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Tipsheet

Fact Check: Dem Congressman Claims 'All Evidence' Points to Alito Leaking Own Draft in Abortion Case

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Let's quickly review the timeline on this matter.  Back in May, a little more than seven months ago, an unprecedented leak emerged from the Supreme Court.  Someone had given the draft majority opinion in the highly-anticipated Dobbs abortion case to a journalist at Politico, who published it.  The report detonated like a bombshell in Washington, both on the substance of what the Court was about to rule, but also on process.  Such things simply do not happen at SCOTUS, with this outrageous anomaly triggering a spate of whodunit speculation.  Many conservatives pointed the finger of blame at the Left, surmising that perhaps a clerk to one of the liberal justices had dramatically breached protocol in order to gin up public outrage ahead of the final ruling being published.  Sure enough, hordes of protesters descended upon the family homes of multiple justices, and at least one assassination plot was disrupted.  But the majority didn't waver.  

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Others concluded that the leaker probably came from the Court's right flank, deploying the leak to solidify what may have been a fluid 6-3 majority, betting that no justice would cave to a public pressure campaign once the draft was out in the open.  Adherents to this theory included National Public Radio's longtime SCOTUS correspondent, who makes little effort to disguise her progressive politics.  Chief Justice John Roberts -- who joined the majority, but who urged his colleagues to have landed closer to a 'middle ground' outcome -- was irate over the leak and announced an investigation into its provenance.  All these months later, we still don't know what happened and who's responsible.  But that didn't stop a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee from pretending the issue has been more or less settled, asserting that "all evidence" supports his conclusion.  Said evidence doesn't actually exist:


Virtually every single word Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) utters in this clip is dishonest or tendentious. He feigns outrage over this exchange between Justices Alito and Kagan during recent oral arguments, which he says caused "many Americans" to question Alito's "mental fitness," which is ludicrous.  Jones then accuses Alito of being the Dobbs leaker because, he says, Alito also leaked a previous decision in the 2014 Hobby Lobby religious liberty case.  This logic rests on the assumption that Alito did, in fact, leak Hobby Lobby.  But that has absolutely not been proven. The most significant "evidence" for this claim is a fringe right-wing figure, called by Democrats as a witness last week, stating that he was supposedly told by an associate that she had been made aware of the case's outcome in advance by Alito.  Both Alito and this woman (allegedly the leak recipient) have both said it never happened.  And the witness in question has a glaring credibility problem, expertly unearthed and exposed by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and his staff during this very set of hearings.  It seems as though the reverend has a penchant for inventing stories about what Supreme Court justices say:

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"My goodness," was the reaction of veteran Senate budget staffer Brian Riedl, now at the Manhattan Institute.  "Whenever I'm preparing to give testimony, I fact-check every one of my facts, statistics, examples, everything - obsessively and repeatedly, and avoid freelancing into extraneous points, because I live in mortal fear of even approaching what happened here. Brutal."  He added, "on the flip side, having also spent years as a Senate staffer preparing that side of hearings, I know how much staff work went into this and how delicious it was for them to disembowel an opposing witness."  At some point, Schenck realized what was happening, but had nowhere to hide.  So he sat there, squirming, trying to create wiggle room about the veracity of a story he'd confidently shared in his book, as it was totally destroyed by the official record.  The Rehnquist audio was the coup de grace.

To be clear, we do not know who is responsible for the Dobbs leak.  It could have been a left-winger or a right-winger.  It could have been one of the liberal justices.  It could have been Justice Alito.  All of it is still just guesswork and ideological projection.  I think it's important for the truth to come out, and for consequences to flow accordingly.  We deserve a full accounting of what happened because the leak was clearly aimed at the integrity of the institution (which is why I remain more suspicious of the minority side).  But Jones and others discredit themselves by assailing Alito's integrity and railing against his supposed hypocrisy based on an unsupported and dubious allegation advanced by a proven fabulist.  Speaking of proven fabulists upon whom progressives in politics and media conferred an embarrassing degree of unearned credibility -- and no, I'm not referring to this guy -- I'll leave you with this:

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