Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took the unusual step of criticizing a current presidential candidate, telling reporters she "can't imagine" how the U.S. would fare with Donald Trump as president.
Ginsburg's first comments about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee were published on July 8 by the Associated Press. In that interview, the 83-year-old liberal jurist appeared to discount the possibility of a Trump presidency, telling the AP that the future president, "whoever she will be, will have a few appointments to make" to the Supreme Court.
Asked specifically about how she'll react if Trump wins, Ginsburg demurred.
"I don't want to think about that possibility," she said, "but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs."
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Ginsburg was more pointed in her criticism of the New York businessman turned Republican candidate in an interview with the New York Times, which was published on July 10. Those comments, combined with her remarks to the AP, prompted criticism from legal scholars who say Ginsburg has compromised the credibility of the high court by publicly favoring one presidential candidate over another.
“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” Ginsburg told the Times. “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
Ginsburg also chided Republican lawmakers for stalling President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and joked about leaving the U.S. if Trump wins the presidency. Ginsburg said her husband, the late Martin D. Ginsburg, would have said, "it's time for us to move to New Zealand" if Trump was president.
Legal scholars and constitutional law experts chastised Ginsburg for injecting herself into the 2016 presidential election.
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"I find it baffling actually that she says these things," Arthur Hellman, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Washington Post. "She must know that she shouldn’t be. However tempted she might be, she shouldn’t be doing it."
Howard Wolfson, a longtime former aide to apparent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, also criticized the justice, tweeting on July 11 that he doesn't think Supreme Court justices "should be publicly offering their opinions about POTUS candidates."
Several legal experts brought up the possibility of a legal battle over the election, similar to the protracted drama of the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. If the 2016 vote is close and the Supreme Court is called upon to rule, as it was in 2000, Bader would face calls to recuse herself because her public comments make it clear she dislikes Trump, experts told the Post.
Among them is Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who has criticized Ginsburg for earlier comments he said were inappropriate coming from a justice.
"I think this exceeds the others in terms of her indiscretions," Whelan said. "I am not aware of any justice ever expressing views on the merits or demerits of a presidential candidate in the midst of the campaign. I am not a fan of Donald Trump's at all. But the soundness or unsoundness of her concerns about Donald Trump has no bearing on whether it was proper for her to say what she said."