On Tuesday, November 20, Donald Trump complained about the decision of Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court in San Francisco. Tigar had ordered the administration to resume accepting claims for asylum from migrants, no matter how or where they entered the United States. Trump expressed his anger at this order in long comments, calling Judge Tigar “an Obama judge”.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. rebuked Trump the next day for calling a judge who had ruled against his administration’s asylum policy “an Obama judge”. He said in a statement, “ 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. That independent judiciary is something we should be thankful for.”
Later that day, Trump responded on Twitter, “Sorry, Chief Justice 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.” Trump always persists in having the last word in an argument. It appears that he never takes time to consider what the consequences may be for his speech or actions.
The rebuke was the first time since Trump ran for president that the Chief Justice has ever commented upon his previous attacks upon federal judges. They have been a constant part of his early morning tweets , starting during his run for office in early 2016, when he attacked Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the Federal District Court in San Diego. Judge Curiel was over-seeing a class –action suit against Trump University. “They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what he is doing is a total disgrace”, he said. Then he added that the judge had a conflict of interest since his family was of Mexican heritage. Judge Curiel, who had been born in Indiana, decided the case in favor of the plaintiffs, former students. They had argued that Trump University had been a sham and had taken large amounts of their money. Trump settled the case after the election, paying millions to the plaintiffs.
In 2017, after Trump lost one of his travel bans against Muslims, he attacked the judge, James Robart on the Federal District Court in Seattle, calling him “ a so-called judge”. Roberts made no comment. When Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first appointment to the High Court called such attacks “demoralizing” and “disheartening”, during his confirmation process, Roberts again was silent.
During 2016, when Trump was running for office, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch Mc Connell had blocked Barack Obama from appointing a successor to Justice Antonin Scalia, who had died. McConnell had said, “The people will decide in the next presidential election. Senate Republicans refused to meet and there was never a vote to confirm or deny in the Senate. Obama did nominate Merrick Garland, Chief of the Second Circuit, the most influential Court in the country next to the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Roberts had only eight justices for a year instead of nine. Yet, he never commented , while Democrats inveighed against the unfair practice of denying a president his “duty” under The Constitution to nominate a successor when a vacancy occurred. It is certainly possible that Roberts going public at that time could have influenced Mc Connell to ‘follow The Constitution” and have the Senate meet to confirm or deny the nomination. Garland was a centrist who had been praised by influential Senate Republicans when he was named. We will never know if he would have been confirmed.
What we all appear to know is that Donald J. Trump will continue to believe that The Department of Justice is there to follow his orders on all matters of state and policy. He sees the Attorney General as his personal lawyer, there to protect him as “Eric Holder did for Obama and Bobby Kennedy did for J.F.K. “ He does not seem to grasp that we have three branches of the Federal Government: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. They are listed in the Constitution Articles I, II and III. The longest Article is the Congress, since the founders were wary of any leader who might be like King George against whom they fought for Independence.
It will be very interesting to see what happens in January when the Democrats take over the Judiciary, Intelligence and Oversight Committees in the House of Representatives. They then have the power of Subpoena to investigate Trump’s tax returns and possible “obstruction of justice” and “abuse of power” during his first two years in office.
Right now, Americans are waiting for Robert Mueller to make his next announcement. Will there be charges against any members of the Trump family? Will he specify when the report will be completed and given to the Congress and the Public who can hardly wait to read it?
……………………………………………………………………………Joyce. S. Anderson