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:
Chief Justice Roberts rebuked Trump for a comment he made abt judge’s decision on asylum I don’t recall the Chief attacking Obama when that Prez rebuked Alito during a State of the Union
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 21, 2018
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.