Let’s consider all the ways that Schumer has, by popping off on this occasion, taken the current political situation—already nearly catastrophic—and made it worse. First, as a general matter, threatening judges—even seeming to threaten judges—is a dreadful thing to do, no matter whether it’s done by Donald Trump, Roger Stone, or Chuck Schumer. As the United States struggles to retain the last shreds of the rule of law, the way to respond to Trump’s threats is not—repeat, is not—to deploy threatening language from the other side.
Second, the threat itself was, as we used to say where I grew up, kind of pitiful. He sounds like the deposed, disarmed King Lear, vowing to his ungrateful daughters that “I will have such revenges on you both that all the world shall—I will do such things—what they are yet I know not, but they shall be the terrors of the earth.” If Schumer had any power over the world these two jurists live in, they wouldn’t be on the Court at all. Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump contemptuously brushed aside Schumer’s opposition to both appointments, and didn’t suffer for it politically. Now that Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh are installed with life tenure, does Schumer expect them to quake at his displeasure? Such a threat is not thuggery; it is impotence posing as thuggery, not only improper, but embarrassing.
Third, Schumer’s remarks have now allowed Trump himself to pose as the defender of judicial independence.