In an extraordinary move, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, has released a statement rebuking President Trump for comments he made yesterday disparaging a federal judge. Within hours, Trump fired back on Twitter as NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar temporarily blocked the Trump asylum policy. Whatever the scope of the president's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden, Judge Tigar wrote. Yesterday, an angry Trump shot back.


PRESIDENT Donald Trump: This was an Obama judge, and I'll tell you what. It's not going to happen like this anymore.

TOTENBERG: Today, in response to questions from the press corps, Chief Justice John Roberts issued this statement — quote, "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" — close quote. Trump was apparently unaware of several aspects of Judge Tigar's decision — first, that it's temporary, lasting at this point only until December 19 when the judge is scheduled to hear arguments as to whether to make this order permanent. And second, that Tiger is a district court judge who, while sitting in Northern California, is not a judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Nonetheless, the president lumped the two courts together.


TRUMP: It means an automatic loss, no matter what you do, no matter how good your case is. And the 9th Circuit is really something we have to take a look at.

TOTENBERG: After issuing other such veiled threats, Trump concluded this way.


TRUMP: It's a disgrace what happens with the 9th Circuit. We will win that case in the Supreme Court of the United States.

TOTENBERG: Indeed, he might well prevail when the case gets to the Supreme Court. But Chief Justice Roberts has never responded to any president so directly and publicly before. He clearly wanted to send a counter message to Trump's, one that's measured in tone but firm as to the concept of judicial independence. Trump didn't take the hint. Within hours, he fired back tweeting [reading] sorry, Chief Justice John Roberts, you do indeed have Obama judges, and they have a much different view than the people who were charged with the safety of the country.

Trump has long been quick to criticize judges, whether those judges were involved in private lawsuits against Trump's business interests or ruling on administration policies. In 2016, candidate Trump blasted Judge Gonzalo Curiel who was presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University. Trump publicly derided Curiel as biased, incorrectly calling the Indiana-born judge a Mexican. Here he is on CNN talking to Jake Tapper in June of 2016.


TRUMP: He's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico.

TOTENBERG: Since then, Trump has repeatedly scorned judges appointed by presidents of both political parties. He's even criticized the federal system of immigration judges, calling it corrupt, although the system is administered by his own Justice Department. Indeed, when then-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch privately told senators that such attacks are not good for the morale of the federal judiciary, Trump was reported to have considered pulling the nomination. Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

















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