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McConnell slams Schumer's comments on Supreme Court justices

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made remarks on the Senate floor Thursday slamming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer for comments that appeared to threaten Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Schumer said that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh "have released the whirlwind and will pay the price."

McConnell accused Schumer of trying "to gaslight the entire country" by refusing to retract his remarks, and saying that he had not directly threatened Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

"At the very best his comments were astonishing, reckless and completely irresponsible, and clearly as the chief justice stated in a rare and extraordinary rebuke they were 'dangerous,' because no matter the intention, words carrying the apparent threat of violence can have horrific unintended consequences," McConnell said.

"These clumsy efforts to erode a pillar of American governance just reminded everyone why that pillar is so crucial," McConnell continued. "The minority leader of the United States Senate threatened two associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Period. There's no other way to interpret that."

McConnell has remained silent on Mr. Trump's frequent attacks on federal judges.

Speaking on the Senate floor shortly after McConnell, Schumer said he "should not have used the words" that he did.

"I should not have used the words I used yesterday, they did not come out the way I intended to. My point was there would be political consequences for Trump and Senate Republicans," Schumer said.

Schumer spoke during a rally held in front of the Supreme Court as the justices met inside for oral arguments in a case challenging a Louisiana abortion law

"I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions," Schumer said.

"The bottom line is very simple: We will stand with the American people. We will stand with American women. We will tell President Trump and Senate Republicans who have stacked the court with right-wing ideologues that you're going to be gone in November, and you will never be able to do what you're trying to do now ever ever again."

Chief Justice John Roberts denounced Schumer's comments Wednesday, calling Schumer's remarks "inappropriate" and "dangerous" in a rare statement.

"Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous," Roberts said in the statement released by the Supreme Court. 

After Roberts responded, Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman said the Democratic leader's comments "were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision." 

Goodman accused the chief justice of amplifying "the right wing's deliberate misinterpretation" of Schumer's remarks while ignoring the president's recent criticisms of liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an indication that Roberts "does not just call balls and strikes."

In his confirmation hearing in 2005, Roberts compared judges to baseball umpires, saying it is his "job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat."

Melissa Quinn and Grace Segers contributed to this report.

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