The unusual and apparently unprecedented battle of words between a justice of the Supreme Court and a presumptive presidential nominee continued Tuesday.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made clear that her criticism of Republican Donald Trump was not the result of an unguarded moment. She told a CNN analyst in an interview late Monday that Trump was a “faker” and said she was surprised the media has not pressed him more to release his tax returns.
Trump responded by telling a New York Times reporter that Ginsburg’s comments were “highly inappropriate” and she should leave her lifetime appointment sooner rather than later. Early Wednesday, a more pointed message was posted to his Twitter account: “Her mind is shot — resign!”
The back-and-forth was an extraordinary confrontation. Usually the most public interaction between the court and the political world comes at the annual State of the Union address, where the justices sit stoically among partisan cheers and catcalls.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. earlier this year said the politics of Senate confirmation hearings give the public the mistaken view that justices are partisan. “We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans,” he said.
But in interviews last week, Ginsburg made clear her distaste for Trump.
“I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” Ginsburg told the New York Times. “For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.”
She also told the Associated Press she assumed Democrat Hillary Clinton will win the November election. The 83-year-old Ginsburg was nominated to the court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
Asked what would happen if Trump won instead, she said, “I don’t want to think about that possibility, but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.”
Her comments were met with a wave of alarm by many judicial ethics experts, who called them surprising if not potentially recusal-worthy should a legal issue involving Trump come before the court.
But Ginsburg doubled down when she met late Monday for a previously scheduled interview with CNN’s Joan Biskupic.
“He is a faker,” Ginsburg said of Trump. “He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment.”
She added: “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.”
Trump got on the line with the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman to respond.
“I think it’s highly inappropriate that a United States Supreme Court judge gets involved in a political campaign, frankly,” Trump said. “I think it’s a disgrace to the court, and I think she should apologize to the court. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.”
Trump added: “It’s so beneath the court for her to be making statements like that. It only energizes my base even more. And I would hope that she would get off the court as soon as possible.”
Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said Ginsburg had no comment on Trump’s reaction to her comments.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said he found Ginsburg’s remarks “very peculiar.” Speaking on CNN Tuesday night, he said, “That strikes me as inherently biased and out of her realm.”
Nominations to the court, Ginsburg has indicated, are at the heart of her concern. There already is one vacancy, and Senate Republicans have refused to hold a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to take the place of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February.
Ginsburg has noted that she and two others on the court will be 78 or older on Inauguration Day 2017.