During a contentious Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Republicans shot down their Democrat colleagues’ efforts to intimidate and delegitimize the Supreme Court.
The Democrat-led “Supreme Court Ethics Reform” hearing was held amid a partisan media campaign accusing conservative justices of ethics violations and conflicts of interest.
Corporate media hit pieces in recent weeks have focused on Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, accusing them ethics violations, while ignoring the allegedly larger ethics violations of liberal justices, the Wall Street Journal editorial Board argued on Monday.
WSJ writers have “examined and debunked” multiple MSM reports accusing Thomas and Gorsuch of various ethics violations in recent weeks, and have concluded that the attacks have been part of a larger effort to subject the Court to more political control.
The first sign that this is all politics is the context for the hearing. Note that it’s been triggered by easily debunked reports about the conservative Justices, especially claims that Justice Thomas didn’t properly disclose certain financial transactions.
But Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson didn’t get the same attention when she revised her financial disclosures in 2022. Her oversights were far more extensive than Justice Thomas’s. There was also no outcry in 2020 when Justice Sonia Sotomayor amended her financial disclosures after the group Fix the Court found that she hadn’t disclosed reimbursement for trips to universities.
Nor was there an uproar when the OpenSecrets website reported in 2019 that former Justice Stephen Breyer was reimbursed for trips some 219 times from 2004-2018. Some of those trips were supported by the wealthy Pritzker family. There are other examples involving liberal Justices.
To be clear, we believe none of these Justices did anything wrong. But neither did Justice Thomas in having a rich friend in Harlan Crow or a minor oversight on one of his disclosure forms.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) demolished the Democrats’ hyped accusations against the conservative justices by detailing the hundreds of trips Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Kagan, Sotomayor have taken over the years. “None of my Democrat colleagues care because this is a political attack directed at a Justice they hate,” he argued.
WATCH: Sen. Ted Cruz debunks the left wing hypocritical smear of Justice Clarence Thomas.
RBG, appointed in '93, 157 trips, 28 international trips.
Stephen Breyer, appointed in '94, 233 trips, 63 int trips.
Justice Thomas, appointed in '91, just 109 reported trips, 5 int trips. pic.twitter.com/nnCcvZmDc5
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) May 2, 2023
“This assault on Justice Thomas is well beyond ethics,” said Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “It’s about trying to delegitimize a conservative court that was appointed through the traditional process.”
As part of their partisan efforts to politicize the court, according to the WSJ, Democrats “have been floating proposals to impose a new ethical code on the Justices” with an outside monitor answerable to Congress to enforce it. Use of such a monitor would be “unconstitutional” the Journal argued, and would “inevitably become a political weapon to attack unpopular Justices and intimidate the Court.”
“Not only is this Democratic proposal unconstitutional, it’s unnecessary,” said Senator John Kennedy during the hearing Tuesday. “The attacks on conservative justices are targeted, they are exaggerated, their alarmism is affected,” he added. The danger isn’t that rogue Justices are operating without ethics. It’s that Democrats aren’t winning every fight and they find that reality intolerable,” Kennedy said.
.@SenJohnKennedy: “The danger isn’t that rogue Justices are operating without ethics. It’s that Democrats aren’t winning every fight and they find that reality intolerable.” pic.twitter.com/MsjbRgneIy
— Senate Republican Communications Center (@SRCC) May 2, 2023
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) detailed the left’s “thuggish” intimidation campaign to influence the Court.
“The truth is, the Left simply disagrees with the decisions issued by our current Supreme Court—and they obviously can’t persuade the American people to adopt their radical policies through legislation—so they are attempting to destroy the Court’s credibility and intimidate the Republican-appointed justices and their families,” Lee argued. “They’re making clear that justices who disagree with them will pay a price—one that the Left will ensure is very high. This is all just a thuggish shake-down. ‘Nice Supreme Court, ya got there, America—it sure would be a shame if something happened to it.’”
Lee cited Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who in 2020, stood on the steps of the Supreme Court and bellowed: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch; I want to tell you, Kavanaugh: You have released he whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”
Flashback to Chuck Schumer in 2020:
“I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh — you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you."pic.twitter.com/35rcQVp3sY
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 2, 2023
In another attempt to intimidate the court in August 2019, according to Lee, five Democrat Senators, including four members of the Judiciary Committee, submitted the following threat in an amicus brief: “The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.”
Since the leak of the Dobbs draft opinion one year ago today, the justices and their families have endured constant protests at their homes, their churches and their children’s schools, and even an assassination attempt against Justice Kavanaugh. Of course, when I say “the justices” in this context, what I really mean is “those justices who joined the majority opinion in Dobbs,” as only the dissenters have been spared of the rage-machine’s bullying threats and intimidation tactics. As Justice Alito recently noted, the Dobbs leak made Justice Alito and those among his colleagues deemed likely to be joining the opinion he authored “targets of assassination.” As Justice Alito explained, “it was rational for people to believe that they might be able to stop the decision in Dobbs by killing one of us.”
Astoundingly, Democratic Senators are now threatening to defund the Supreme Court Police’s protection of the justices and their families unless they enact the specific “ethics reform” measures that those Senators demand. All of these tactics are meant to harass and intimidate the Court—specifically, the justices appointed to the Court by Republican presidents—and force them to force the Left’s radical policy agenda on the American people by judicial fiat.
The left has coordinated these attacks with the increasingly compliant, left-wing media. If you just read articles from sources like The New York Times, Politico, and outlets like the George Soros-funded ProPublica, you’d think Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican president were universally and reckless and corrupt, and that those nominated by Democrats were universally conscientious and virtuous.
Lee went on to shame Democrats for continuing their “high-tech lynching” of an “uppity black” that they started 31-years ago. “The place where a Black boy born into poverty in the segregated South could become one of the greatest, most respected jurists in our nation’s history,” he said.
We now have the Radical Left trying to jackhammer the very foundation of our judicial system—impartiality and adherence to the rule of law—because they disagree with the outcome of a few cases. This isn’t democratic or ethical. Nor is it part of a sincere effort to improve our judicial system or remedy an actual problem. No—this is a progressive temper tantrum. It’s a toxic, highly partisan solution in search of a problem.
I remain confident that Justice Thomas will not be intimidated by the latest attacks, and for that I’m grateful. As he said in 1991: “I will not be scared. I don’t like bullies. I have never run from bullies. I never cry uncle and I am not going to cry uncle today whether I want to be on the Supreme Court or not.”
Graham pointed out that in 1998, Democrats had no problem when Justice Ginsburg donated a signed decision to be auctioned off at fundraiser for the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense Fund.
2/ and here is excerpt from law review article noting that RBG personally donated this signed copy. pic.twitter.com/pO32KqKFDo
— Mark Paoletta (@MarkPaoletta) May 2, 2023
Graham asked Amanda Frost, professor of law at American University, whether “all hell would have broken loose” in this country had Justice Alito donated the signed Dobbs opinion to a pro-life group. Frost replied that such a donation “would certainly be a problem,” and added that this is why it’s so important for Congress to play an “active role” in monitoring SCOTUS.
“Why didn’t all hell break loose in 1998?” Graham demanded. “I think we all know the answer to that.”
Senator Graham pointed how Justice Ginsburg's 1998 donation of her signed VMI decision that went on to be auctioned off at fundraiser for the National Organization for Women's Legal Defense Fund received no outage.
And he asked witnesses how a hypothetical scenario of Justice… pic.twitter.com/IO2iFDxhYP
— Carrie Severino (@JCNSeverino) May 2, 2023
Graham also argued that the Democrat response to SCOTUS’s conservative majority has been to try and pack the court. “Virtually every member of the Democratic caucus except maybe one or two are for expanding the number of judges to dilute the conservative majority that exists today,” the senator said.
“So Mr. Chairman, from our point of view, this is not going to work. You can write all the articles you want to write. You can take all the shots that the conservative justices you want to take. You can picket before their houses, and it’s not gonna stop people from doing their job,” Graham continued.
“This is an unseemly effort by the Democratic left to destroy the legitimacy of the Roberts Court, it’s put people at risk, it’s put their personal safety at risk,” he said.
“We’re going to push back as hard as we can, and tell the American people the truth about what’s going on here,” Graham said. “This is not about making the court better. This is about destroying a conservative court. It will not work.”