Donald Trump Wants to Lock Up Journalists: Last year, a few weeks before The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the Dobbs case that overturned Roe v. Wade, the decision in the case leaked in advance. It was something that had never happened in the history of the Supreme Court, where the deliberation process has traditionally remained out of public view.
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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced the findings of its internal investigation into the leak and concluded that they do not know who the leaker was, per CNBC. The report did conclude that the leaker was likely someone who worked at the court.
“In May 2022, this Court suffered one of the worst breaches of trust in its history: the leak of a draft opinion,” the Court said in an official announcement of the investigation’s findings. “The leak was no mere misguided attempt at protest. It was a grave assault on the judicial process. To meet our obligations as judges, we accept submissions from parties and amici, we engage advocates at oral argument, and we publish explanations of our final decisions. All of this we do in the open. Along the way, though, it is essential that we deliberate with one another candidly and in confidence.”
The investigators interviewed 100 court employees, including the more than 80 who had access to electronic materials from the court. But ultimately, “the team has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.”
There has been speculation, not necessarily tied to evidence, about both pro- and anti-abortion forces on or adjacent to the court being responsible for the leak.
But nothing has been concluded as to who, in fact, was responsible for it.
Donald Trump Has Thoughts
Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, weighed in on the decision on Truth Social, declaring that the leakers and the reports who wrote the original story should be threatened with imprisonment.
“The Supreme Court has just announced it is not able to find out, even with the help of our “crack” FBI, who the leaker was on the R v Wade scandal,” Trump pushed out on social media. “They’ll never find out, & it’s important that they do. So, go to the reporter & ask him/her who it was. If not given the answer, put whoever in jail until the answer is given. You might add the publisher and editor to the list. Stop playing games, this leaking cannot be allowed to happen. It won’t take long before the name of this slime is revealed!”
For a political or law enforcement entity to threaten a leaker with jail would almost certainly violate the First Amendment.
That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done before; several reporters, including Judith Miller, during the probe into the Valerie Plame leak, who was jailed for 85 days in 2005.
This has also been the case in some other cases involving federal investigations.
However, it’s unlikely that such a thing would happen in a case like that of the Dobbs decision leak.
That’s because it is not a criminal investigation but rather an internal probe by the Marshal of the Supreme Court.
If the person responsible were to be caught, they would almost certainly be fired, although they likely would not be facing any criminal charges.
Therefore, no government or law enforcement entity would likely take such extraordinary measures in a case like this, entailing threatening journalists or their bosses with jail time. Trump had earlier called to “go to the reporter” in the case of the leak.
“This is a tremendously serious matter that has never happened, to anywhere near this extent, before,” Trump said last June.
Does this mean Trump, should he be restored to the presidency, would go after leakers and threaten them with jail? Not necessarily. He didn’t go through with that during his term in office, although it is the sort of thing, as reported in various books, that Trump would threaten to do, only to have his advisers or lawyers talk him out of it.
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Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.