Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. publicly rebuked the Senate’s top Democrat on Wednesday for threats he had made against two justices appointed by President Trump.
The chief justice issued the rare public statement in reaction to a rally being held in front of the Supreme Court earlier in the day while the justices were hearing an abortion-related case.
“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,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said in remarks he specifically aimed at Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Chief Justice Roberts called those remarks “dangerous” and said his colleagues would not be intimidated.
“Justices knows 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,” he said.
“All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter,” the chief justice concluded.
Mr. Schumer did not elaborate on what sorts of whirlwinds would hit Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh if they ruled the wrong way, by the New York senator’s lights.
President Trump weighed in, calling for action to be taken against the Senate minority leader for his comment.
“This is a direct & dangerous threat to the U.S. Supreme Court by Schumer. If a Republican did this, he or she would be arrested, or impeached. Serious action MUST be taken NOW!” the president tweeted.
Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, said Mr. Schumer’s comment was “beyond disgusting and dangerous.”
“This is a stark example of how unhinged Democrats have become as they embrace the extreme ideology and tactics of the far-left. Every Democrat needs to condemn Senator Schumer’s remarks and support the rule of law. Anything less than that is unacceptable,” he said.
Mr. Schumer’s spokesperson later attempted to clarify the remarks after the public rebuke from Justice Roberts.
“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,” said Justin Goodman.
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,” he added.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, said on Twitter he would be introducing a motion to formally rebuke Mr. Schumer.
“I would call on Schumer to apologize, but we all know he has no shame. So tomorrow I will introduce a motion to censure Schumer for his pathetic attempt at intimidation of #SupremeCourt,” Mr. Hawley posted on Twitter.
In addition, several Democratic and liberal commentators have called for various court-packing plans, including expanding the Supreme Court by executive fiat and just appointing justices without any retirements or deaths the next time their party holds the White House.
• Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.
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