Donald Trump makes another comment that could cost him votes: Months back, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a report about last year’s early leak of the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the June ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.
The leak, which appeared in Politico a few weeks before the official release of the decision, was unprecedented in modern Supreme Court history, and the Supreme Court had vowed to investigate how the leak happened.
The report did not make a determination about who was responsible for the leak. The investigators had interviewed more than 100 people but stated that “the team has to date been unable to identify a person responsible by a preponderance of the evidence.” Different people have alleged that the leak came from those who agreed with, or disagreed with, the Dobbs decision, but no determination has been made as to who was responsible.
Former President Donald Trump reacted angrily to the report, arguing that those investigating should have taken more aggressive measures, including threatening journalists and their bosses with jail time to give up their anonymous source.
“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 said on Truth Social last week.
“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!”
What Is Donald Trump Thinking?
The investigators of the Supreme Court leak did not do that, for a few reasons. One, threatening journalists or their editors with jail would almost certainly violate the First Amendment. Not that there isn’t precedent for that in past government investigations. But the Supreme Court probe was an internal investigation and not a criminal one.
Should the leaker be identified, they would probably be fired from their job, but it’s not at all clear they would be charged with a crime.
After Trump’s comments, the White House reacted strongly at the time, as reported by The Hill.
“The freedom of the press is part of the bedrock of American democracy. Calling for egregious abuses of power in order to suppress the Constitutional rights of reporters is an insult to the rule of law and undermines fundamental American values and traditions,” Joe Biden White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement last week. The statement did not name Trump specifically.
“Instead, it’s the responsibility of all leaders to protect First Amendment rights. These views are not who we are as a country, and they are what we stand against in the world,” he continued.
Press freedom advocates also slammed Trump’s comments at the time to the media.
“Trump’s statement isn’t exactly surprising, given he’s been saying similar things on the campaign trail, but it is appalling,” Trevor Timm, Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told British newspaper The Independent. “No president should be allowed to threaten reporters with jail in order to reveal their sources.”
The comments come as Donald Trump gears up to run for president for a third time.
For all his bitter feuding with the press, Donald Trump did not make a serious effort to jail leakers or journalists during his previous term in office.
However, subsequent reporting has suggested that Trump’s advisers and lawyers frequently talked him out of impulses to do such things.
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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.