- Associated Press - Monday, March 28, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Hillary Clinton said Monday that the future of the Supreme Court would hang in the balance of the 2016 election, warning that Republican front-runner Donald Trump would bring division to the court if he was allowed to shape its future.

Clinton said Trump would roll back the rights of individuals and further empower corporations, pointing to his past statements about building a wall along the Mexican border and barring all non-citizen Muslims from entering the United States.

“In a single term, the Supreme Court could demolish pillars of the progressive movement,” Clinton said at the University of Wisconsin. She pointed to the possibility of a Trump presidency, asking, “What kind of justice will a President Trump appoint?”

Clinton opened a two-day campaign trip in Wisconsin ahead of the state’s April 5 primary with a topic certain to unite Democrats whether they support her or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders: President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland.

Republicans have said the late Justice Antonin Scalia should not be replaced until the next president picks a nominee. But Clinton argued it was reminiscent of GOP-led gridlock that stymied Obama’s two terms.

“We chose a president. We chose him twice,” Clinton said. “And now Republicans in the Senate are acting like our votes didn’t count and President Obama is not still our nation’s leader.”

She called on Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley of Iowa to commit to giving Garland a hearing and she rebuked Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who is among the Republicans blocking the Garland nomination. “Tell him to stop playing games with the Supreme Court,” Clinton said, noting Johnson’s 2016 challenge from former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

Grassley, speaking ahead of Clinton’s remarks, said she was trying to divert attention from her “email troubles.”

“This is simply a blatant attempt by Secretary Clinton to politicize the Supreme Court and to change the conversation,” Grassley said in a statement. “Her actions as Secretary of State are under investigation by Congress, two Obama-appointed inspectors general, and the FBI.”

Clinton said that while Republicans have bemoaned the rise of Trump, he didn’t “come out of nowhere. What the Republicans have sown with their extremist tactics, they are now reaping with Donald Trump’s candidacy.”

She pointed to Trump’s role in the birther movement that sought to question Obama’s citizenship and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s “strategy of holding the government hostage to get his way.”

“Once you make the extreme normal, you open the door to even worse,” she said.

Trump has cited the Supreme Court’s future as the top reason why Republicans should rally around his candidacy to defeat Clinton.

He has said he would appoint staunchly conservative, well-respected and intelligent judges and has promised to release a list of the men and women would who be on his short list.

At a Milwaukee rally, Clinton added Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to her list of targets, criticizing the former GOP presidential candidate for “destroying unions,” cutting funding for higher education and declining to extend Medicaid to working people.

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Associated Press writers Alan Fram in Washington and Jill Colvin in Jersey City, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

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Follow Ken Thomas on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/kthomasdc

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