WASHINGTON — Democratic Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse suggested Tuesday that the person who leaked the Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe v. Wade should not be subject to a federal investigation.
The Rhode Island senator weighed in on the leaker during a hearing on “Transparency and Accountability for 21st Century Courts,” following a Monday evening report exposing a draft opinion from Justice Thomas Alito in which the justice delivered an “unflinching repudiation” of Roe v. Wade.
Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy warned during the hearing that the leaker should be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted.
“That person also has a pretty difficult decision make in the next few days,” Kennedy said. “I believe I’m accurate in suggesting that every person who had access to this document, that they leaked, that was leaked, is going to get a visit by the FBI. And the person who leaked this document is gonna have to either tell the truth or lie to an FBI agent, which subjects them to criminal prosecution.”
“So, let’s hope that our Department of Justice does its job and at least in a small way, tries to restore a little bit of integrity that this, this misguided zealot, who leaked this document, took away from the American people,” he added.
Whitehouse responded by suggesting that the FBI should not be investigating the matter.
“It’s an interesting separation of powers question,” Whitehouse responded, “why FBI agents from the executive branch would be running around within the Supreme Court, interviewing clerks and staff and justices themselves, if it’s not appropriate for Congress to exercise its legislative powers with regard to those standards.”
Kennedy told Whitehouse that the United States Supreme Court has its own police force, saying, “I don’t think it’s at all uncommon to have police forces cooperate.”
“What I hope happens…is that that the authorities at the Department of Justice, who I believe will be called in, should be called in, put the full force and power of their agency to find out who leaked this document, and to prosecute that person civilly and criminally to the full extent of the law,” Kennedy said.
“I don’t care who it is, I don’t care what the politics is,” Kennedy added. “This isn’t right.”
“I guess we’ll begin by trying to identify what law that person might have violated,” Whitehouse responded.
Shortly after the conversation between the senators, Chief Justice John Roberts released a statement confirming that the draft document is real but emphasizing that it did not represent the Supreme Court’s final decision.
“We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce — permanent employees and law clerks alike — intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law,” the chief justice said.
“This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here,” he added, noting that he has “directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.”