Donald Trump, left, and John Roberts Jr., right. (Photos: Shutterstock/ALM) Donald Trump, left, and John Roberts Jr., right. (Photos: Shutterstock/ALM)


“Nightmare.” “Absolute disaster.” “Looked like a dummy.”

President-elect Donald Trump has lobbed these insults and more at Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.—personal attacks about him, and positions he took in ruling on signature Obama administration cases.

On Friday, Roberts will deliver the oath of office to Trump in front of an expected crowd of hundreds of thousands of spectators on the National Mall. Trump will take the oath on the Bible used by Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama.

If Trump’s barbs scored, Roberts won’t reveal it. Protective of the court as an institution, he has always seemed to care more about how the court is viewed than how he is perceived. He has eschewed the politics of the confirmation process.

The chief justice is the Mr. Cool of the Supreme Court bench: cautious and careful, dignified and rarely flustered. Well, that is if you discount his flubbing of the oath delivered to Barack Obama in January 2009.

There was no outward sign of disdain or concern in delivering the oath to Obama, who voted against Roberts’ elevation in 2005 to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nevertheless, the oath will mark an odd moment. Roberts will become one member of a five-justice conservative majority during the Trump administration, and his vote could prove essential to the constitutionality and legality of Trump policies.

Most of Trump’s criticisms of Roberts were focused on the chief justice voting twice to uphold the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a look back at some of Trump’s comments about Roberts.

‘Ashamed of Himself’

(July 3, 2012, six days after the 5-4 ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius)

“I think that Roberts was reading the Washington Post and New York Times and he said, ‘I could come out like a hero if I do what everybody expects me not to do.’ I think he should be ashamed of himself,” Trump told CNBC.

Trump continued: “Interestingly, it’s reverberating the opposite,” Trump said. “He looked like a dummy, because frankly his decision does not seem to be written by the supposedly smart man… the decision makes no sense to anybody that reads it.”

‘Really Let Us Down’

(Dec. 12, 2015)

“Obamacare is going down with or without Justice Roberts, if you know what I mean,” Trump said at a town hall in Aiken, South Carolina, according to Fox News. “I will tell you this: Justice Roberts really let us down. He really let us down.”

He added: “I think he did that because he wanted to be popular within the [D.C.] beltway or something because he did it the first time and should have never done it and that would have killed it.”

‘Nightmare for Conservatives’

(Jan. 17, 2016, ABC This Week)

John Roberts, Trump said last year, “turned out to be a nightmare for conservatives.”

“Justice Roberts turned out to be an absolute disaster, he turned out to be an absolute disaster because he gave us Obamacare.” Trump told ABC News on “This Week.”

Roberts “gave us Obamacare. Almost as much as [President] Obama himself.”

“Justice Roberts could’ve killed Obamacare and should’ve, based on everything—should’ve killed it twice,” Trump said.


(February 2016 GOP primary debate)

“Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Roberts-care,” Trump said at the Republican primary debate in Houston. “Two times of the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts approved something that he should have never raised his hand to approve. And we ended up with Obamacare.”

He added: “[John Roberts] has been a disaster in terms of everything we stand for because there is no way—no way that he should have approved Obamacare.”

‘So Bad What Happened’

(June 30, 2016 CNN)

“I mean, who would’ve thought that could’ve happened? He could’ve killed it twice and he didn’t,” Trump told talk show host Mike Gallagher. “That was terrible. And that was a Bush appointment. I mean that was—that was so bad, that was so bad, what happened.”

Contact Marcia Coyle at On Twitter: @MarciaCoyle