Retired Supreme Court Justice Has Sharp Words For President Trump

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said President Donald Trump has exceeded his executive authority by refusing to cooperate with congressional subpoenas.

Stevens, 99, made the remarks during a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal in connection with his forthcoming memoir, “The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years.”

“The president is exercising powers that do not really belong to him,” Stevens told the Journal. “I mean, he has to comply with subpoenas and things like that.”

“I wouldn’t want to predict that anybody’s going to take the incorrect view,” Stevens said when pressed as to how the Supreme Court might resolve the dispute. “But certainly, the correct view is pretty clear.”

Democratic congressional committees have issued a bevy of subpoenas to the administration and Trump confidants, seeking documents and testimony relating to the president’s tax returns and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, among other subjects. For his part, Trump has categorically refused to cooperate. (RELATED: Democratic Efforts To Pack The Supreme Court Just Hit A Big Wall: Public Opinion)

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump said in April. “These aren’t like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020.”

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testifies before the Senate Committee on Campaign Finance on April 30, 2014 (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testifies before the Senate Committee on Campaign Finance on April 30, 2014 (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Stevens has occasionally intervened in legal-political disputes since leaving the bench. He advocated for a total repeal of the Second Amendment in a March 2018 opinion column for The New York Times, saying gun control advocates are too modest in their ambitions. As a justice, Stevens wrote the main dissent in D.C. v. Heller, a landmark decision in which a 5-4 Court said the Constitution protects the right to keep firearms in the home for self-defense.

More recently, he criticized Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding allegations of sexual misconduct. Stevens said Kavanaugh’s performance created the appearance of partisan bias, such that he should not be confirmed.

President Gerald Ford tapped Stevens for the Supreme Court in 1975. Though a Republican of moderate, Midwestern, mid-century vintage, as a justice, Stevens consistently aligned with the Court’s left wing. Justice Elena Kagan succeeded Stevens in 2010. His 35-year tenure is the third-longest in American history.

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