Chuck Grassley to Chief Justice John Roberts: You Rebuked Trump — but Sat Silent Through Obama’s Abuse

Grassley (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts offered rare public criticism of the President of the United States on Wednesday when he pushed back against President Trump’s claim Tuesday that an “Obama judge” had blocked his effort to deny asylum to those entering the country illegally.

But as outgoing Senate Judiciary Committee chair Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) later noted, Roberts was silent when President Barack Obama attacked the Court during the State of the Union address in 2010:

Likewise, Roberts said nothing when Obama bullied the Supreme Court on numerous occasions — and even appeared to yield to Obama’s pressure.

In 2010, President Obama used his first State of the Union address to denounce the Court’s January 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which struck down restrictions on corporate political speech under the First Amendment.

With six of the nine justices sitting silently in the House of Representatives, Obama told the nation their ruling “will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.”

Democrats leapt to their feet in applause. Justice Samuel Alito mouthed the words, “Not true” — and never attended another State of the Union address.

But Roberts said and did nothing to defend the Court from Obama’s unprecedented assault on its independence.

In April 2012, when oral arguments in the Obamacare case (NFIB v. Sebelius) appeared to go against the administration, Obama warned the Supreme Court against overturning the law, attacking the very idea that “an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.” His aides later scrambled to explain that the president — once a lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago — certainly accepted the idea of judicial review.

But Roberts did not defend the court’s prerogatives. In fact, Roberts buckled, effectively rewriting the law to save Obamacare — perhaps even reversing his original vote.

On Monday evening, Judge Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, an Obama appointee, issued a temporary restraining order blocking the administration from implementing President Trump’s November 9 proclamation that asylum requests would no longer be granted to those arriving in the U.S. illegally. In speaking to reporters, Trump criticized the decision of the “Obama judge,” adding that he considered it a “disgrace.”

On Tuesday, in response to queries from the Associated Press, Chief Justice Roberts 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 all be thankful for.” His views were widely reported as a rebuke to the president himself.

In response, Trump tweeted — with unusually restrained language — that Roberts was wrong, and that President Obama’s appointees, along with the courts of the Ninth Circuit more generally, were reliably opposed to all of his immigration policies. That made those courts the forums of choice for radical left-wing groups favoring amnesty — and they were frequently wrong, he implied, as judged by how frequently they were reversed.

Trump later added:

Though Trump has often criticized judges, raising concerns during the election about his commitment to judicial independence, in practice he has arguably shown greater deference to the courts than Obama, even earning praise from the judge who stopped the family separation policy at the border.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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