Chief Justice Roberts defends judiciary in rare statement after Trump criticism
Eli Watkins and Joan Biskupic, CNN
Published at | Updated at
(CNN) — Chief Justice John Roberts made a rare statement on Wednesday pushing back against President Donald Trump after the President again went after federal judges.
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said. “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.”
Roberts’ comment came in response to an inquiry from The Associated Press. On Tuesday, Trump slammed the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals again, this time after a judge from the Northern District of California — where cases get appealed to the 9th Circuit — issued a temporary restraining order blocking the Trump administration from barring migrants who cross into the US illegally from seeking asylum.
“It’s a disgrace when every case gets filed in the 9th Circuit,” Trump said as part of a lengthy criticism of the court. “That’s not law. Every case in the 9th Circuit we get beaten and then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court like the travel ban and we won. Every case, no matter where it is, they file is practically, for all intents and purposes, they file it in what’s called the 9th Circuit. This was an Obama judge. I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore.”
Roberts, who then-President George W. Bush tapped to lead the Supreme Court, is the highest authority in the federal judiciary, and his remark was a rare direct response to the head of the Executive Branch.
Speaking at the University of Minnesota Law School in October, Roberts emphasized the Supreme Court’s independence and differences from the other branches.
“I will not criticize the political branches,” Roberts said. “We do that often enough in our opinions. But what I would like to do, briefly, is emphasize how the judicial branch is — how it must be — very different.”
Trump has been a frequent critic of the 9th Circuit, and just a few months into his presidency, he said he was considering breaking up the circuit that covers a slew of Western states and Guam.
Several of his most controversial policies have been held up by judges there, and the temporary block on his attempt to rewrite asylum rules marked the latest such instance.
In addition to his criticism of the 9th Circuit, Trump has previously attacked Roberts as well.
While he was a presidential candidate, Trump in 2016 called Roberts a “nightmare for conservatives” in an interview on ABC. He also said in the interview that “Justice Roberts could’ve killed Obamacare and should’ve, based on everything — should’ve killed it twice,” a reference in part to Roberts casting the deciding vote in June 2012 to save President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Roberts voted again in 2015 in favor of supporting Obamacare.
More concisely, Trump tweeted after Roberts’ first vote in favor of Obamacare in 2012, “Congratulations to John Roberts for making Americans hate the Supreme Court because of his BS.”
This story has been updated to add additional information about President Donald Trump and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’ relationship.
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