WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday that he regretted saying that two Supreme Court justices "won't know what hit" them if they vote to uphold abortion restrictions, but insisted he was not making a threat and offered no apology.
“I shouldn't have used the words I did, but in no way was I making a threat. I never, never would do such a thing, and Leader McConnell knows that. And Republicans who were busy manufacturing outrage over these comments know that, too," Schumer said on the Senate floor.
“I should not have used the words I used yesterday — they didn't come out the way I intended to. My point was there would be political consequences — political consequences,” Schumer said. "Of course I didn't intend to suggest anything other than political and public opinion consequences for the Supreme Court, and it is a gross distortion to imply otherwise. I'm from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language."
Schumer was responding to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who had spoken moments earlier on the Senate floor.
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Schumer said McConnell had made a glaring omission in his comments by not mentioning that Schumer’s remarks Wednesday came during a rally in defense of a woman’s right to choose.
“I feel so passionately about this issue, and I feel so deeply the anger of women all across America about Senate Republicans and the courts working hand in glove to take down Roe v. Wade,” Schumer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was asked about Schumer's remark at her weekly press conference Thursday and said that Schumer said on the floor "that his words were not appropriate and I support him in that." Pelosi said it "wasn't right for anyone to do it" and Schumer recognized that.
McConnell, meanwhile, said Thursday, “There is nothing to call this except a threat,” accusing Schumer of “shameless efforts to bully our nation’s independent judiciary.”
“The minority leader of the United States Senate threatened two associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court,” he added. “There's no other way to interpret that.”
Speaking during the rally outside the Supreme Court Wednesday as the justices were hearing a case on abortion rights, Schumer slammed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both nominated by President Donald Trump.
"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.
McConnell said that if any American had heard the words spoken by Schumer shouted at them from a sidewalk outside their office, “they would hear those threats as personal and most likely they would hear them as threatening, or inciting violence.”
McConnell said Thursday that he fully anticipates that Schumer “would quickly withdraw his comments and apologize,” but McConnell said that Schumer not only doubled but tripled down on his remarks.
“Instead of taking Chief Justice Roberts' sober and appropriate statement to heart, he lashed out yet again and tried to imply the chief justice was biased — biased — for doing his job and defending the court,” he said.
Roberts, in a highly unusual statement late Wednesday, defended his two colleagues, saying, "Statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous."
"All members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter," Roberts said.