Alberto Gonzales, former attorney general under President George W. Bush, says he’s troubled by some of President Trump’s attacks on judges.
“You cross the line when you actually criticize someone’s competence or integrity,” Gonzales, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, said Wednesday in a panel discussion of the American Bar Association’s litigation section in San Francisco.
“Some of the comments President Trump has made … to me (are) troubling,” he said.
After a federal judge appointed by Bush blocked Trump’s executive order in February banning U.S. admission of anyone from seven nations whose populations are almost entirely Muslim, Trump derided the “so-called judge” and said the jurist would bear the blame of any resulting violence.
During the presidential campaign, Trump said the federal judge who was overseeing a fraud suit against Trump University was biased because of his Mexican heritage. Trump later settled the suit by former students of the for-profit school for $25 million.
Trump accused the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco of bias while the court was considering his travel ban, and later called its ruling against him “ridiculous.” When a federal judge in San Francisco refused last month to let the president strip funding from “sanctuary cities” that withhold information from immigration agents, Trump blamed and criticized the Ninth Circuit, which is in line to hear his appeal of the ruling.
Gonzales had his own run-ins with the legal system as White House counsel from 2001 to 2005 and as attorney general until September 2007, when he resigned during an uproar over the firings of U.S. attorneys. He is now the law school dean at Belmont University in Tennessee.
As White House counsel, Gonzales took part in the Bush administration’s approval of waterboarding and other interrogation methods generally considered torture forbidden by international law. He was attorney general when the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s plan for military commissions to hold trials of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
Gonzales also supported the administration’s renewal of a program of clandestine surveillance of U.S. citizens, and went to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital bedside in 2004 in an unsuccessful attempt to gain his concurrence.
At Wednesday’s panel, Gonzales contrasted Bush’s and Trump’s responses to unfavorable court rulings.
“President Bush took very muscular measures to protect our country,” Gonzales said. “When courts disagreed … President Bush, to his credit, and thank God, said, ‘That’s what the courts are for.’”
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