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Chief Justice John Roberts delivers rare rebuke of Trump in defense of federal judges

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Feb. 28, 2017, in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. In a rare rebuke, Roberts criticized Trump's criticism of federal judges who blocked an order from Trump barring migrants who enter the United States illegally from seeking asylum. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Chief Justice John Roberts reprimanded President Donald Trump on Wednesday over the president's criticism of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

What's the context?

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a restraining order against Trump's policy that would have prevented anyone who entered the country illegally from then being able to seek asylum in the U.S.

“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority,” Tigar wrote, "he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.”

“The 9th Circuit, we're gonna have to look at that,” Trump told reporters, “because every case, they file it — I mean practically, practically, for all intents and purposes — they file it in what's called the 9th Circuit. This was an Obama judge. And, I'll tell you what, it's not gonna happen like this anymore.

“Every case that gets filed in the 9th Circuit, we get beaten. And then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court, like the travel ban, and we won,” he added.

The 9th Circuit Court has frequently been criticized by conservatives for its decisions. When the same court blocked another Trump immigration order in February 2017, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said that this court had “a well-earned reputation for being presumptively reversible.”

That same month, Senate Republicans considered splitting up the region overseen by the court in an attempt to lessen its influence.

What did Roberts say?

But Chief Justice John Roberts took umbrage at Trump's rebuke of the court.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts told The Associated Press in a statement. “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.”

Roberts was appointed by former President George W. Bush after the death of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Trump isn't the first president to find himself at odds with a chief justice. When he disagreed with a decision that the Supreme Court (then under Chief Justice John Marshall) had made against one of his policies, former President Andrew Jackson is reported to have said, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Jackson would go on to defy the court's decision and evict the Cherokee people from Georgia.

Roberts also isn't the first sitting Supreme Court justice to criticize Trump. In 2016, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the New York Times that she couldn't “ imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” later remarking that her late husband would have suggested that they move to New Zealand if that happened.

Trump called for Ginsburg to resign after that comment, remarking that he thought “her mind is shot.” Ginsburg later said she regretted her comments and called them “ill-advised.”

One last thing…
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