Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared Wednesday from a podium outside of the Supreme Court that conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would “pay the price” if they rule how everyone presumes they will in high-profile abortion cases.
The speech happened on a day when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in June Medical Services L.L.C. v. Russo. It is the first major abortion case to come before the court since President Donald Trump appointed Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the high court.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said to a crowd of pro-choice advocates affiliated with and supportive of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Conservatives were livid. They wondered if reporters would ask every Senate Democrat if they agreed with Schumer “threatening Supreme Court Justices” (which they would ask of Republican lawmakers if Mitch McConnell or Trump went after liberal Supreme Court justices or other members of the judiciary).
Some immediately asked whether other context of the speech made the remarks “less troubling.”
Ed Whelan of Kavanaugh confirmation hearings infamy said no.
UC Berkeley Law Professor Orin Kerr eventually pointed to a full video of the speech.
After the 2:15:00 mark, Schumer said that the “bottom line is very simple”: Trump and Senate Republicans who put Gorsuch and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court will be “gone in November.”
“We will stand with the American people. We will stand with American women,” Schumer said. “We will tell President Trump and Senate Republicans who have stacked the court with right-wing ideologues that you’re going to be gone in November and you will never be able to do what you are trying to do now ever, ever again.”
“You hear that over there on the far right? You’re going to be gone in November,” he said.
The clip of the speech shared from Schumer’s official Twitter account did not include the “pay the price” remarks.
Chief Justice John Roberts released a statement on Wednesday afternoon condemning Schumer’s “threatening” words as “dangerous.”
Conservative lawyers also condemned Schumer’s statements.
Former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger, a partner at the McGuireWoods LLP law firm, said Schumer was “completely out of line.”
“Any statements that can be understood to threaten judges personally are completely out of line. Equally offensive are statements that can appear to be designed to intimidate judges in deciding questions of the law,” he said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “We have to be better than that in a civil society.”
Former DOJ and White House lawyer David Rivkin, a constitutional law and appellate attorney, said Schumer’s statement was “outrageous” and “amounts to a threat against sitting Supreme Court Justices.”
“It is designed to intimidate them. This behavior cannot be countenanced. Indeed, it has to be condemned as unconstitutional conduct,” Rivkin also said in statement.
Editor’s note: this story was updated post-publication with statements from Rivkin and Terwilliger, and to note Chief Justice Roberts’s response.
[Image via Twitter screengrab]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]