including a tickertape parade near Wall Street, in New York City’s “Canyon of Heroes.”

Wolfe chronicled the experiences of the original seven U.S. astronauts in his book, “The Right Stuff,” which later became a popular movie.

Glenn’s widespread popularity helped him get elected as a Democratic candidate to the U.S. Senator from his home state of Ohio, which he represented from 1974 to 1999.

Just before the end of his Senate career, in October 1998, the 77-year-old Glenn became the oldest astronaut, serving as a mission specialist on the seven-member crew of the space shuttle Discovery.

The NASA launch announcer at the time said, “Liftoff of Discovery with six astronaut heroes and one American legend.”

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)