Vice President Joe Biden delivered a blistering critique of Donald Trump’s racially-tinged attacks on a federal judge, telling a confab of lawyers Thursday evening that Trump’s “conduct is literally undermining and threatening and potentially doing damage to an independent judiciary that the American people can have faith in.”
Biden delivered the remarks at a conference of the American Constitution Society, a progressive legal group. He also knocked Republicans for blocking consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
“It’s not the racism that frightens me, we’ve dealt with racists before. It’s the potential impact on the court,” Biden said. “And I might add a friendly note to my Republican friends, many of them longtime colleagues in the Senate, they assail Trump’s unacceptable and wrong censure of the judiciary, yet they refuse to confirm a judge of unquestionable credentials to the Supreme Court so that Mr. Trump can nominate, fill that vacancy.”
His speech stressed the importance of an independent judiciary branch and why he believed a Trump presidency would threaten it. Trump recently claimed that a federal judge presiding over lawsuits against one of his businesses was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage.
“It’s my view that a presidential candidate who publicly attacks a sitting federal judge who ruled in a way against his own economic interests cannot be trusted to respect the independence of the judiciary as a president,” Biden, a former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said.
He called Trump’s comments about the judge “reprehensible” and “racist” and said they should be considered a “direct threat” to the judge, U.S. District Court judge Gonzalo Curiel. Among other things, Trump said he “will come back in November” and “do a civil case” if he is president.
“These are words of someone who sees our federal judiciary not as an independent branch of government but as a tool for him to manipulate so he can do what he calls ‘deal with the laws of our country,’” Biden said. “These are the words in my view of one who would defy the courts if they ruled against him as president, not just in a business case, but a case challenging government abuse of power.”
He urged the legal community to condemn Trump’s “pernicious and unprecedented” behavior.
“Either Mr. Trump … doesn’t understand because this is in a realm he’s never dealt with before, or he doesn’t care that would it border on an impeachable offense for a president actually to use the great powers of the office to attempt undermine a federal judge by placing pressure on that judge in any case,” Biden said.