WASHINGTON – In a rare rebuke of a sitting member of Congress, Supreme Court Chef Justice John Roberts Jr. criticized Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a Democrat, over remarks made from the steps outside the high court Wednesday that Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch would “pay the price” for a vote against reproductive rights.
“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 in a statement. “All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”
Schumer, speaking at a rally as the Supreme Court heard a pivotal abortion rights case over the legality of a Louisiana law that creates additional barriers for doctors who perform abortions, singled out President Donald Trump’s appointees by name.
“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. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Schumer’s comments ignited a firestorm among Republicans, who accused the New York Democrat of threatening harm to the two justices.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., shared a snippet of Schumer’s remarks with a red siren icon, calling Schumer “unhinged.”
“Enough. This rhetoric has dangerous consequences. Where’s the media outrage?” Scalise tweeted.
Carrie Severino, president of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, tweeted: If If anything happens to Justices Gorsuch or Kavanaugh, we should assume it’s @SenSchumer’s mafia at work: ‘Who will rid me of these meddlesome justices?’ “
Schumer’s spokesman, Justin Goodman, said the senator was not threatening the justices with violence, as Republicans are claiming, but was suggesting that their actions would cost Republicans’ politically.
“It’s a reference to political price Rs will pay for putting them on the court and a warning that the justices will unleash major grass-roots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision,” Goodman said in an email. He added, “The dishonesty from the right wing machine on this isn’t surprising, but still pretty stunning.”
Schumer’s remarks about the conservative judges deepen the political polarization of the nation’s highest court. Last week, Trump said that liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg should “recuse themselves” from any cases involving him or his administration.
Roberts did not comment after Trump made those remarks.
While it could be just a coincidence, Schumer’s use of the word “whirlwind” echoes Kavanaugh’s angry testimony before the Senate during his 2018 hearing over accusations that he’d sexually assaulted a fellow teenager in high school.
Turning to the Democrats on the committee, Kavanaugh said, “You sowed the wind, the county will reap the whirlwind.”