House Rep. Jim Jordan grilled conservative-turned-progressive activist Rev. Robert Schenck Thursday in a House Judiciary Committee Hearing over his credibility regarding allegations that Justice Samuel Alito leaked Supreme Court opinions in 2014.
Jordan pushed Schenck on his pattern of being deemed a “not credible witness” by federal judges in past legal proceedings. The hearing was scheduled after The New York Times published a report regarding Schenck’s claims that Alito leaked the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. opinion to conservative donor Gayle Wright, who were mutual friends of Schenck.
In his opening statement, Jordan quoted Sen. Chuck Schumer’s statements that conservative Supreme Court Justices would “pay the price” after the Dobbs Supreme Court decision was leaked on May 3. Jordan also discussed the immediate violence that took place against the Justices and pro-life organizations following the leak.
After witnesses Schenck, Caroline Fredrickson, Mark Paoletta and Donald Sherman made their initial statements, Jordan focused on Schenck’s credibility and his claim that Justice Alito had leaked the official Supreme Court opinion for the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. case.
“Mr. Schenck, did Gayle Wright really tell you that?” Jordan asked. Schenck replied that Wright told him the outcome of the majority opinion.
“Justice Alito said he didn’t tell her. She said she didn’t tell him but you’re sure she told you,” Jordan repeated, to which Schenck replied, “Absolutely.”
Jordan then asked Schenck about a section in his book, “Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope, and Love,” in which Schenck details an exchange between him and his twin brother Paul Schenck as they attended the Supreme Court case, Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York.
During the oral arguments, Schenck writes that Justice William Rehnquist called Paul “reverend” despite the Supreme Court having an established standard for not using “such titles in legal briefs.” In his book, Schenck writes that he winked at his brother because they had hoped to paint the case as a “religious liberty” issue instead of then harassing a pro-abortion clinic.
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Jordan asked Schenck if Rehnquist said “reverend,” but Schenck claimed he couldn’t remember for certain.
“Well, you’re pretty darn specific here,” Jordan replied. Schenck stated that he would have to go back and look at the book.
“Well, we did go back,” Jordan pointed out before producing a transcript of the hearing, showing that Rehnquist never used the word “reverend” when addressing Schenck’s brother Paul. Schenck acknowledged that Rehnquist had not said “reverend.”
Jordan asked Schenck several times to explain why he wrote about that particular exchange when the transcripts stated otherwise. Schenck said multiple times that he “would have to go back” and review his book.
Schenck’s response appeared to be not good enough for Jordan, who said, “but we’re supposed to believe you today. We’re supposed to take your word over Justice Alito’s word, we’re supposed to take your word over a lady who gave you dollars, donated to your cause, Miss Gayle Wright. You’re disparaging her name, Justice Alito’s name, and the court. And you have this which obviously didn’t happen.”
Jordan concluded his questions by reminding Schenck that lying under oath is a serious offense.
“One thing I’ve learned people who mislead folks on small things, mislead them on big things,” Jordan stated. “And you know what? You can, you can lie in a book. It’s not a crime. You can lie to The New York Times that’s not a crime. But when you come in front of Congress, and you say things that are not true, you’re not allowed to do that.”