WASHINGTON (AP) — Çhief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday criticized as “inappropriate" and “dangerous" comments that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer made outside the Supreme Court earlier in the day about Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Roberts was responding to Schumer's remarks at a rally outside the court while a high-profile abortion case was being argued inside. “You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions,” Schumer said, naming the two appointees of President Donald Trump, according to video of the rally available online.
In a statement, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman criticized Roberts, saying that “to follow the right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said” shows the chief justice "does not just call balls and strikes.”
Goodman said Schumer's comments “were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision.”
He noted that the chief justice remained quiet in recent weeks when Trump questioned the impartiality of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
Trump himself weighed in on Schumer's comments later Wednesday, tweeting: “If a Republican did this, he or she would be arrested, or impeached. Serious action MUST be taken NOW!”
Roberts, who in 2018 rebuked Trump for the president's criticism of an “Obama judge," had jumped to his colleagues' defense after Schumer's remarks. “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.
The justices are currently weighing a Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. A federal judge found that just one of Louisiana's three abortion clinics would remain open if the law is allowed to take effect.
Roberts is expected to be the deciding vote.
Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.