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Chief Justice Roberts Rebukes Schumer Over ‘Threatening’ Comments on Courthouse Steps

March 5, 2020 by Dan McCue
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. arrives to speak to abortion rights demonstrators at a rally outside the Supreme Court, in Washington, Wednesday, March 4, 2020, as the court takes up the first major abortion case of the Trump era. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON – Chief Justice John Roberts issued a rare statement rebuking Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, for remarks the Senate minority leader made regarding Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning.

Speaking about two hours into a rally of abortion rights supporters outside the Supreme Court building Schumer began his remarks on a light-hearted note, giving a “shout out to my New Yorkers” and noting that New York is a staunchly pro-choice state.

When his initial remarks were drowned out by the chanting of anti-choice demonstrators, Schumer said there appeared to be two rallies going on at once. When told the chanters were against abortion rights, he quipped, “Oh, those are the bad guys” before continuing.

Schumer’s controversial remarks came about a minute into his speech, after he asserted that women’s reproductive rights had been attacked by the Trump administration and Republican legislatures across the country “like at no time in history.”

It was then that he appeared to threaten Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees, who are widely seen as swinging the court to the right.

Sen. Chuck Schumer speaks outside the Supreme Court building on March 4.

“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 loud applause.

“You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” he added, turning to look at the Supreme Court building.

Schumer went on to say, “The bottom line is very simple: we will stand with the American people. We will stand with American women.

“We will tell President Trump and Senate Republicans who have stacked the court with right-wing ideologues, that you’re going to be gone in November and you will never be able to do what you’re trying to do now, ever, ever again. You hear that over there on the far-right? You’re gone in November,” he said.

Inside the Supreme Court building, where the court was hearing arguments concerning a controversial Louisiana abortion access law, the justices could neither hear the demonstrators nor Schumers’ remarks.

But Wednesday afternoon, Chief Justice Roberts issued a rare statement, condemning the senator’s remarks.

“This morning, Senator Schumer spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while a case was being argued inside,” Roberts said. “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.’

“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,” Roberts said.

Schumer’s office subsequently issued two statements. In the first, a spokesman for the senator said his remarks were a reference to the political price Republicans will pay at the polls for placing the conservative judges on the court.

It was a warning, the spokesman said, “that the justices will unleash major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”

In its second statement, Schumer’s office criticized Roberts for following “the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said,” while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg last week.

The chief justice’s criticism, Schumer’s spokesman said, “shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes,” referring to Trump’s criticism of the two liberal justices and his call for them not to participate in any rulings involving him.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he plans to address Schumer’s comments in a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday.

According to excerpts of his remarks released ahead of the speech, McConnell will say, “Contrary to what the Democratic leader has tried to claim, he very clearly was not addressing Republican lawmakers or anybody else.”

“He literally directed the statement to the justices, by name. And he said, quote, ‘if you go forward with these awful decisions,’ which could only apply to the court itself. The minority leader of the United States Senate threatened two associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Period,” McConnell will say.

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