The highly controversial and highly unpopular U.S. Supreme Court isn’t just facing a historic loss of confidence, it’s now facing yet another ethics scandal that is likely to lower even further public opinion of the far-right institution that in under two decades has seen its approval rating slashed.
Although it will not hear arguments, the issue before the Supreme Court and the American people’s view of it, is, should a Justice’s spouse – in this case the spouse of Chief Justice John Roberts – be able to make millions of dollars recruiting attorneys who are placed into top law firms that argue cases before it?
That’s the latest allegation, and already a spokesperson for the Court has issued a statement denying any ethical violations.
The New York Times reports that “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice. Seeking an inquiry, the ex-colleague has provided records to the Justice Department and Congress indicating Mrs. Roberts has been paid millions of dollars in commissions for placing lawyers at firms — some of which have business before the Supreme Court, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.”
Jane Sullivan Roberts left a law firm where she was a partner after her spouse was confirmed as Chief Justice.
“Mrs. Roberts, according to a 2015 deposition,” The Times reports, “said that a significant portion of her practice was devoted to helping senior government lawyers land jobs at law firms and that the candidates’ names were almost never disclosed.”
Documents in that case “list six-figure fees credited to Mrs. Roberts for placing partners at law firms — including $690,000 in 2012 for one such match. The documents do not name clients, but Mr. Price recalled her recruitment of one prominent candidate, Ken Salazar, then interior secretary under President Barack Obama, to WilmerHale, a global firm that boasts of arguing more than 125 times before the Supreme Court.”
That case involves “a former colleague of Mrs. Roberts,” Kendal Price, a 66-year-old Boston lawyer, who “has raised concerns that her recruiting work poses potential ethics issues for the chief justice.”
“According to the letter,” sent by Price to DOJ and Congress, which the Times reports it obtained, “Mr. Price was fired in 2013 and sued the firm, as well as Mrs. Roberts and another executive, over his dismissal.”
The Times cites two legal experts, one who sees no ethical concerns with the situation, and one who does.
But critics are expressing great concern over this latest ethics issue, as they have been for years.
Doug Lindner, Advocacy Director for Judiciary & Democracy for the League of Conservation Voters, pointing to the Times’ report, remarked: “Another day, another ethics concern about another life-tenured conservative justice on the most powerful court in the world, which has no binding ethics rules.”
Indeed, the lack of a Supreme Court code of ethics has been repeatedly condemned for years, including by some of the nation’s top critics.
On Sept. 1, 2022, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin tweeted out her opinion piece: “Ginni Thomas pressed Wisconsin lawmakers to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory .. just another insurrectionist.”
Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic, responded:
“Another reminder of how unethical is Justice Clarence Thomas, while Chief Justice Roberts turns a blind eye and continues to resist a code of ethics for a Supreme Court now distrusted by a majority of Americans. This defines the Roberts Court.”
The following month Ornstein slammed the Roberts Court once again.
“It is a stain on the Supreme Court that Chief Justice Roberts refuses to support a Judicial Code of Ethics, and stands by silently while Clarence Thomas flouts ethical standards over and over and over,” Ornstein charged.
Less than one month later he again unleashed on Roberts.
“Roberts is culpable,” he tweeted. “He has resisted over and over applying the Judicial Code of Ethics to the Supreme Court. This is Alito’s court, and it is partisan and corrupt.”
Ornstein is far from the Court’s only critic.
“If Chief Justice Roberts really wanted to address Supreme Court ethics, he would have immediately worked to implement a Code of Conduct after Clarence Thomas failed to recuse from cases involving January 6th despite having a clear conflict of interest,” the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington tweeted a year ago in May. The following month CREW published an analysis titled: “Chief Justice John Roberts is wrong: the American judicial system is facing a major ethics crisis.”
Meanwhile, in late November Politico reported that Democrats in Congress were outraged at the Roberts Court.
“Two senior Democrats in Congress are demanding that Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the Supreme Court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the high court considered several years ago,” PoliticoJosh Bernstein reported, referring to the leak of the Dobbs decision that overturned the Roe v. Wade decision – itself a massive ethics crisis for the Court.
“Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They wrote to Roberts on Sunday, making clear that if the court won’t investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.”
Whitehouse and Johnson “also criticized the high court’s response to a letter they sent Roberts in September, seeking information about the court’s reaction to reports in POLITICO and Rolling Stone about a yearslong campaign to encourage favorable decisions from the justices by bolstering their religiosity.”
Nothing has changed.
When the Roberts Court earlier this month announced its lengthy investigation did not find the draft Dobbs decision leaker but also did not include the Justices themselves, Stokes Prof. of Law at NYU Law School Melissa Murray, an MSNBC host, tweeted, “This is a Roberts Court leitmotif–The Chief loves to handle things–even big things–in-house. Ethics issues? No need to get involved, Congress. We’ll sort it out ourselves. Leak needs investigating? No need to call in an actual investigative body, the Marshal will handle it.”
Pulitzer prize winning New York Times investigative reporter Jodi Kantor, pointing to how the Justices were not thoroughly investigated during the leak probe, in earlier this month said: “Last week the court released statements that confirmed the gap between how the justices and everyone else were treated.”
“The whole situation amplifies a major question about the court: are these nine people, making decisions that affect all of us, accountable to anyone?”
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‘See How Easy That Is to Say?’: GOP Mocked for ‘Weaponization’ of DOJ Claims as Democratic Senator Gets Indicted
The U.S. Dept. of Justice unsealed an indictment against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez late Friday morning, accusing the New Jersey Democratic lawmaker of bribery as prosecutors showed photos of gold bars and nearly half-a-million dollars in cash stuffed into a jacket that bears his name and the seal of the U.S. Senate.
Many on the left immediately demanded Senator Menendez resign, a demand he is refusing. He will step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which Senate Democrats require when a chair is criminally charged.
It took little time for liberals to mock Republicans who have been claiming President Joe Biden and Democrats in general, along with the “deep state,” have “weaponized” the Dept. of Justice against conservatives, especially after Donald Trump’s four indictments on a total of 91 criminal felonies.
“Let me get this straight,” wrote journalist and progressive SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah. “To the GOP, when DOJ indicts President Biden’s son and a senior Democratic US Senator that is great. But when DOJ indicts Donald Trump for attempting a coup and for 32 counts of Espionage that is DOJ’s ‘weaponization’ of criminal justice?!”
“This is the second time that Sen. Bob Menendez has been indicted for corruption. He needs to resign and allow Gov. Murphy to fill that vacancy with someone who does right by the people of New Jersey,” wrote former Human Rights Campaign press secretary Charlotte Clymer. “See how easy that is to say, GOP?”
Journalist, author, and former Clinton White House aide Keith Boykin posted video of the prosecutor announcing the indictment.
US Attorney Damian Williams shows photos of the Mercedes Benz, gold bars, and cash the government alleges Senator Robert Menendez received in bribes. pic.twitter.com/h4hYYwzKVQ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 22, 2023
Boykin later sarcastically commented, “There goes Biden again weaponizing the Justice Department to prosecute political leaders in his own party.”
“President Joe Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice has now indicted Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and *checks notes* Joe Biden’s son,” observed veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers.
Attorney and former Republican George Conway quickly responded, saying, “senile sleepy Joe is playing 65-dimensional chess again.”
“Menendez should resign. Today,” demanded historian and author Kevin M. Kruse.
“One of the nice things about rule of law is that truly believing in it ensures that you don’t end up as a partisan hypocrite,” observed The Atlantic’s Brian Klaas, an associate professor in global politics at University College London. “If Menendez is guilty, he should go to prison as anyone else would. (And it would be prudent to resign swiftly).”
Meanwhile, some used Friday’s indictment of Sen. Menendez to focus on other political figures.
Foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, warned, “The Menendez case should have Jared [Kushner] and Clarence [Thomas] ordering extra strength Tums today.”
Rachel Bitecofer, the political strategist and analyst also appeared to point the finger at Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni.
You know who else hid money from the IRS and ran his bribes through his wife?! pic.twitter.com/kWJuAPCtbJ
— Rachel Bitecofer 📈🔭🇺🇲🇺🇦 (@RachelBitecofer) September 22, 2023
‘Total Breakdown’: House Sends Members Home – Experts Warn ‘Republicans Can’t Govern’ And Have No ‘Working Majority’
Nine days before an increasingly-likely shutdown of the federal government of the United States, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has effectively adjourned the House for the rest of the week, with GOP leadership telling members they may go home and come back next week, after a procedural vote to fund the Dept. of Defense failed for the second time this week.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram reports, “Note that the House has not officially dismissed everyone.. but everyone expects they are done for the week. Why? They House lacks the VOTES TO ADJOURN.”
He later added that “Things are very fluid,” and “there could be votes TOMORROW or this weekend still in the house. This could be a problem if some members already got on flights.”
Fox News online is reporting, “House abruptly cancels votes for the week without spending deal after series of defeats for GOP leaders,” and notes members are not expected back until Tuesday.
McCarthy this week has repeatedly denigrated and attacked the extremist members of the House Republican conference on camera to reporters, and Thursday was no different, saying, “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down.”
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) blasted House Republicans upon hearing the House was about to adjourn for the week.
“What you need to understand is that chaos is the point for a big chunk of House Republicans. They came to congress to BURN THE GOVERNMENT TO THE GROUND,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote. “Their goal is a shutdown.”
The sentiment is being echoed by political experts, but many of those are placing the blame on Speaker McCarthy.
Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett, senior advisor to former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro Thursday afternoon wrote: “Reminder: Kevin McCarthy could put a clean bill to fund the government on the floor right now and it would pass easily. Instead, he’s sending members home for the weekend with 9 days until a shutdown—all because he’s afraid he’ll lose his job.”
Evidence that the far-right extremist House Republicans, led by U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are effectively in control comes via Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman:
At 1:13 PM ET Sherman posted that Rep. Gaetz had “just emerged from” Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s suite. “Gaetz said that he’s advocating for pausing consideration of the Pentagon spending bill and moving to bills that cut spending. He mentioned: State-Foreign Ops, Agriculture, Energy and Water.”
Sherman noted that Gaetz “said again there are not enough votes” for a continuing resolution, legislation to keep the government open temporarily, possibly 30 days past the September 30 deadline.
“Just to review, the plan right now is to begin passing 11 appropriations bills with relatively open rules allowing for amendments between next tues (possibly wed) and Sunday.”
At 2:40 PM, Sherman added, “This is now the strategy. They’re going to bring up individual approps [appropriations] bills next week, per lawmakers who just met with @SpeakerMcCarthy.”
Others were less pleased.
Veteran foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen wrote: “truly insane. Mccarthy surrendered to Gaetz.”
Even before McCarthy adjourned the House for the rest of the week, political experts had warned the volatile situation was worse than it may have appeared.
Sherman, late Thursday morning, issued this warning on social media after the failed Defense Dept. vote: “Just to put this in context, republicans cannot even agree to debate the pentagon spending bill. This bill usually passes by big margins. It failed twice this week. Kevin mccarthys House Republicans are in a state of crisis.”
Josh Chafetz, Georgetown Law professor of law and politics, responded to Thursday’s failed Defense Dept. procedural vote, writing: “if you can’t pass the procedural stuff you don’t have a working majority.”
Aaron Fritschner, the Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) is calling the state of the GOP House a “total breakdown.”
“I started working in the House nearly 11 years ago, I’ve seen some crazy days and some chaotic votes but never seen anything like what is happening with this majority. Just a total breakdown,” he wrote Thursday morning.
Professor and American historian Aaron Astor on Thursday asked, “Does the GOP actually have a working majority in the House?”
Veteran journalist John Harwood quickly replied, “clearly not.”
‘Good Riddance’: Experts Blame Rupert Murdoch for ‘Intellectual and Moral Decay’ of America, Issue Warning on Future
Rupert Murdoch‘s announcement he is stepping down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. circulated rapidly Thursday morning, with critics celebrating the exit of the billionaire media mogul some are blaming for the “intellectual and moral decay of our society.”
Murdoch created Fox News, which he launched in October of 1996. His massive empire also includes the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, along with dozens of other media outlets in the U.S. and around the world.
“I have decided to transition to the role of Chairman Emeritus at Fox and News,” his letter, addressed to “Dear Colleagues,” reads. One of his sons, Lachlan Murdoch, “will become sole Chairman of both companies.”
“My father firmly believed in freedom,” Murdoch adds, “and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,” he claimed.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake was among the many who pointed to Murdoch’s “elites” remark.
“Murdoch in his letter: ‘Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,'” Blake writes, before pointing to court documents from the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit Fox News settled for $787 million. “Murdoch in the Dominion documents: Showing exceeding concern about angering the most powerful man in the world [Donald Trump] by telling the truth.”
Murdoch in his letter: “Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.”
Murdoch in the Dominion documents: Showing exceeding concern about angering the most powerful man in the world by telling the truth. pic.twitter.com/yd980z5qkG
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 21, 2023
Author, editor, and professor of international relations, Nicholas Grossman, also focused on Murdoch’s “elites” remark.
“Rupert Murdoch’s parents had the titles of Sir and Dame. He’s a multi-billionaire, and very influential, owning prominent news outlets in the US, UK, and Australia. The notion that Murdoch, of all people, is not elite, and not in cahoots with media, is ridiculous, absurd, insane.”
Although Murdoch’s move is not effective until the shareholders’ meeting in November, his announcement comes just one day after a Vanity Fair interview with author Michael Wolff: “Murdoch Chronicler Michael Wolff Foresees the Fall of Fox News: ‘It Will Cease to Exist in Its Present Form.'”
“Now, with The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, Wolff has directed his poison pen back to a topic that helped make his name,” Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo writes.
Wolff’s focus is on what happens to Fox News after the 92-year old Rupert Murdoch dies, and how his more liberal son James might impact the media empire.
“I think it will cease to exist in its present form,” after Murdoch’s death said Wolff. “I think it will go into a radical transition in which, either James Murdoch will take over and change it into something else, or they will sell it. Fox has existed in its present state just for one reason: It’s controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who is the one man who can stand up, or has been able to stand up, to the political and social opprobrium at a fierce, fierce level, and to do this for the sake of making enormous amounts of money. But when he departs, that changes very clearly and very quickly.”
Wolff added he thinks the “logical” decision will be to sell off Fox News.
“I think it’s more logical, at any rate, to sell the whole damn thing. And I think the position that cable television news is not going to get more valuable, it’s only going to get less valuable, is persuasive.”
Wolff Thursday morning reposted this photo:
Michael Wolff at his book launch explaining that the end of the Murdoch era will come sooner rather than later about 13 hours before Murdoch announces his retirement. Not bad. https://t.co/Eon2eRFR1U pic.twitter.com/1wSFEiVCFy
— thomas beller (@thomasbeller) September 21, 2023
Political and journalism experts, like foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, on Thursday cheered the Murdoch news and denounced his reign.
“On this happy day on which Rupert Murdoch has announced his retirement, let us reflect on the fact that no single individual has done more damage to Western democracy or more for the intellectual and moral decay of our society during the past half century than Rupert. Good riddance,” wrote Rothkopf.
“I believe one could accurately argue that Rupert Murdoch did more to corrode American democracy and fuel division than any other individual in modern history,” wrote veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers. “His departure from Fox News leaves a wake of public distrust, violence, and a nation in a cold civil war.”
Author and former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob adds, “Millions of Americans are more ignorant and less loyal to our democracy because they got their’news’ from Rupert Murdoch.”
MSNBC’s Medhi Hassan wrote: “As Rupert Murdoch announces his ‘retirement’, a reminder that some of the worst things we have had to experience in recent years – the Iraq war, the rise of Trump, the Big Election Lie – are all thanks to him and to Fox.”
Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone served up this warning:
“Lachlan Murdoch is worse than Rupert Murdoch, so you’ll basically just get a more malevolent version of Fox that will also be even more chaotic since Lachlan is both a less competent leader and Fox is facing an especially turbulent period that Lachlan has no idea how to navigate.”
With an eye to the future, veteran journalist Kara Swisher offered this on Lachlan Murdoch: “Prediction: It will be a short reign of the crown prince — after the old man goes, the other siblings will have the con and it will all be sold off (Elon? Right leaning PE firm or media org?).”
Media Matters’ Madeline Peltz also glimpsed into what the future might look like under Lachlan’s leadership.
“Lachlan Murdoch is now the sole chairman of his family’s media empire. He is a dangerous ideologue who unwaveringly backed Tucker Carlson’s white supremacy on the network,” Peltz said, referring to the now-former top Fox News host. She added: “Murdoch was the number one champion of Tucker Carlson, even as he cost Fox News millions in ad revenue and spread dangerous extremism that inspired acts of right-wing terrorism around the world.”
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