Chief Justice John Roberts rebukes Chuck Schumer for comments about Kavanaugh and Gorsuch
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, speaking at a rally of abortion rights supporters, appeared to threaten Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees who were confirmed after bruising nomination fights.
Chief Justice John Roberts issued a rare statement rebuking Chuck Schumer for comments the Senate minority leader made about Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Schumer, speaking at a rally of abortion rights supporters, appeared to threaten Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees who were confirmed after bruising nomination fights.
“I want to tell you Gorsuch. I want to tell you Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” Schumer said.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Roberts said: “This morning, Senator Schumer spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while a case was being argued inside. Senator Schumer referred to two Members of the Court by name and said he wanted to tell them that ‘You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.’ Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”
Schumer’s comments came as the Supreme Court heard over an hour of arguments concerning a controversial Louisiana abortion access law that critics say will leave just one doctor in the state to perform the procedure.
Key justices indicated that they could be poised to uphold the law that is similar to a Texas law the Court struck down just four years ago. Roberts and Kavanaugh both asked questions suggesting that the Louisiana law that requires doctors to have admitting privileges in local hospitals could serve a valid purpose.
Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said criticism of the New York Democrat’s comments are a “deliberate misinterpretation.”
“Women’s health care rights are at stake and Americans from every corner of the country are in anguish about what the court might do to them,” Goodman said in a statement. “Sen. Schumer’s comments were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”
“For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said, while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes.”
Roberts’ statement followed conservative condemnation of Schumer’s remarks.
“What price will they pay?” Carrie Severino, who runs a group that supports Trump’s nominees, tweeted. “Money? Physical abuse? Threats on their lives? More smear campaigns? If anything happens to Justices Gorsuch or Kavanaugh, we should assume it’s @SenSchumer’s mafia at work: ‘Who will rid me of these meddlesome justices?'”
Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger called Schumer “out of line.”
“Any statements that can be understood to threaten judges personally are completely out of line. Equally offensive are statements that can appear to be designed to intimidate judges in deciding questions of the law,” Terwilliger said. “We have to be better than that in a civil society.”
This story is breaking and will be updated.