Press: Stop the leaks! Impeach Justice Alito!
The late Mark Shields was a brilliant political strategist, a legendary journalist, an intrepid American historian, a wonderful human being and a very funny man. As a historian, he loved to play the game “What if?”
His longtime PBS sparring partner columnist David Brooks recounts that Shields once asked him: “What if, in 1963, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had been assassinated instead of President John F. Kennedy?” Before Brooks could answer, Shields pounced: “I’ll tell you one thing. Aristotle Onassis would not have married Mrs. Khrushchev!”
Now, here’s a “What if?” Shields might propose today: “What if Justice Stephen Breyer and his wife had entertained a couple of political activists at their home — and, over drinks and dinner, leaked the yet-unannounced decision of a major case before the Supreme Court?” You know the answer: All hell would break loose.
Fox News would go into overtime outrage. Republicans in Congress would immediately launch a congressional investigation. Protestors would show up in front of the court and Breyer’s home. Conservatives would demand that Breyer resign or be impeached for violating the vow of secrecy on Supreme Court proceedings.
Of course, that never happened with Justice Breyer. But the question is still relevant. Because, according to one unimpeachable witness, that did happen with Justice Samuel Alito. Not just one, but two leaks of Supreme Court decisions appear to have his fingerprints all over them. And yet, Republicans in Congress and the rightwing media have not uttered a peep.
Why the double-standard when it comes to Justice Alito?
As related by evangelical minister and former anti-abortion activist Rev. Rob Schenck in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, shared with the New York Times, the evidence against Alito is damning. In 2014, Schenck was head of a religious non-profit called Faith and Action, whose number one priority was the so-called “Hobby Lobby” case before the court, allowing companies to deny contraception coverage for employees in their health care plans.
Unable to lobby justices directly, Schenck focused instead on helping conservative Christian donors gain personal access to Supreme Court justices. Many, for example, thanks to major contributions, hobnobbed with justices at gatherings of the Supreme Court Historical Society. Schenck scored bigtime with Ohio donors Don and Gayle Wright, who became close friends with Alito and his wife Martha-Ann and entertained them at their estate in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
According to Schenck, on June 3, 2014, Gayle Wright told him that she and her husband were having dinner with the Alitos at their Arlington, Va., home. The next day, she shared with Schenck two big secrets she had learned at dinner: that Alito was writing the majority opinion in the Hobby Lobby case; and that the decision would support Hobby Lobby — which information Schenck used to rally support for the decision before it was announced. Both Gayle Wright and Alito denied the allegations.
If true, and the evidence is overwhelming, this is an outrageous breach of judicial ethics. And it comes on top of the explosive leak of the court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade – also authored by Justice Alito – which is still under investigation. It looks like investigators don’t have to look any further than Alito himself.
No wonder public approval of the Supreme Court is at an all-time low. Alito and his wife are wining and dining with major donors. Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, Virginia, is trying to overturn the 2020 election. Justices are acting like political hacks — which is unacceptable for any justice, liberal or conservative.
How to restore the court’s reputation? Here’s a good start: Stop the leaks! Impeach Justice Alito!
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”