Trump: Scalia's death a 'massive setback' for conservative movement

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Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWhat happens when the GOP base abandons the party platform? Why Wasserman Schultz must go Sanders laughs off Trump's third-party question MORE late Saturday called the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia a "massive setback" for the conservative movement and the country. 

Trump tweeted the remarks after reports of Scalia's death in Texas during a hunting vacation

"I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the Scalia family after the passing of Justice Scalia," Trump said in a later statement. "Justice Scalia was a remarkable person and a brilliant Supreme Court Justice, one of the best of all time."

Trump said Scalia's career "was defined by his reverence for the Constitution and his legacy of protecting Americans’ most cherished freedoms."

"He was a Justice who did not believe in legislating from the bench and he is a person whom I held in the highest regard and will always greatly respect his intelligence and conviction to uphold the Constitution of our country. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time," Trump added.

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The 79-year-old conservative jurist's death will spark a firefight over his replacement in the midst of the presidential election cycle.

Trump and the other Republican candidates will appear in a debate Saturday evening in South Carolina ahead of the next GOP presidential primary, on Feb. 20.

—This report was updated at 5:51 p.m.

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