Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse requests information about Alito’s ‘improper’ WSJ interview

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, requested information from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito tied to an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year in which the justice questioned whether Congress has the power to impose ethics rules on the Supreme Court.

In the letter made public on Friday, Whitehouse, D-R.I., accused the conservative justice of offering “an improper opinion regarding a question that might come before the Court” amid an ethical dilemma related to donors’ funding of undisclosed gifts to Supreme Court justices in an interview with the paper last year.

According to the Wall Street Journal interview published July 28, Alito had asserted that Congress lacked authority to regulate the high court.

“No provision in the Constitution gives them the authority to regulate the Supreme Court—period,” Alito told the outlet at the time.

Alito’s interview appeared weeks after the same outlet published the justice’s commentary refuting a ProPublica report detailing his failure to disclose a fishing trip in Alaska with a Republican billionaire.

The interview, Whitehouse noted, was conducted by David B. Rivkin, an attorney representing Leonard Leo, who according to ProPublica’s report, had coordinated Alito’s 2008 trip with GOP donor Robin Arkley II.

Whitehouse argued that Alito’s assertions in the interview were made “to the benefit of yourself, as a recipient of undisclosed gifts that are the subject of our investigation.”

He further accused Alito of taking part in the interview “at the behest” of Rivkin, who was engaged in challenging the panel’s investigative efforts.

“From the outside, it looks like the attorney recruited you to prop up his legal case against our investigation, using the interview to advance the argument he and several colleagues were making,” Whitehouse wrote. “The interview seemed both solicited and timed for effect in the ongoing dispute.” 

Rivkin and a spokesperson for the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday evening.

ProPublica had also published an article in April last year, detailing lavish trips taken by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that were funded by GOP donor Harlan Crow.

Whitehouse noted that the interview was published shortly after Senate Judiciary Committee advanced his Supreme Court ethics bill, that would establish new disclosure rules for gifts and travel.

Whitehouse made similar points in a September 2023 ethics complaint related to Alito’s WSJ interview in which he demanded that Chief Justice John Roberts take action.

The Supreme Court later adopted a new code of conduct but continues ongoing criticism related to its enforcement.

Whitehouse’s correspondence comes after Alito last month declined to recuse himself from a pair of cases tied to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, after he was called on to do so following a report from The New York Times that an upside-down American flag was displayed outside his home in mid-January 2021.

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