Democrats like to accuse President Trump of violating institutional democratic norms, and often he does with his rhetorical broadsides. But at least he’s never directly threatened the U.S. Supreme Court the way Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did on Wednesday.
Speaking to a crowd on the Supreme Court steps, the leading Senate Democrat declared: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price.” He meant Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the newest Justices who were appointed by President Trump.
Mr. Schumer was speaking before abortion-rights activists as the Supreme Court considers whether to curtail the ability of abortion providers to sue on behalf of women seeking abortions—a doctrine known as third-party standing. Mr. Schumer, still addressing Messrs. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, added: “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
The “whirlwind”? “What hit you”? We won’t go so far as to call that an incitement to violence, but it surely was a threat of political reprisal against the Justices if they don’t vote the way Mr. Schumer wants. Does he mean impeachment or packing the Court?
The remarks drew a rare and pointed public rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts, who said: “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.”
Good for the Chief, and we’re not worried about Mr. Schumer intimidating Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. They will ignore the politician and reach their decisions based on the law.
Yet the comments from Mr. Schumer reflect a significant escalation in Democratic efforts to bully the High Court. Last year five Democratic Senators led by Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) submitted a brief in which they effectively threatened to pack the Court if it didn’t rule their way in a Second Amendment case.
Mr. Schumer’s spokesperson also hit back at Chief Justice Roberts for following “the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation” of what the Senator said on Wednesday. Apparently when Mr. Schumer targeted the two conservative Justices by name he meant “the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court.” Got it. The statement also says Chief Justice Roberts “does not just call balls and strikes.”
Mr. Trump recently tweeted that liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor should recuse themselves on cases involving his Administration. He was wrong and the Justices will ignore him too. But Mr. Schumer’s tirade takes bullying the judiciary to a new level, and all those who claim to believe in democratic norms should call him out.
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