President Trump’s relentless attacks on the rule of law in this country have finally awakened a sleeping giant in the judiciary, as Politico reports that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has broken his silence and criticized the president for his politicization of America’s legal system.
Robert’s outspokenness comes after Trump bashed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday after they overturned his executive order barring immigrants at the border from seeking asylum in the United States.
“You go to the Ninth Circuit and it’s a disgrace, and I’m going to put in a major complaint,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday.
“You cannot win if you’re us, a case in the Ninth Circuit, and I think it’s a disgrace when people file, every case gets filed in the Ninth Circuit. That’s not law. That’s not what this country stands for. Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit, we get beaten and then we end up having to go the Supreme Court,” Trump complained about the normal conduct of judicial appeals in our democracy.
The president went on to single out Judge Jon Tigar as an “Obama judge” and said the 9th Circuit “is something we have to take a look at because it is not fair.”
For Chief Justice Roberts — a conservative appointee of President George W. Bush and a reported member of the far right-wing Federalist Society that has become the source of the defacto seal of approval for anyone seeking a seat on a federal court during Republican administrations — Trump’s latest attacks on the judiciary were a bridge too far.
He rejected the notion that federal judges’ decisions were rooted in anything but the texts of the laws that they cite in their rulings.
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
Chief Justice Roberts statement, coming from a pillar of the right-wing Republican establishment in Washington and the most powerful judge in the land, may indicate that after the Republican rout on the midterms and the increasingly erratic and hostile behavior of the president, Trump’s support is beginning to wane even amongst his ostensible allies on the right who are beginning to see his rejection of the bedrock principles of the rule of law as a threat to their own hold on power.
Knowing President Trump’s typical reactions to anyone who dares to criticize him, one might expect the president to look for a way to strike back at Roberts, a potentially dangerous option for someone who will have so much riding on the outcome of a number of issues that the court may soon have to rule on, including the limits of his executive power and the ability of the Special Counsel to indict him.
After Trump’s angry and childish tantrums in the face of judicial rulings reversing his illegal actions, it’s good to know that even one of the more conservative judges on the nation’s highest court still supports the rule of law and precedent over presidential whims.
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Original reporting by Matthew Choi at Politico.