As of Thursday morning, President Trump was still ruminating on a rare upbraiding from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, continuing attacks against the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and calling it “a complete & total disaster.”
“It is out of control, has a horrible reputation,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
He insisted judges “know nothing” about security and safety issues along the border and alleged they are “making our Country unsafe.” He also said “there will be only bedlam, chaos, injury and death” unless law enforcement can “DO THEIR JOB.”
A few hours later during a televised teleconference with members of the military, Trump again bashed the San Francisco-based court.
“We get a lot of bad court decisions from the Ninth Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side,” he said. “It’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It’s a disgrace.”
Moments later he told reporters he has “a lot of respect” for the chief justice but added people interpreting the laws “always give us a bad interpretation.”
The Twitter missives and subsequent televised remarks picked up a thread that began on Wednesday following a ruling by U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar, who issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s asylum policy earlier this week saying the administration must consider all asylum claims regardless of where migrants enter the country.
Tigar is not a judge on the 9th Circuit. He is a district court judge who sits in San Francisco. And as NPR reported:
“… the Ninth Circuit, which encompasses much of the western United States, has not yet been asked to rule on [Tigar’s] decision. Tigar’s decision is also temporary, lasting only until Dec. 19 when the judge is scheduled to hear arguments about whether the order should remain permanent.
Displeased by the decision, the president called it a “disgrace” in an off-the-cuff news conference, adding, “this was an Obama judge and I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore.”
That’s when Roberts entered the fray.
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” the chief justice said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
The public chiding triggered a spate of tweets from Trump in which he addressed Roberts directly. “”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,” he wrote.
This is not the first time Roberts has commented on criticism from a sitting president but his statement on Wednesday is the most pointed response he has issued, Amy Howe, founder of the Supreme Court blog Howe on the Court, told NPR’s Morning Edition.
In this case, Roberts chose to tangle with Trump on the idea of partisan judges “because he’s frustrated and he was trying to send a message to the president that the judiciary is not your punching bag,” Howe said.
“He’s been trying to promote the idea that the judiciary, no matter what the president says, is an independent branch of the government.” she added.
As for Roberts, despite an invitation from Trump to “say what he wants” on the subject, the chief justice refrained from re-engaging in the dispute thus far.