Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts on Wednesday issued a highly unusual and forceful rebuke to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., calling his threatening remarks directed at Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh “irresponsible” and “dangerous” — prompting Schumer’s office to slam Roberts and accuse him of bias.
The extraordinary back-and-forth began hours earlier at a pro-choice rally hosted by the Center for Reproductive Rights, when Schumer ominously singled out President Trump’s two Supreme Court picks: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price!” Schumer warned. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Roberts replied in his remarkable written statement, obtained by Fox News: “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.'”
Roberts continued: “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 spokesman Justin Goodman quickly responded by accusing Roberts of bias, further escalating the confrontation. Goodman insisted that Schumer was addressing Republican lawmakers when he said a “price” would be paid — even though Schumer had explicitly named Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.
“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 to Fox News. “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.”
He added: “For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said, while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices [Sonia] Sotomayor and [Ruth Bader] Ginsberg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes.”
That was an apparent reference to Trump’s call for those liberal justices to recuse themselves from some cases due to alleged bias. (“I just don’t know how they cannot recuse themselves to anything having to do with Trump or Trump-related,” Trump said. Ginsburg, who has publicly defended Kavanaugh and Gorsuch as “very decent” and “very smart,” previously called Trump a “faker,” and Sotomayor sharply criticized the administration in a recent dissent.)