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“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price! You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” Thus did Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) address a crowd in front of the Supreme Court Wednesday morning. It was impossible to miss the implication that Schumer was menacing two Supreme Court justices by name with unpleasant if vague consequences, leading Chief Justice John Roberts to issue a rare public rebuke:
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.
Schumer, through his office, at first dug in. He claimed he had meant his harsh words only for fellow senators, a claim belied by his having addressed Gorsuch and Kavanaugh by name. He went on to attack Roberts for supposedly following a “deliberate misrepresentation of what Sen. Schumer said,” and also for failing to call out President Donald Trump for wrongful comments about judges — although in fact the chief justice had done just that a bit over a year ago, in a highly publicized exchange over the President’s disparagement of an “Obama judge” who’d ruled against him.