Top Republicans on Tuesday called for a criminal investigation and charges against the source behind a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky saying that this decision was an “illegal action” which “should be investigated and punished as fully as possible.”
“The Chief Justice needs to get to the bottom of it and the Department of Justice needs to pursue criminal prosecutions where appropriate,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., TX) added on Twitter that he hoped the funder would be “fired, prosecuted, and served real jail time.”
While Chief Justice John Roberts ordered the court marshal to investigate the case, legal experts said it was unclear what charges, if any, the Justice Department might pursue for such violation. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.
Most leak investigations target the disclosure of classified information or contained in confidential financial disclosures, which are illegal under federal law.
“While this appears to be a violation of protocol, tradition and in some ways compromises the integrity of the Supreme Court’s judicial process, I would not characterize it as a leak” of classified information, former prosecutor Ari Redbord said. federal. “From a pure criminal investigative perspective, I’m not sure what a criminal charge would look like in this case.”
Another federal law prohibits stealing or receiving stolen government information or documents. But legal experts said it’s unclear whether that law – 18 USC 641 – would apply, if the source had lawful access to the project and shared it with Politico without compensation.
“While 641 is brought up every time there’s a leak, we don’t usually see prosecutions and convictions if it’s because the law isn’t suited to disclosing a digital copy of a document to which the lessor already had lawful access,” another former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, tweeted.
Former federal prosecutor Ken White said a criminal charge would be more likely if the source lied to investigators handling the case. And, according to experts, the person could face professional consequences even if they are not charged.
“Whether I think there’s a credible charge really depends on the specific circumstances of the leak,” Mr White said.
The draft opinion was published late Monday by Politico, which it said was written by Judge Samuel Alito and was the opinion of the court, implying that a majority backed it. The authenticity of the draft, dated February, was confirmed by Chief Justice Roberts, but he said it was not necessarily the final resolution of the case. The Supreme Court spokeswoman declined to comment.