In His Own Words: The President's Attacks on the Courts

February 16, 2017

Donald Trump has displayed a troubling pattern of attacking judges and the courts for rulings he disagrees with — a pattern that began during his presidential campaign (and even before), and has continued into his presidency.

This threatens our entire system of government. The courts are bulwarks of our Constitution and laws, and they depend on the public to respect their judgments and on officials to obey and enforce their decisions. Fear of personal attacks, public backlash, or enforcement failures should not color judicial decision-making, and public officials have a responsibility to respect courts and judicial decisions. Separation of powers is not a threat to democracy; it is the essence of democracy.

Collected below are examples of Trump’s public statements attacking individual judges and questioning the constitutional authority of the judiciary, including his statements on Twitter. It will be updated with new statements.

Attacks on Courts, and Judge James Robart Personally, for Staying Immigration Executive Order

On Friday, February 3, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge James Robart issued a decision temporarily staying enforcement of Donald Trump’s January 27 executive order limiting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries and halting the admission of refugees from anywhere. On February 9, the Ninth Circuit denied the government's request for a stay of the district court's order. Trump has made a series of tweets and public statements attacking Judge Robart personally, questioning the authority of federal courts to review his order, suggesting the court is biased, and suggesting that the judge and court system would be to blame for future terrorist attacks.

"I don't ever want to call a court biased, so I won't call it biased...But courts seem to be so political."


Calls for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg’s Resignation

During the 2016 presidential campaign, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made comments calling Donald Trump, then the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, “a faker” and stating “I can’t imagine what the country would be – with Donald Trump as our president.” Donald Trump responded in a series of tweets describing Justice Ginsburg as an “incompetent judge” and calling for her resignation.

Accusations that U.S. District Court Judge Curiel Is Biased

In response to U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo O. Curiel’s orders in a class action lawsuit against Trump University, then-presidential candidate Trump made a number of statements attacking Judge Curiel as biased because of his “Mexican heritage” and appointment by a Democratic president. 

Donald Trump said on CNN: “I’ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage, I’m building a wall!” Trump continued: “He’s a member of a society where – you know – very pro-Mexico and that’s fine, it’s all fine, but I think – I think – he should recuse himself.”

Trump’s Rhetoric About Courts Prior to Running for President

Donald Trump’s tweets prior to announcing his presidential candidacy display similar rhetoric targeting individual judges and the judiciary. Select examples are provided below.