Rep. Jim Jordan (R.OH), the House Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, attacked an ex-anti-abortion leader. He claimed he was told in advance about Thursday’s Supreme Court decision. This cast serious doubt on the whistleblower’s claims that the information was from Justice Samuel Alito.
Jordan attempted to discredit the testimony of the Rev. Rob Schenck was an ex-anti-abortion activist and claimed he knew the outcome of an 8-year-old opinion by the High Court in 2014. It was written by a couple who were close to Alito, three weeks before it became public.
Schenck spoke to the committee about his past efforts to recruit Christian couples to be “stealth missionaries” in order to “bolster” Republican-appointed judges’ views on anti-abortion issues. His efforts were years prior to Alito’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization opinion, which overturned Roe v. Wade. The nation was alerted by the leaked draft opinion.
Jordan stated that there was no hearing on the actual leak and instead, he is having a hearing about the fake leak. This statement was made in frustration at the decision of Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), to call Schenck to testify.
Instead of focusing on Schenck’s 2014 opinions, the Ohio Republican convinced Schenck that certain details in a 2018 book about the high court were incorrect.
Jordan spoke from a poster board that displayed the words from Schenck’s book. It also included a reference to his brother Paul who is also a reverend.
“It had been an insignificant victory when we persuaded court that’reverend” should remain before Paul’s name, even though it had been repeatedly told that legal briefs never included such titles,” Jordan reads from Schenck’s book.
Jordan read the Supreme Court transcript of Schenck’s court case, which Jordan confirmed that Schenck’s brother, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, never called Schenck “reverend”, despite Schenck writing that the detail caused Schenck to “wink” at his brother.
Jordan stated that Schenck had misunderstood the key detail and that Jordan now has a second detail. “We are supposed to believe Justice Alito’s word, not yours?” Jordan was curious.
Jordan said, “You claimed you winked because they included the title’reverend’ but the transcript says that Mr. Rehnquist did not.” Jordan also added.
“Perhaps not,” Schenck conceded.
Jordan later stated that he had learned one thing: People who mislead people on small things can mislead them about big things.”
Schenck testified at the hearing because of a letter he had written to Chief Justice John Roberts earlier in the year. He stated that he was contacted by a donor to his organization who had eaten at Alito’s home with his wife before the high court ruled in Burwell V. Hobby Lobby.
Schenck asserts that the donor was informed of the outcome of the case by Schenck and then told him. Alito and a woman who was a part of the dinner have denied these allegations. Counsel for the Supreme Court has stated that there is “nothing to suggest” that justice has violated ethics standards.
Schenck’s account was published by the New York Times last month. Politico reported that the outlet spent many months trying to verify his claims, but was “unable” to find anyone who had heard from Alito or his spouse before the publication at the end June 2014.
“You know what?” A book can be lied to. Jordan stated that it is not a crime. You can lie to The New York Times. It’s not a crime. However, if you speak falsehoods in front of Congress, it’s not allowed.
Schenck described, towards the beginning of the hearing his plan for the influence campaign that he called “Operation Higher Court”.
Schenck stated that “our overarching goals were gaining insight into conservative justices’ thinking, and to strengthen their resolve to render firm, unapologetic opinions.”
Nadler and other Democratic members stated that Schenck’s accusations proved it was necessary to pass legislation to impose an ethics code on high court.
Nadler stated that Supreme Court justices can’t self-police their ethics and that we shouldn’t expect them to.