WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday issued an unusual statement criticizing what he called “dangerous” comments made by top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer about two conservative Supreme Court justices appointed by President Donald Trump.
Schumer had earlier in the day assailed Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, saying they “won’t know what hit” them if they rule in favor of abortion restrictions.
“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,” Roberts said in a statement.
Roberts has previously criticized Trump for his negative comments toward judges who have ruled against his administration.
Schumer’s remarks, made during an abortion rights rally held while the nine-member court heard arguments in a major abortion case from Louisiana, were criticized by conservative allies of Trump.
In his speech, Schumer noted that this was the Supreme Court’s first major abortion case since Trump appointed Kavanaugh in 2018 and Gorsuch in 2017. The crowd jeered when Schumer mentioned the names of the two conservative justices.
Republican-led state legislatures are “waging a war on women,” Schumer said, by passing restrictive abortion laws.
“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 told the cheering crowd.
Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said by email that the senator was referring to the “political price” Republicans will pay for putting Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on the court and “warning that the justices will unleash [a] major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”
Goodman later issued a statement accusing Roberts of bias. He faulted the judge for not having spoken out when Trump criticized liberal justices on the court.
“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 Ginsberg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes,” he said.
NEW stmt from Schumer spox: "For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen Schumer said, while remaining silent when Pres Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor & Ginsberg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes.” pic.twitter.com/9908ZAeNkz
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) March 4, 2020
Democrats have criticized Trump’s attacks on the U.S. judiciary and individual judges, including the one who presided over the trial of his longtime adviser Roger Stone.
Trump on Feb. 25 turned his ire on liberal Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, calling for them to recuse themselves from any cases involving him or his administration.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; editing by Will Dunham and Cynthia Osterman; Pluralist contributed to this report.)