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.”
Hours after releasing the statement Ginsburg talked exclusively to NPR’s Nina Totenberg, and expanded upon her statement. She called her comments “incautious.”
“I did something I should not have done,” she added. “It’s over and done with and I don’t want to discuss it anymore.”
Earlier in the week, in an interview with Joan Biskupic, CNN’s legal analyst and Supreme Court biographer, Ginsburg had extensively criticized Trump as a” faker. ”
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, 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.
Despite the statement, Trump will likely continue to use the comments to help excite the base and warn about the liberal leanings of the court and danger of a President Hillary Clinton adding more liberals to the bench should she win the White House.
Ginsburg’s criticism had caused controversy not only in political circles but also among legal ethicists who suggested Wednesday 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.”
Biskupic said she believes the statement was a response to the criticism from across the ideological spectrum.
“[S]he couldn’t help but be surprised by what’s happened in the last 72 hours with so much second-guessing from even folks who are her fans on the left,” Biskupic said on CNN’s “At This Hour” on Thursday morning. “I think she felt like it was important for her to clear the air. I think she felt like she wanted to acknowledge that she made a mistake instead of just waiting to hope that the issue would die down.”
“Justice Ginsburg did the right thing by returning to a position of electoral neutrality,” said Steven Lubet of Northewestern Pritzker School of Law. ” That was good for both the Court and the political system,” he said.
Former Ginsburg law clerk David Post said he has not spoken with her about the statement but told CNN, “I take it at face value. It was ill-advised, I think she– for some reason — stepped over the line.”
“Nobody was really backing her up, and a lot of people, including allies ,were saying ‘whoa what is she doing?'” added Post, a legal scholar and former Temple University law professor. “I think she came to realize very quickly, she made a mistake. The best thing to do is don’t let this fester, don’t let Trump make a mountain out of this molehill. Don’t let the new social media new cycle spin this into a major catastrophic blunder. Just get out in front of it and say ‘I spoke out of turn.'”
Congressional leaders were quick to blast Ginsburg’s comment as inappropriate.
“I find it very peculiar, and I think it’s out of place,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN’s Jake Tapper during a CNN town hall Tuesday night. “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.
The 83-year-old Ginsburg has a busy summer of travel ahead of her. In the coming days she will travel to Europe and on July 27 she is expected to take part in a program with performers of a production of the Merchant of Venice which will take place in Venice, Italy.
Later in August she will provide commentary for an Opera festival in Cooperstown, New York.
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. “