CNN Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
02:41
Who is Chief Justice Roberts?
ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 6:  Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale concedes the election to his Republican opponent Norm Coleman November 6, 2002 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mondale and Coleman were in a race for U.S. Senate that was too close to call the evening before.  (Photo by Mark Erickson/Getty Images)
Mark Erickson/Getty Images
ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 6: Former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale concedes the election to his Republican opponent Norm Coleman November 6, 2002 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mondale and Coleman were in a race for U.S. Senate that was too close to call the evening before. (Photo by Mark Erickson/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:00
Walter Mondale dies at 93
george w bush congress immigration rhetoric cbs intv sot mxp vpx_00000000.png
george w bush congress immigration rhetoric cbs intv sot mxp vpx_00000000.png
Now playing
01:25
Bush calls on Congress to tone down 'harsh rhetoric' on immigration
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence" on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.  Many senators spoke both for and against gun control the day after a shooting in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman opened fire at a grocery store, killing ten people. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Constitutional and Common Sense Steps to Reduce Gun Violence" on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Many senators spoke both for and against gun control the day after a shooting in Boulder, Colorado where a gunman opened fire at a grocery store, killing ten people. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Now playing
03:18
Berman on Cruz's latest tweet: 'The pot calling the kettle violent'
Now playing
01:57
Chuck Hagel criticizes Trump's statement on Afghanistan
gun laws shootings Comer pamela brown nr vpx _00015627.png
CNN
gun laws shootings Comer pamela brown nr vpx _00015627.png
Now playing
02:23
'I can't answer that': Kentucky lawmaker responds to CNN on gun policy
Now playing
02:39
National security adviser: Russia will face consequences if Navalny dies in prison
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) speaks during a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol on February 5, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House voted 230 to 199 on Friday evening to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committee assignments over her remarks about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.
Now playing
03:20
Marjorie Taylor Greene lashes out at media after backlash over controversial caucus
AP
Now playing
03:16
Maxine Waters: Jim Jordan is a bully and I shut him down
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, leaves her office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
03:51
Marjorie Taylor Greene launching 'America First' caucus
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia at the White House in Washington, DC on April 15, 2021. - The United States announced sanctions and the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats Thursday in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin's US election interference, a massive cyberattack and other hostile activity.
Now playing
02:22
White House backtracks on refugees decision after criticism
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images
Biden speaks from the Treaty Room in the White House on April 14, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Now playing
02:44
'National embarrassment': Biden reacts to mass shootings
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15:  Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - APRIL 15: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to talks to Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a meeting with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov in the Kremlin on April 15, 2013 in in Moscow, Russia. Karimov is on a state visit to Russia. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:07
Russia to expel 10 US diplomats in 'tit-for-tat response' to Biden sanctions
Now playing
03:10
Avlon: Here's what we know 100 days since the Capitol riot
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images
A Russian flag flies next to the US embassy building in Moscow on October 22, 2018. - US national security advisor John Bolton is in Moscow holding meetings with senior Russian officials following Washington's weekend announcement of withdrawal from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, known as the INF. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP via Getty Images)
Now playing
02:17
Political scientist: US-Russia relations are in the toilet
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) speaks during a news conference on immigration to condemn the Trump Administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, outside the US Capitol on June 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Toya Sarno Jordan/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:39
Governor settles with former campaign staffer who accused her of sexual mistreatment

Editor’s Note: Elizabeth Wydra is president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a public interest law firm and think tank. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own; view more opinion at CNN.

(CNN) —  

As the Supreme Court strives to finish its work by the end of June – deciding on issues from the future of the census to the ability of politicians to draw their own legislative districts – the justices labor in their chambers at a particularly fraught moment in our country’s history. The pressure may be greatest on Chief Justice John Roberts.

Try as he might – and some might question whether he is trying hard enough lately – Roberts is in danger of losing his battle to keep most Americans from seeing the court he leads as divorced from politics.

The latest Quinnipiac poll tells the tale, with nearly 60% of voters now seeing the justices as “too influenced by politics.” In fact, actions by President Donald Trump and his administration have made Roberts’ position more decisive than at any time in his nearly 15 years on the court. President Trump, it seems, views the Roberts court as his potential “get out of jail free” card, recently tweeting that if he were impeached under the Constitution he would look to the Supreme Court to bail him out.

Just this week, attempts to obstruct justice and invite foreign influence in America’s 2016 election – as detailed in more more than four hundred pages in the Mueller report – have come to a head: Attorney General William Barr, charged with defending the rule of law on behalf of all Americans, is instead running interference for President Trump, acting like a lawyer on Trump’s personal payroll.

In a dangerous insult to the constitutional duty of Congress to act as a check and balance against the President and the executive branch, the Trump administration is stonewalling Congress, forcing the House Judiciary Committee to vote to hold Barr in contempt. This extraordinary move is a likely precursor to a major court battle over Congress’s access to the full, unredacted Mueller report, on which Trump has asserted executive privilege.

All of this comes on the heels of the Trump administration placing children in cage-like enclosures. Blocking people from entering the country, as I have argued, because of their race or religion. Barring transgender people from serving in our military. Attacking the courts and impartial, fair law enforcement. Rigging the process by which the Constitution commands all persons in America be counted, and through which votes and government resources are apportioned and allocated.

These threats cannot be ignored or set aside – at least not without the American people paying a dear price. The strength of our people, and the institutions built to serve us, instead must confront these challenges, resolve them in favor of the rule of law, and reinforce the bedrock values of our amended Constitution: equality, inclusion, fairness.

Defining the Supreme Court’s place in this moment is the responsibility of Chief Justice John Roberts. “The majesty of the national authority,” as Alexander Hamilton wrote, “must be manifested through the medium of the courts of justice.” While it’s true that the Supreme Court is rated higher than President Trump or Congress, that’s a bar low enough to skip over. America’s founders set that bar much higher, and for decades the American people believed the court cleared it with ease. Not anymore.

While the President continues to not know how the Constitution works, he is unfortunately not necessarily wrong to look to the Roberts court for relief. It has been the place where some of his most outrageous policy actions have been resurrected.

At the end of last term, the conservative justices were willing to pretend that Trump’s Muslim travel and refugee ban wasn’t based on anti-Muslim animus, despite the President’s clear statements to the contrary. And now this term, it looks possible that the conservative justices who hold a majority on the court will pretend that the Trump administration’s addition of a citizenship question to the census is something other than an attempt to discourage and intimidate immigrants and people of color.

Given the fundamental challenges to our democracy currently confronting his court – with more on the horizon – the question is, what will Chief Justice Roberts do?

At this historic crossroads, his choice is straightforward. He can turn right – ignoring the majority of Americans who worry the court is too influenced by politics and the evidence that people are more likely to see the court as “too conservative” rather than “too liberal” – and plow ahead with the Republican legal project, giving Trump the rubber stamp he seems to want in the Supreme Court.

Get our free weekly newsletter

Or Roberts can look straight ahead, remembering his caution that, “The court has, from time to time, erred and erred greatly. But when it has, it has been because the court yielded to political pressure.” By heeding that caution, which points toward the Constitution’s text, history, and values, he can steer the Court away from the activist conservative extreme and back toward the middle of the road.

None but a few fringe observers of the court will ever mistake John Roberts for a moderate, much less a liberal. But as battles over the character of our democracy reach the court – many focusing on President Trump and his administration – the choice between exalting the rule of law and indulging conservative ideology, pushed by a demonstrably lawless President, should be a clear one.