Key congressional Democrats have asked the former federal judge who reviewed the Supreme Court’s investigation into the leak of a draft abortion opinion to provide them with more information about his involvement following a CNN exclusive report that revealed he had longstanding financial ties with the court.
Their letter to Michael Chertoff – also a former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security – points to CNN’s Joan Biskupic’s exclusive reporting that Chertoff’s risk assessment firm had been privately contracted by the court in recent years for security assessments as well as his personal connection with some justices.
CNN’s reporting of his firm’s prior work for the Supreme Court – which reached at least $1 million in payments – raised questions about whether he could be an objective validator of the leak investigation.
“The Court’s failure to explain adequately why it felt a third-party review was necessary, how it chose that reviewer, and its preexisting relationship with the reviewer all warrant additional clarity,” the February 23 letter from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Hank Johnson said.
Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee with oversight over the courts and has been a vocal critic of the conservative-dominated court and its recent decisions. Johnson, a Georgia representative, is the ranking member of the counterpart subcommittee in the House.
Ellen Murray, a spokesperson for the Chertoff Group, told CNN Wednesday that the group received the letter and was working on a response.
The Democrats’ letter asks Chertoff for more information about the previous work he and the firm the Chertoff Group did for the court, and about the process by which he applied for those projects.
They also noted CNN’s reporting that Chertoff has some personal connections to some of the justices and asked the former judge if he maintains “personal relationships with any of the justices” and if so, “with whom and of what nature.”
They seek information about who contacted Chertoff to bring him on for the review and when. Their letter asks for more details about how his review was conducted – including whether he was provided the call and text records of court personnel that they had handed over to Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley, who spearheaded the probe.
When the Supreme Court released a public summary of the findings of Curley’s investigation into the unprecedented disclosure of the draft abortion opinion to Politico, it also released a statement from Chertoff endorsing how Curley carried out the probe.
The congressional Democrats wrote in their letter that, in “this Court matter, peculiarities abound, including the different treatment given to the justices, the Court’s suggestion that the motive may have been a ‘misguided attempt at protest,’ and the use of a third party to review the Marshal’s investigation.”
The lawmakers said they are “working on legislation regarding the internal investigative capabilities at the Court.”
This story has been updated with additional information Wednesday.