Trump is quick to blast those he perceives as opponents, including judges

By Sean Neumann
February 25, 2020 06:21 PM
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President Donald Trump this week criticized Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, arguing they should “recuse” from “Trump related” legal cases because of what he implied was their liberal bias.

“It’s very obvious,” Trump, 73, said during a news conference on Tuesday, the second day of his trip to India, according to USA Today. “Justice Ginsburg should [recuse herself] because she went wild during the campaign. Perhaps she was for Hillary Clinton.”

The president also said that Sotomayor, 65, was “trying to shame people with perhaps a different view.” He wrote something similar in tweets on Monday.

Such an attack is historically unusual for recent presidents — but not Trump, who is quick to blast those he perceives as opponents.

The court has long insisted on maintaining an air of nonpartisanship. But the justices are regularly, if sometimes reductively, sorted into conservative and liberal wings, based on how they rule and on which presidents nominated them.

Sotomayor, nominated under President Barack Obama, is a member of the court’s liberal wing, of which Ginsburg is the anchor.

On Friday, Sotomayor criticized the court’s conservative majority for allowing the Trump administration’s “public charge” immigration rule to go into effect, which gives the federal government the power to deny immigrants who seem likely to use public benefits in the United States, according to The Washington Post.

“It is hard to say what is more troubling: that the Government would seek this extraordinary relief seemingly as a matter of course, or that the Court would grant it,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent.

In essence, she argued that the Supreme Court’s conservative judges were undercutting the normal appellate process of letting disputes play out in the lower courts and intervening early to assist the Trump administration.

“This is a terrible thing to say,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Trying to ‘shame’ some into voting her way? She never criticized Justice Ginsberg when she called me a ‘faker’. Both should recuse themselves on all Trump, or Trump related, matters! While ‘elections have consequences’, I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!”

In 2016, Ginsburg, 86, called Trump Trump a “faker” who “says whatever comes into his head at the moment.” She later apologized.

President Donald Trump
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President Donald Trump flaunts a newspaper headlines about his impeachment acquittal during a news conference in the White House earlier this month.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty

Trump’s comments about the justices were met with some criticism from those who said he was crossing the lines between the branches of government. What’s more, the conservative justices have their own political ties.

The New York Times reported this week that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — one of the most conservative voices in the Supreme Court — has been passing memos to the White House that identify disloyal members of the president’s administration and recommend which to fire, along with recommendations on conservatives to replace them.

“President Trump has generally treated Ms. Thomas’s suggestions coolly, passing them off to advisers, according to people familiar with Ms. Thomas’s efforts,” the Times reported. “But since the end of the Senate impeachment trial, the president has become more distrustful of the people filling the ranks of government and has been giving those recommendations a closer look.”

Trump has exulted since he was acquitted on his impeachment charges by the Republican-controlled Senate earlier this month, hosting a celebratory news conference in the White House.

In 2018, after he complained about an “Obama judge” who had ruled against him, the Supreme Court’s chief justice spoke out in defense of the judiciary’s impartiality.

“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,” John Roberts said then.

Though he was appointed by President George W. Bush and largely makes conservative rulings, Roberts is widely seen as focused on preserving the court’s integrity and taking careful steps on explosive cases, such as the Affordable Care Act.