Court Battles

Chertoff details role in Supreme Court leak investigation 

Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, is interviewed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
AP Photo/Richard Drew
FILE – In this July 10, 2018, file photo, Michael Chertoff, the former Secretary of Homeland Security, is interviewed on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Former federal judge and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who reviewed the Supreme Court’s probe into last year’s unprecedented leak of the draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, has detailed his role in the investigation in a new letter to Congress.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who sit on the Senate and House Judiciary committees, had inquired late last month about the extent of Chertoff’s ties to the court. The Democrats had sent their letter after CNN reported that the Chertoff Group had been privately contracted in the past, estimating the firm had been paid at least $1 million for the services.

Chertoff in his response said the office of Chief Justice John Roberts reached out to his firm “in view of our past support and ongoing work as security consultants to the Supreme Court” in order to review the investigation into the leaked Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization draft. 

Chertoff detailed the extent of his security consulting firm’s prior professional relationship with the court, which he said has been ongoing since 2018, when the chief justice’s staff asked the Chertoff Group to “advise the Supreme Court Police on a variety of matters related to protecting the Justices.” 

He said the firm was called on to help develop “a pandemic risk management plan” for the court as the coronavirus hit the nation in 2020, and was asked again in 2021 to give advice on protecting the court.

The Dobbs draft opinion leaked in May.

Chertoff said his firm had built up a “trusted advisory role on security matters” for the court and cited his own background as a former circuit judge, Supreme Court clerk and head of Homeland Security in explaining that Roberts viewed the firm as “a logical choice” to assess the Dobbs leak investigation. 

Chertoff stressed that his firm did not participate in the investigative process of probing the document leak, and did not conduct interviews with investigation subjects. 

“However, we had discussions with court employees who were involved in the planning and execution of the Dobbs leak investigation. Our role was to review the thoroughness of the concluded investigation,” Chertoff wrote. “If we had found material gaps in the investigation, we would have raised these with the Court, and subject to the Court’s approval, suggested and undertaken appropriate additional steps.”

Chertoff denied having a personal relationship with any justice. 

“I do not maintain ongoing or regular social relationships with any of the Supreme Court Justices. That said, over the course of my nearly 50-year legal and public service career, I have had periodic interactions with many of them, mostly in public social settings,” he wrote. 

The investigation into the Dobbs leak did not conclusively identify who leaked the draft opinion, and the recent report on the probe indicated that the court may never be able to determine who was behind the incident.

Tags Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Hank Johnson John Roberts Michael Chertoff Roe v. Wade Sheldon Whitehouse Supreme Court Supreme Court leak

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