Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Thursday she regrets remarks she made earlier this week to CNN and other news outlets criticizing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them,” Ginsburg said in a statement. “Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”
Ginsburg extensively criticized Trump as “a faker” in an interview with CNN earlier this week.
Her comments enraged Trump and leading congressional Republicans, and thrust the 83-year-old justice into the middle of the heated presidential campaign.
Ginsburg’s remarks to CNN as well as to the Associated Press and The New York Times created a highly unusual week at the Supreme Court. Not only was it unprecedented for a member of the current court to delve so deeply into a presidential campaign, but a statement expressing regret is also quite rare.
“He is a faker,” she told CNN legal analyst and Supreme Court biographer Joan Biskupic of the real estate mogul, going point by point, as if presenting a legal brief. “He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.”
Justice Stephen Breyer was asked about her comments Wednesday and according to the event organizers at the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference he declined to comment saying, “If I had an opinion, I wouldn’t express it.”
Trump called on Ginsburg to resign Wednesday, joining an outpouring of criticism that is giving a divided Republican Party a fresh common target.
“Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot – resign!” Trump tweeted.
Ginsburg’s statements had caused controversy not only in political circles but also among legal ethicists who suggested yesterday that if the current election were ever to come down to a Bush v. Gore-like challenge, Ginsburg would have to recuse herself.
“A federal law requires all federal judges, including the justices, to recuse themselves if their ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned’,” said Stephen Gillers, a legal ethicist at New York University School of Law.
“Under this test, Justice Ginsburg’s remarks would prevent her from sitting in the unlikely event of a ‘Clinton v. Trump’ case that determines the next president,” he said.
Congressional leaders were quick to blast Ginsburg’s comment as inappropriate.
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday sharply criticized Ginsburg.
“I find it very peculiar, and I think it’s out-of-place,” Ryan told CNN’s Jake Tapper during a CNN town hall. “For someone on the Supreme Court who is going to be calling balls and strikes in the future based upon whatever the next president and Congress does, that strikes me as inherently biased and out of the realm.”
Ginsburg was appointed to the high court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, and is now the senior member of the liberal wing and leading voice countering conservative Chief Justice Roberts. She has drawn a cult-like following among young people who have nicknamed her The Notorious R.B.G., a play on American rapper The Notorious B.I.G.
Chief Justice John Roberts has been critical in public about the rancor between the political branches, and in a speech in 2014 at the University of Nebraska expressed concern that the discord impeded their ability to carry out their functions.
“I don’t want it to spill over and affect us,” he said.
“That’s not the way we do business. We are not Democrats and Republicans,” he said. “In nine years I’ve never seen any sort of political issue like that arise between us.