Trump fires back after Roberts rebukes him

President Donald Trump fired back after Chief Justice John Roberts issued a rare rebuke of the President's disparaging remarks about federal judges. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.

Posted: Nov 22, 2018 5:36 PM
Updated: Nov 22, 2018 5:40 PM

Chief Justice John Roberts has watched, silently, as Donald Trump denigrated judges over the years, complaining about one because of his Mexican heritage, referring to another as a "so-called judge" when he ruled against the administration's Muslim travel ban.

As the episodes piled up, from Trump's campaign time in 2016 and into his presidency, the man who sits at the helm of the federal judiciary said nothing.

But Trump's comments on Tuesday apparently were too much. Roberts spoke out Wednesday, and his rare and extraordinary statement immediately seized national attention.

Not to mention a rejoinder three hours later from Trump on Twitter.

The startling series of events -- which showed a bolder side of Roberts -- demonstrated just how much Trump's relationship with the third branch has devolved. The US Judiciary has strived to be above the political fray that has only been exacerbated by Trump.

Roberts' response stems specifically from Trump's comments on Tuesday on District Court Judge Jon Tigar's Monday night decision to temporarily block an executive order that would have scaled back US asylum policy. Trump criticized the San Francisco-based Tigar, nominated in 2012, as an "Obama judge." Of the regional US circuit court that would oversee any appeal of the case, Trump declared, "an automatic loss" for the administration and "the 9th Circuit is very unfair."

In a statement on Wednesday, made public because of a query from The Associated Press, Roberts said, "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. 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."

It was not the first time Roberts had been asked to comment, but it was the first time he decided to go public. A 2005 appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, Roberts did not explain his timing.

But it may arise from the combination of Trump's specific insult -- portraying Tigar in a political realm based on the president who appointed him -- as well as the recent confirmation turmoil over new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Roberts' public concern for the reputation of the federal judiciary comes as the Supreme Court is riven 5-4 along ideological and political lines. The recent retirement of swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy has deepened the split, and Roberts has already signaled an effort to try to lessen the divisions among the nine.

The chief justice spoke out broadly about judicial independence in October after the tumultuous Kavanaugh hearings. Addressing a University of Minnesota audience, Roberts referred to "the contentious events in Washington of recent weeks" and then asserted the high court's independence from the executive and legislative branches.

"I will not criticize the political branches," he 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."

Roberts' statement on Wednesday was of a different magnitude, stronger and deliberately echoing back the President's own remark about an "Obama judge."

The chief justice has often expressed dismay when judges are referred to by political affiliation. He has also observed since 2010, with the retirement of liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, an appointee of Republican President Gerald Ford, that it may be more difficult to convince the public of justices' impartiality from politics.

Since Stevens was succeeded by Obama-appointee Elena Kagan, and continuing with Trump's choice of Kavanaugh, the court's five conservative justices were named by Republican presidents and the four liberals -- often relegated to the dissent -- were named by Democratic presidents.

With Kennedy's retirement, Roberts is now ideologically at the middle of the court, and he may be inclined to hedge his own conservative instincts to steady the bench and avoid more polarization.

As he considered whether to answer Trump's latest affront to the judiciary on Tuesday, Roberts no doubt weighed how much he might provoke Trump. Roberts plainly concluded it was time to defend judiciary's special role in America's democracy.

The 63-year-old chief was likely not surprised that within three hours, Trump fired back in two consecutive tweets: "Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have 'Obama judges,' and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an 'independent judiciary,' but if it is ... are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security - these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!"

Roberts offered no new retort. And given the chief justice's aversion to the appearance of politics, he is unlikely to offer any response any time soon.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1474289

Reported Deaths: 20385
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2021122504
Lake996361476
Allen909861007
Hamilton71271540
St. Joseph63433750
Elkhart48401623
Vanderburgh46765523
Tippecanoe42550330
Johnson37591519
Hendricks35518458
Porter34097464
Madison28261531
Clark25349321
Vigo25076343
LaPorte23079307
Monroe22397244
Howard21556372
Delaware21108365
Hancock18494218
Bartholomew17598212
Kosciusko17580201
Warrick16259212
Wayne15851300
Floyd15521252
Grant14992296
Morgan14070230
Boone13268136
Noble11509140
Dearborn11468112
Henry11427201
Shelby11276150
Marshall11115167
Dubois10954152
Jackson10280104
Cass10012142
DeKalb10005129
Lawrence9973220
Huntington9893139
Gibson9236125
Montgomery9105140
Knox8839124
Harrison8754111
Whitley850471
Steuben8403103
Jasper8125114
Putnam800497
Clinton800194
Miami7961133
Jefferson7663124
Wabash7651139
Ripley7053111
Adams6555101
Daviess6332127
Scott632686
White606581
Greene5958111
Clay592773
Decatur5843118
Wells5831120
Jennings578976
Fayette5687121
Posey535146
LaGrange517096
Randolph4972129
Washington487068
Owen484998
Fountain469079
Spencer441856
Starke435686
Sullivan433465
Fulton428290
Orange415182
Jay406464
Rush398737
Carroll374749
Franklin371250
Perry368755
Vermillion348762
Pike311345
Tipton309974
Parke308938
Pulaski269173
Blackford269055
Newton229559
Brown223654
Benton214821
Crawford213031
Switzerland192414
Martin184622
Warren170820
Union164419
Ohio120616
Unassigned0742

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2418722

Reported Deaths: 31245
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2613932065
Cuyahoga2576953018
Hamilton1679311714
Montgomery1114691604
Summit1070311391
Lucas899971160
Butler79406942
Stark750951400
Lorain63061792
Warren50411475
Mahoning49909915
Lake46923605
Clermont44079429
Delaware39138212
Trumbull38726755
Medina37708419
Licking37221408
Fairfield34115334
Greene32452422
Portage31473360
Clark30496445
Richland28493423
Wood27867297
Allen24603395
Miami23075395
Muskingum22525245
Columbiana22202403
Wayne21380356
Tuscarawas18940427
Erie18137222
Ashtabula17989342
Marion17633232
Scioto16712207
Ross16314252
Pickaway15631178
Hancock15407228
Geauga15281223
Lawrence13931186
Huron13460182
Union1340984
Belmont13369247
Jefferson12969258
Sandusky12862199
Athens11991106
Knox11595198
Seneca11540200
Ashland10830178
Darke10786198
Washington10644168
Auglaize10247142
Crawford9949175
Shelby9839157
Brown9507140
Fulton9310150
Guernsey9179117
Defiance9116135
Highland9100148
Logan9035142
Clinton8810127
Mercer8709111
Madison8654106
Preble8069162
Williams7937135
Putnam7780135
Ottawa7675121
Champaign7606112
Jackson7409117
Perry720798
Coshocton7076136
Morrow700182
Fayette670987
Hardin6251128
Pike621786
Gallia598191
Adams5844124
Van Wert5824121
Henry570793
Hocking5568104
Carroll4853100
Wyandot485290
Holmes4760161
Paulding404464
Meigs377473
Monroe300268
Noble281551
Harrison281361
Morgan278148
Vinton240845
Unassigned08
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