Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer assailed President Donald Trump's two Supreme Court appointees on Wednesday, suggesting that Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch "won't know what hit" them if they rule in favor of abortion restrictions.
The comments drew an instant rebuke from several critics who viewed them as thuggish and excessive. Perhaps foremost among them was Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, who dubbed the remarks "dangerous," according to The Hill.
Schumer's remarks, made during an abortion rights rally held while the nine-member court heard arguments in a major abortion case from Louisiana, were criticized by conservative allies of Trump.
"Did Senate Democrat leader Schumer just threaten two conservative justices? Where is the media?" Republican Representative Mark Meadows asked on Twitter.
In his speech, Schumer noted that this was the Supreme Court's first major abortion case since Trump appointed Kavanaugh in 2018 and Gorsuch in 2017. The crowd jeered when Schumer mentioned the names of the two conservative justices.
Republican-led state legislatures are "waging a war on women," Schumer said, by passing restrictive abortion laws.
"I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh - you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions," Schumer told the cheering crowd.
Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said by email the senator was referring to the "political price" Republicans will pay for putting Kavanaugh and Gorsuch on the court and "warning that the justices will unleash (a) major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision."
But critics were quick to pounce on the minority leader's comments. One was Chief Justice Roberts. As The Hill reported, he said in a statement: "Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All members of the court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter."
Also critical was David Rivkin, who served at the Justice Departmenmt and in the White House Counsel's Office during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. “This is an outrageous statement that amounts to a threat against sitting Supreme Court justices," he said. "It is designed to intimate them. This behavior cannot be countenanced. Indeed, it has to be condensed as an unconstitutional conduct.”
Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, tweeted more bluntly: "What price will they pay? Money? Physical abuse? Threats on their lives? More smear campaigns? If anything happens to Justices Gorsuch or Kavanaugh, we should assume it’s @SenSchumer’s mafia at work: “Who will rid me of these meddlesome justices?”
And political commentator Ed Whelan posted on National Review that Schumer was "thuggishly" threatening the justices:
"Why is Senator Schumer making comments that sure seem to threaten violence against two Supreme Court justices—and that, at a minimum, certainly can reasonably be interpreted that way—if they don’t rule as he wishes? Why, for that matter, is he addressing two Supreme Court justices by their last names and not even extending them the honorific of Justice?"
Democrats have criticized Trump's frequent attacks on the U.S. judiciary and individual judges including the one who presided over the trial of his longtime adviser Roger Stone. Trump on Feb. 25 turned his ire on liberal Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, calling for them to recuse themselves from any cases involving him or his administration.
Activists supporting and opposing abortion rights demonstrated outside the court.
"I remember a time when abortion wasn't legal. It was illegal when I was a teenager. And we aren't going back. We're just not going back," said demonstrator Bambi Nelms, 62, of Maryland. "My mother had an illegal abortion before I was born - coat hanger variety - and it darned near killed her. She had me after that."
Anti-abortion activists are hoping the Supreme Court, with its 5-4 conservative majority including Trump's two appointees, will scale back or even overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. They held their own rally featuring remarks by Republican lawmakers.
Some demonstrators held flags emblazoned with Bible quotes and the image of a bald eagle - a symbol of America - carrying a Christian cross. Others stood silently with red tape over their mouths with the word "LIFE" in black letters.
Demonstrator Dennis McKirahan, 75, of Ohio said abortion rights supporters were "distorting what God intended."
"When that baby is a seed in the womb, scientifically, it's going to be a baby. And you can't stop that or you're killing that baby," McKirahan said.
Newsmax's Jeffrey Rubin contributed to this report.
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