By Kevin Liptak, CNN – CNN.COM
(CNN)Emerging at the top of the Supreme Court steps on Thursday, President Donald Trump heard something he doesn’t often hear — at least directed toward him: booing.
“Vote him out,” crowds began chanting when Trump appeared before the flag-draped coffin containing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week after a long bout with cancer.
With his face concealed behind a mask — another rarity for the President, who does not often wear one in public — Trump glanced over to where the crowd had gathered nearby. His wife, first lady Melania Trump, looked straight ahead.
The chants grew louder as the Trumps stood before the coffin, framed by massive Corinthian columns. After a few moments standing silently, the pair returned to their limousine and drove back to the White House. Outside the Oval Office, Trump was seen in animated conversation with top aides, including chief of staff Mark Meadows.
It’s not often Trump finds himself confronted face-to-face with his opposition. He was loudly booed when attending Game 5 of the World Series last year in Washington. Afterward he scheduled visits to friendlier sports venues, such as the Daytona 500.
Questioned about the scene at the court later in the day, Trump said he could barely detect the boos.
“I think that was just a political chant. We could hardly hear it from where we were,” Trump said on the South Lawn as he departed the White House. “Somebody said there was some chanting. But they were right next to the media. But we could hardly hear too much. We heard a sound but it wasn’t very strong.”
Earlier, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany voiced dismay during a midday briefing.
“The chants were appalling but certainly to be expected when you’re in the heart of the swamp,” she said. “I travel with the President all across the country — Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada — and everywhere we go, the streets are lined with support like I don’t think any other president has had previously.”
When he travels around the country, Trump typically only meets with supportive crowds. At his rally in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Trump remarked it had been a while since someone heckled him at a campaign event.
“You don’t see that much. I don’t want to bring it on, but you don’t see it much anymore,” he said.
Trump had said he was visiting the court to pay his respects and has been careful this week to avoid maligning the late justice, who is revered on the left and once called him a “faker.”
He quickly ordered flags lowered in her honor, voiced reverence for her in the hours after her death and pushed his announcement of Ginsburg’s replacement until after her memorial ceremonies.
At the same time, he has written off her reported dying wish to be replaced by the winner of the 2020 election as a Democratic ploy, and has moved swiftly to identify a likely nominee to replace her.
Long lines have formed outside the court this week to pay respects to Ginsburg, including parents bringing young daughters to honor the first female justice to lie in repose at the court.
Democrats have also used the vacancy to mobilize their supporters, raising hundreds of millions of dollars for candidates and causes.
Trump and his aides have appeared cognizant that any sign of disrespect for the late justice could be used by his opponents to further advance their cause. When her death was announced, aides decided not to interrupt his ongoing campaign rally in Minnesota, preventing a negative reaction from the crowd if Trump announced the development from stage.
Still, the reaction from those assembled at the court on Thursday was a good indication that even Trump’s attempts at demonstrating respect are unlikely to lower the temperature surrounding the court vacancy, which is playing out in the heated final stretch of the presidential election.