Congressman Jerrold Nadler today proposed changing the rules of the House Judiciary Committee, on which he sits, which would require it to immediately launch an investigation every time President Donald Trump or one of his staffers attempts to publicly discredit a federal judge.
Nadler, one of the most liberal members of the House Democratic minority, proposed the amendment to the committee’s oversight mission that would require it to “investigate any attempt by the White House or any agency of the executive branch to threaten or discredit any federal judge or to undermine the independence of the federal judiciary.” The Manhattan and Brooklyn congressman asserted that Trump’s attacks on Seattle federal Judge Robart and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month, and upon California federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel during the campaign last year.
“It is, frankly, disturbing that such an amendment is necessary,” Nadler said this morning. “But after President Trump’s unprecedented and dangerous campaign to threaten and delegitimize the judiciary, and any judge who would dare to enforce limits on his power, it must, sadly, be a top priority for this committee.”
Candidate Trump attacked Curiel last spring after the District Court judge certified two class-action lawsuits against his Trump University real estate seminar. The GOP nominee alleged that Curiel’s Mexican heritage inherently jaundiced his adjudications, given Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the country’s southern border.
Trump ultimately settled three cases against the program out of court shortly after the election for $25 million.
The president lashed out on Twitter at Robart, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, as a “so-called judge” after the jurist issued a restraining order preventing the implementation of a Trump executive order barring travel from seven majority-Muslim nations.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently upheld the injunction after the Trump administration sought to get it overturned—a ruling the president labeled “disgraceful” and “so political.” The president later wrote on Twitter that “our legal system is broken.”
“No. It is not. But the resident seems to be trying hard to break it,” Nadler said. “Never before have we seen such a brazen attempt by a president to erode public confidence in the courts as fair and neutral arbiters of the law.”
The Judiciary Committee, like the rest of the Congress, is in Republican hands, and so the odds of Nadler’s amendment actually becoming part of the committee’s by-laws is small. But the congressman noted that a number of conservative voices have criticized Trump’s remarks, including his own Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
“It is important that we add our voice to the chorus of condemnation, and that we investigate this issue. An independent judiciary is fundamental to our constitutional system of checks and balances,” Nadler said. “As a real estate developer, it may have proven effective for Mr. Trump to intimidate his adversaries through insults. But, as President, he must learn that such attacks are both reckless and dangerous.”