Chief Justice John Roberts has rebuked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for “threatening statements” against two conservative justices.
“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, adding that the justices “will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”
Roberts’s comments came after Schumer, standing outside the Supreme Court, said Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would “pay the price” if they fail to uphold abortion rights as the judiciary takes up June Medical Services v. Russo, which considers the constitutionality of a law requiring doctors to possess admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 minutes of their abortion clinics.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said to a crowd of abortion-rights advocates. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Schumer was soon criticized by Congressional conservatives, including Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Steve Scalise (R-La.).
I agree with Chief Justice Roberts.
These statements by Senator Schumer are outrageous. https://t.co/kG8zCJGYCU
— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) March 4, 2020
🚨 UNHINGED → Schumer threatened conservative justices Kavanaugh & Gorsuch on the steps of the Supreme Court:
"You have released the whirlwind & you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you."
Enough. This rhetoric has dangerous consequences. Where's the media outrage? pic.twitter.com/SiGNHxG0iX
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) March 4, 2020
Justin Goodman, a spokesperson for Schumer, says Justice Roberts is guilty of “deliberate misinterpretation” of Schumer’s remarks.
“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,” Goodman told USA Today.
Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were nominated by President Donald Trump and later confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Gorsuch, a staunch textualist, follows in the footsteps of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. His confirmation hearing stirred controversy among Democrats, who accused Republicans of partisan bias for refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland.
A little over a year later, Republicans considered and later confirmed Kavanaugh despite allegations that he’d sexually assaulted several women, including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, whose stirring testimony during Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing threatened, but ultimately failed, to derail his appointment.
Last month, President Trump demanded Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor recuse themselves from all Trump-related matters. The president has often accused the judiciary of harboring bias, a call he’s only intensified after the Senate decided not to convict him on charges that he’d abused power and obstructed Congress.