Trump may need Roberts’ vote

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Sher­man

Chief Jus­tice John Roberts, whom Trump once called a ‘dis­as­ter, will ad­min­is­ter the oath of of­fice.

It’s a safe bet that when Chief Jus­tice John Roberts and Don­ald Trump meet out­side the Capi­tol on In­au­gu­ra­tion Day, Roberts won’t ask why Trump said ter­ri­ble things about him.

“Dis­grace­ful” and “an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter” were some of the ways Trump char­ac­ter­ized Roberts as he cam­paigned.

Come Jan. 20, Roberts will ad­min­is­ter the oath of of­fice, the two men will shake hands and then Roberts will re­cede into the back­ground. For now.

Roberts and the rest of the Supreme Court prob­a­bly will be called on to re­view Trump’s ma­jor un­der­tak­ings as pres­i­dent. Trump could need Roberts’ vote on mat­ters rang­ing from im­mi­gra­tion to health care to en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions.

Will it mat­ter that in the course of the cam­paign, Trump had harsh words for the leader of the fed­eral ju­di­ciary? The pointed crit­i­cism of a jus­tice by name was only one in a long list of unusual as­pects of Trump’s cam­paign for the pres­i­dency.

“Jus­tice Roberts re­ally let us down,” Trump told an au­di­ence in Aiken, South Carolina, last De­cem­ber. “What he did with Oba­macare was dis­grace­ful, and I think he did that be­cause he wanted to be pop­u­lar in­side the Belt­way,” he added, re­fer­ring to greater Wash­ing­ton.

A month later, in an in­ter­view with ABC News’ George Stephanopou­los, Trump again re­ferred to the health care de­ci­sions when he said, “Jus­tice Roberts turned out to be an ab­so­lute dis­as­ter.”

Roberts was sav­aged by sev­eral Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, an unusual spec­ta­cle given Roberts’ ap­point­ment by a Repub­li­can pres­i­dent and his gen­er­ally con­ser­va­tive record. Roberts has not re­sponded to the crit­i­cism. Among the jus­tices, Ruth Bader Gins­burg made plain her dis­like of Trump in July, then walked back her com­ments a few days later.

Trump’s con­tro­ver­sial idea about keep­ing Mus­lims out of the U.S. would cer­tainly face a court chal­lenge if his ad­min­is­tra­tion tries to put it in place. En­vi­ron­men­tal groups that have been fight­ing for Obama-era reg­u­la­tions would be ex­pected to fight Trump ef­forts to roll those back.

In these and other ar­eas where the ex­tent of the pres­i­dent’s power is at stake, the Supreme Court could have the fi­nal word.

As chief jus­tice of a court that is di­vided be­tween four lib­eral ap­pointees of Demo­cratic pres­i­dents and four more con­ser­va­tive jus­tices who were put on the court by Repub­li­cans, Roberts has said he has spent even more time than usual seek­ing agree­ment.

The po­ten­tial for dead­lock will dis­ap­pear once Trump nom­i­nates and the Se­nate con­firms some­one to fill the seat that has been va­cant since Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia’s death in Fe­bru­ary.

But even then, Roberts might see the value in con­sen­sus, said Arte­mus Ward, a po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at North­ern Illi­nois Univer­sity who has writ­ten about the Supreme Court.

“Does the court want to is­sue di­vided opin­ions to a di­vided coun­try on di­vi­sive is­sues?” Ward asked.

The in­au­gu­ra­tion-day meet­ing be­tween Roberts and Trump may have its clos­est par­al­lel in the con­tentious re­la­tion­ship be­tween Earl War­ren and Richard Nixon, old Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal ri­vals in Cal­i­for­nia.

In Jan­uary 1969, War­ren was the chief jus­tice who asked Nixon to raise his right hand and re­peat the pres­i­den­tial oath. In that cam­paign, Nixon ran against the lib­eral War­ren Court on a law-and-or­der plat­form.

“One of the most painful mo­ments of War­ren’s life had to be swear­ing in Nixon,” said Jim New­ton, au­thor of the War­ren bi­og­ra­phy “Jus­tice for All.”

But there is no ev­i­dence from records of the 1968 pres­i­den­tial race that Nixon per­son­ally dis­par­aged War­ren, New­ton said. The chief jus­tice al­ready had an­nounced that he would re­tire from the Supreme Court and Nixon knew he would ap­point a suc­ces­sor if he won.

Days be­fore his death in 1974, Jus­tices Wil­liam Bren­nan and Wil­liam Dou­glas vis­ited War­ren in his Wash­ing­ton hospi­tal room. Nixon’s pres­i­dency was mired in the Water­gate scan­dal and it was about to re­ceive a fi­nal blow in the form of a Supreme Court de­ci­sion or­der­ing the pres­i­dent to turn over se­cretly recorded au­dio­tapes. War­ren pleaded with his old col­leagues to hold Nixon ac­count­able and not let the pres­i­dent be above the law.

They as­sured him they would, New­ton wrote.


In this Nov. 9 photo, Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump speaks in New York.


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