Federal judge tears into Trump's criticism of judiciary

A federal judge in Mississippi took aim at President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE on Friday over his past criticism of the judiciary, calling it reminiscent of the tactics used by the Ku Klux Klan.

In a speech at his alma mater, the University of Virginia School of Law, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves said that a "great assault on the judiciary" was underway in the country.

"When politicians attack courts as 'dangerous,' 'political,' and guilty of 'egregious overreach,' you can hear the Klan’s lawyers, assailing officers of the court across the South. When leaders chastise people for merely 'us[ing] the courts,' you can hear the Citizens Council, hammering up the names of black petitioners in Yazoo City, [Mississippi]," Reeves said, quoting from the president's tweets and other past remarks.

"I am here today not just as a black man, but as a black judge," Reeves said.

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"My friend Judge Reggie Walton once said that when black judges 'see injustice,' we 'have an obligation to stand up and speak.' So as a black judge, accepting an award named for a man whose views on race cannot be untethered from an assault on the judiciary, I must stand up and speak about that pairing," he added, referring to Thomas Jefferson, for whom the University of Virginia named an award that it presented to Reeves on Friday.

The speech was first reported by BuzzFeed News.

The judge also directed his remarks at Trump's allies in the House and Senate, whom he accused of echoing famous segregationists with their calls to strip power from immigration judges.

"When lawmakers say 'we should get rid of judges,' you can hear segregationist Senators, writing bills to strip courts of their power," he added, referring to recent calls from Republicans to get rid of the Justice Department's system of immigration courts.

Reeves argued that critics today have no interest in improving the judiciary and are merely seeking to silence their own perceived opponents.

"But the slander and falsehoods thrown at courts today are not those of a critic, seeking to improve the judiciary’s search for truth. They are words of an attacker, seeking to distort and twist that search toward falsehood," he said.

Trump has faced criticism in the past for his remarks appearing to question the impartiality of judges, and in particular for his criticism of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom the president previously suggested could not be impartial in a lawsuit against Trump University because Curiel, who was born in Indiana, is of Mexican descent.

His criticism of Curiel was derided as racist by many, and despite the remarks, Curiel would eventually rule in favor of the administration against a group challenging the legality of Trump's border wall last year.