Law & the Courts

McConnell Slams Schumer for Trying to ‘Erode’ Judicial Independence by Threatening Conservative Justices

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell arrives for the first day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill, January 21, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) took aim at his Democratic counterpart Chuck Schumer in opening remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, after Schumer directed threatening comments at Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on Wednesday.

McConnell accused the New York Democrat of trying to downplay the gravity of the situation by misrepresenting what was, according to McConnell, a clear threat directed at individual justices.

“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,” McConnell said. “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.”

Schumer told a crowd of pro-abortion activists on Wednesday that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh “will pay the price” if they decide to overturn past precedent in June Medical Services v. Russo, the first major abortion case that the two Trump appointees have heard since being appointed.

Schumer later tried to claim that he was referencing “the political price” Republicans will pay for the conservative justice’s appointments and the “major grassroots movement” that will rise up in response to a decision that restricts abortion.

Chief Justice John Roberts issued a rare rebuke of the minority leader in response.

“Threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous,” Roberts said.

The majority leader said Thursday that the episode contained a “ironic silver lining” in that it reminded the public of the importance of insulating justices from political pressure by giving them a lifetime tenure.

“I would suggest that my Dem colleagues spend less time trying to threaten impartial judges and more time coming up with ideas that are actually constitutional. Fortunately, this extraordinary display contains one-ironic silver lining,” he said.

President Trump also criticized Schumer for the remarks, tweeting “Serious action MUST be taken NOW!”

Trump then tweeted that Schumer himself “must pay a severe price” for his comments.

Last week, the president took to Twitter to criticize Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor for an “inappropriate” and “terrible” dissent in the Court’s public-charge ruling.

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