March 9, 2020
A letter to United States Senators:Last Wednesday morning on the steps of the Supreme Court, while an oral argument in a pending case was underway inside, Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke to a rowdy crowd of pro-abortion demonstrators: “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’s threatening words were unmistakable, unprecedented, and unacceptable. When confronted, he never apologized. Instead, he tried to blame others. He still has not apologized. We urge you to condemn them in the strongest possible terms by censuring Schumer on the Senate floor.
Schumer unmistakably meant to threaten Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh. Contrary to what his spokesman later claimed, Schumer’s words were not addressed to Senate Republicans, but to two Supreme Court Justices, by name. Schumer’s threat wasn’t that Republicans would face electoral consequences, but that Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh “will pay the price” and “won’t know what hit them.” Schumer tried and failed to stop Gorsuch and Kavanaugh’s confirmation. On Wednesday he tried to achieve through thuggish intimidation what he could not accomplish on the Senate floor.
This threat is unprecedented in the history of our nation. By comparison, President Obama’s critical comments about the Court’s Citizens United ruling, delivered in the presence of six justices during the 2010 State of the Union Address, seem tame. Yet at the time, only a decade ago, commentators rightly objected to that statement as an unprecedented violation.There is simply no parallel to Schumer’s threat, which he directed to two justices by name.
Schumer’s defenders have tried to compare Schumer’s threat to President Trump’s recent suggestion that Justice Ginsburg and Justice Sotomayor should recuse themselves from cases involving his administration because of their obvious antipathy toward him. It is unclear how this is a defense of Schumer. For one thing, Democrats widely denounced that comment byPresident Trump . But for another, suggesting based on public evidence that a judge is biased is nothing like vowing a judge will “pay the price” and “won’t know what hit them” if they rule against you.
One of America’s most-senior legislators explicitly threatening two of its most-senior judges is plainly unacceptable. Not just conservatives but many leading liberals have condemned it. Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe called Schumer’s remarks “inexcusable.” Another liberal Harvard law professor, Noah Feldman, wrote that “Schumer’s language was so extreme as to be almost bizarre,” and was “completely out of line.” Professor Garrett Epps called threatening judges “a dreadful thing to do,” and said “Schumer has, by popping off on this occasion, taken the current political situation—already nearly catastrophic—and made it worse.”President Clinton’s former acting Solicitor General, Walter Dellinger, stated: “It’s with regret thatI have to agree that Leader Schumer’s remarks about two Justices in a pending case were totally unacceptable and that his apology was wholly inadequate. He needs to give a major speech about why he his remarks were so wrong.” Most notably of all, Chief Justice JohnRoberts issued an extraordinary comment that “[s]tatements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.”
Indeed, though Americans of all stripes immediately rejected Schumer’s despicable threat, the crowd gathered on the Supreme Court steps cheered it. This shows the clear and present danger of Schumer’s thuggish words: there are people in Schumer’s party who look upto him as a leader, who joined a protest at the Supreme Court to celebrate abortion, and who erupted in cheers when Schumer promised that two Justices “won’t know what hit you” if they vote the wrong way.
In a better world, this episode would mark the end of Chuck Schumer’s political career.But even in America in 2020, it should be a permanent blot on Schumer’s record. We therefore strongly support a resolution to censure Schumer on the Senate floor.