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Tipsheet

Did the Senate Dems' Witness Really Retweet This?

At the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday supposedly addressing "Supreme Court ethics reform," Senate Democrats trotted out a witness who was cornered and left stammering by a Republican member's line of questioning.

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CLAIM: Following Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)'s opening statements, the Republican senator grilled witness Kedric Payne, the senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, whose website asserts "The current U.S. Supreme Court is a threat to our democracy" on its landing page. "Is that on your website?" Kennedy pressed Payne, who stuttered in response: "I am not certain what exactly is on the website." To which, Kennedy volleyed, gesturing with his digital tablet: "Here it is right here, big as Dallas."

Kennedy then quoted a Nov. 21, 2022, tweet—from Campaign Legal Center's former director of federal reform—that Payne retweeted, stating: "[S]ome justices are politicians in robes who thrive in a system where access & influence are for sale." Kennedy commented, "Now, that's a pretty bold statement." Eyebrows furrowed and mouth agape, Payne asked, "Is that a news article?" Kennedy replied, "No, sir. That's a retweet [...] Tell me: which justices are for sale?" Payne insisted he doesn't "recall" the November 2022 tweet. Kennedy repeated the question. "No," responded Payne. "Are any of them for sale?" Kennedy continued. 

"No, the problem is that the American public has a perception that some justices may be—" Payne stated before Kennedy interjected, pointing to the tweet in question he printed out on paper. "If so, which ones?" Payne finally answered the question directly and said he doesn't believe that justices are for sale. "Then why would you tweet this out?" Kennedy asked, although confusing tweeting out words and amplifying another Twitter user's tweet with a retweet, which Payne did. Kennedy offered to hand Payne a copy of the printed document containing the tweet he was referring to. "I checked it and triple-checked it," he said.

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Kennedy moved on to spotlight a tweet from Jan. 1 that Payne retweeted, quoting: "John Roberts is a disgrace." Payne repeatedly maintained he "did not retweet that" post blasting Roberts. "Can you tell me why you think Chief Justice Roberts is a disgrace?" Kennedy asked further. "I did not say that, did not retweet that," Payne declared, adding: "Someone got it wrong."

"The unstated premise of all this is that some justices have been bribed. Let's just cut to the chase," Kennedy stated.

FACTS: Twitter users took to the platform to screenshot proof of Payne's retweets, since he "can't recall."

According to Washington Post senior political reporter Aaron Blake, Payne "clarified his testimony" and acknowledged the Roberts retweet.

Others observed that Payne, who was cited in Politico's hit job on conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, donated twice, a total of $500 in political donations, to now-Democratic National Committee chairman Jamie Harrison's failed Senate bid in 2020 against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the Republican ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

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RATING: Payne's claim that he didn't retweet those tweets is FALSE.

After denying the retweets in his SCOTUS-ethics testimony, Payne admitted that he was the one who "got it wrong" after all, according to Blake. 

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