While millions of Americans prepared to eat roast turkey for Thanksgiving Thursday, President Donald Trump used a holiday call to U.S. troops and Twitter to roast Chief Justice John Roberts and the federal courts.
“Justice Roberts can say what he wants, but the 9th Circuit is a complete & total disaster,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Judges must not Legislate Security …and Safety at the Border, or anywhere else. They know nothing about it and are making our Country unsafe. Our great Law Enforcement professionals MUST BE ALLOWED TO DO THEIR JOB! If not there will be only bedlam, chaos, injury and death. We want the Constitution as written!”
The leaders of two of the three branches of the federal government have clashed this week over Trump’s rebuke of a federal judge who ruled that the administration must consider claims of asylum no matter where migrants cross the U.S. border.
While Trump didn’t name-check Roberts in his conference call with members of military Thursday morning, he chided the Ninth Circuit.
“We get a lot of bad court decisions from the Ninth Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side,” he said of the federal appellate circuit most often targeted for derision by conservatives “It’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services, when they tell you how to protect your border. It’s a disgrace.”
Trump, who is spending his holiday in Florida, chose to speak with members of the armed forces by conference call after taking criticism from some veterans for not yet having visited troops in a war zone.
In a subsequent exchange with reporters, Trump took a softer tone toward Roberts.
“Chief Justice John Roberts — I like him and I respect him — but I think we have to use some common sense,” the president said.
Trump ripped the federal district court judge who issued the ruling, Jon S. Tigar, as an “Obama judge,” bashed the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, even though Tigar sits a level below the federal appellate tier, and generally argued that the judiciary both has no role in maintaining national security and is endangering America through its rulings.
The characterization of Tigar as an “Obama judge” clearly got under the skin of the chief justice, who, for the first time, pushed back on Trump.
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts told the Associated Press Wednesday. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
And, he added, “the independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
Trump initially responded to that Wednesday.
“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,” Trump wrote on twitter.
In Trump’s Thursday tweets, his citation of a 79 percent Supreme Court reversal rate in cases taken up from the Ninth Circuit is accurate for a specific set of years but does not provide the context that the Ninth doesn’t have the highest rate among circuits.
In the October 2017 term, the reversal rate for the Ninth Circuit was 86 percent and the rate for all circuit courts was 76 percent — with three circuits being reversed 100 percent of the time — according to an analysis by SCOTUSblog.
Including the two posts on the judiciary, Trump had tweeted four times before 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. “HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!” he wrote shortly before tearing into federal judges.