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Trump fires back after Roberts rebukes him

President Donald Trump fired back after Chief Justice John Roberts issued a rare rebuke of the President's disparaging remarks about federal judges. CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports.

Posted: Nov 22, 2018 4:38 PM
Updated: Nov 22, 2018 4:40 PM

Chief Justice John Roberts has watched, silently, as Donald Trump denigrated judges over the years, complaining about one because of his Mexican heritage, referring to another as a "so-called judge" when he ruled against the administration's Muslim travel ban.

As the episodes piled up, from Trump's campaign time in 2016 and into his presidency, the man who sits at the helm of the federal judiciary said nothing.

But Trump's comments on Tuesday apparently were too much. Roberts spoke out Wednesday, and his rare and extraordinary statement immediately seized national attention.

Not to mention a rejoinder three hours later from Trump on Twitter.

The startling series of events -- which showed a bolder side of Roberts -- demonstrated just how much Trump's relationship with the third branch has devolved. The US Judiciary has strived to be above the political fray that has only been exacerbated by Trump.

Roberts' response stems specifically from Trump's comments on Tuesday on District Court Judge Jon Tigar's Monday night decision to temporarily block an executive order that would have scaled back US asylum policy. Trump criticized the San Francisco-based Tigar, nominated in 2012, as an "Obama judge." Of the regional US circuit court that would oversee any appeal of the case, Trump declared, "an automatic loss" for the administration and "the 9th Circuit is very unfair."

In a statement on Wednesday, made public because of a query from The Associated Press, Roberts said, "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 all be thankful for."

It was not the first time Roberts had been asked to comment, but it was the first time he decided to go public. A 2005 appointee of Republican President George W. Bush, Roberts did not explain his timing.

But it may arise from the combination of Trump's specific insult -- portraying Tigar in a political realm based on the president who appointed him -- as well as the recent confirmation turmoil over new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Roberts' public concern for the reputation of the federal judiciary comes as the Supreme Court is riven 5-4 along ideological and political lines. The recent retirement of swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy has deepened the split, and Roberts has already signaled an effort to try to lessen the divisions among the nine.

The chief justice spoke out broadly about judicial independence in October after the tumultuous Kavanaugh hearings. Addressing a University of Minnesota audience, Roberts referred to "the contentious events in Washington of recent weeks" and then asserted the high court's independence from the executive and legislative branches.

"I will not criticize the political branches," he said. "We do that often enough in our opinions. But what I would like to do, briefly, is emphasize how the judicial branch is -- how it must be -- very different."

Roberts' statement on Wednesday was of a different magnitude, stronger and deliberately echoing back the President's own remark about an "Obama judge."

The chief justice has often expressed dismay when judges are referred to by political affiliation. He has also observed since 2010, with the retirement of liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, an appointee of Republican President Gerald Ford, that it may be more difficult to convince the public of justices' impartiality from politics.

Since Stevens was succeeded by Obama-appointee Elena Kagan, and continuing with Trump's choice of Kavanaugh, the court's five conservative justices were named by Republican presidents and the four liberals -- often relegated to the dissent -- were named by Democratic presidents.

With Kennedy's retirement, Roberts is now ideologically at the middle of the court, and he may be inclined to hedge his own conservative instincts to steady the bench and avoid more polarization.

As he considered whether to answer Trump's latest affront to the judiciary on Tuesday, Roberts no doubt weighed how much he might provoke Trump. Roberts plainly concluded it was time to defend judiciary's special role in America's democracy.

The 63-year-old chief was likely not surprised that within three hours, Trump fired back in two consecutive tweets: "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. It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an 'independent judiciary,' but if it is ... are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security - these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!"

Roberts offered no new retort. And given the chief justice's aversion to the appearance of politics, he is unlikely to offer any response any time soon.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 25208

Reported Deaths: 1060
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8514616
Ramsey3075128
Stearns203013
Nobles15445
Anoka142970
Dakota134957
Washington64532
Olmsted63410
Kandiyohi4971
Rice4622
Scott4362
Clay42728
Mower3452
Wright3202
Todd3190
Sherburne2462
Carver2182
Benton1783
Steele1600
Blue Earth1420
Martin1325
Freeborn1250
St. Louis11814
Pine890
Unassigned8810
Nicollet8810
Winona8015
Cottonwood760
Watonwan750
Carlton750
Crow Wing712
Otter Tail700
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Polk612
Lyon570
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Dodge530
Chippewa511
Morrison470
Meeker450
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Murray390
Jackson390
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Rock220
Swift190
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Fillmore171
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Cass142
Norman130
Marshall120
Pipestone120
Kanabec111
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Koochiching90
Pope90
Aitkin80
Mahnomen61
Yellow Medicine60
Big Stone60
Lincoln50
Redwood50
Renville50
Red Lake40
Grant40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Traverse30
Houston20
Hubbard20
Roseau20
Lake10
Kittson10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19669

Reported Deaths: 555
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4236133
Woodbury276136
Black Hawk174745
Linn95379
Dallas91623
Marshall89616
Buena Vista8100
Johnson6149
Wapello59712
Muscatine55741
Crawford5282
Tama40327
Scott36110
Dubuque34619
Louisa34511
Sioux2830
Pottawattamie2698
Jasper26017
Washington1898
Wright1780
Warren1350
Plymouth1332
Allamakee1204
Story1161
Mahaska9510
Poweshiek908
Henry711
Bremer696
Des Moines651
Boone650
Clinton641
Taylor560
Clarke560
Guthrie513
Cedar481
Benton431
Hamilton430
Webster421
Monroe385
Shelby370
Jones360
Clayton343
Osceola340
Buchanan330
Iowa330
Marion320
Cherokee310
Jefferson300
Cerro Gordo291
Madison292
Lee270
Fayette270
Monona250
Winneshiek240
Lyon240
Davis230
Harrison230
Dickinson210
Sac200
Grundy200
Mills190
Floyd191
Humboldt181
Clay170
Delaware171
Hardin170
Butler171
Lucas170
Emmet160
Hancock160
Appanoose143
Ida140
Page140
Franklin140
Keokuk140
Pocahontas130
Greene130
Howard120
Cass120
Audubon121
Jackson120
Carroll110
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Chickasaw100
Kossuth100
Adair90
Van Buren90
Union90
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Fremont40
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