With the United States Supreme Court set to hear a major case next month on the release of his tax returns, Donald Trump on Tuesday called for two of the court’s more liberal justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to recuse themselves from ruling on any cases involving him. According to Harvard University constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe, Trump’s demands for the two recusals may have wider implications.
Describing the president’s call for the justices to recuse themselves “preposterous,” Tribe warned on his Twitter account that this action could signal that “Trump might defy a 5-4 or 6-3 SCOTUS ruling against his administration going forward.”
The president first made his demand for the recusals of Sotomayor and Ginsburg via Twitter, but repeated his calls during a press conference on Tuesday in India, where he concluded a brief state visit, according to an account by The Washington Post.
Ginsburg, Trump said in his speech, “went wild during the campaign when I was running,” in 2016. He was referring to comments made at the time in which the now-86-year-old justice described Trump as a “faker.” The president, at that time still a candidate, said during his campaign that Ginsburg should resign from the bench because “her mind is shot.”
She later apologized for the remarks, which was an unusual move for a Supreme Court justice, as members of the highest court in the U.S. generally refrain from publicly discussing current political events or personalities.
According to the Post account, Trump’s attack on Sotomayor was provoked not by any comments made in an interview, but by her dissenting opinion in a recent immigration case. The justice wrote in the dissent that the Supreme Court has been too quick to grant the federal government “emergency” rulings and that the government was too quick to ask for such rulings.
In his comments to the press on Tuesday, Trump accused Sotomayor of attempting to “shame” her fellow Supreme Court justices into voting “her way,” which Trump described as “so inappropriate.”
The Post also noted, however, that the Trump administration sought 20 “emergency” actions from the Supreme Court in the first 30 months of his term. By contrast, in the combined 16 years of the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, the federal government requested only eight “emergency” actions by SCOTUS.
In his calls for Sotomayor and Ginsburg to recuse themselves from cases in which he is involved, Trump neglected to mention that the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas is a leading conservative activist now working closely with the Trump administration to purge “disloyal” agency officials, according to a New York Magazine account.
New York columnist Jonathan Chait echoed Tribe’s warning that Trump may be “laying the groundwork” to defy any Supreme Court ruling on his tax case — or any other case — that did not go in his favor.
“This would pose Trump’s most dire and direct challenge yet to the rule of law,” Chait wrote.