Several days late, several dollars short, but at least no one’s gotten killed — yet. After the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs almost exactly a week ago, Jen Psaki and Joe Biden had numerous opportunities to warn people against mob rule targeting Supreme Court justices. They repeatedly refused to address the threats aimed at the court, especially the five justices, and the doxxing by the activist group Ruth Sent Us that exposed their home addresses.
Today, with Justice Samuel Alito rumored to have been relocated for his family’s safety, Psaki finally offered up this lame tweet:
.@POTUS strongly believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats, or vandalism. Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) May 9, 2022
It’s a little late for that, as The Hill notes:
Dozens of protesters chanted outside of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s and Chief Justice John Robert’s homes in the D.C. area over the weekend and demonstrations are expected to continue throughout the week.
Protests are also planned in front of Justice Samuel Alito’s residence in Washington, WUSA9 reported. Organizers of the demonstrations told the TV station that some neighbors of Kavanaugh and Roberts told them they were being disrespectful and disruptive.
This was the official White House response to this last Thursday:
Doocy: "Activists posted a map with the home addresses of the Supreme Court justices. Is that kind of thing this president wants?"
PSAKI: "I don't have an official U.S. government position on where people protest." pic.twitter.com/kpqF1FUGVF
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) May 5, 2022
That map is still up, by the way:
How about doxxing?https://t.co/HmbHG38ib7
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) May 9, 2022
What makes this all the more remarkable has been that federal law actually does make this activity illegal — in theory. Allahpundit cited 18 U.S. Code § 1507 yesterday, which forbids protest activities at or near the residence of a federal judge with the express purpose of attempting to influence a ruling. It’s an open question as to whether this law would withstand constitutional scrutiny if the Department of Justice attempted a prosecution of protesters in this or similar contexts, of course. After all, as long as protests remain on public property and do not get violent, there would arguably be a balancing-of-interests argument that should strongly favor the First Amendment.
Still, one would expect any president to at least remind the public of the law’s existence right up front in situations like this. If nothing else, a competent president and his staff would want to at least get that on the record quickly in case any violence does break out. That’s especially true of the administration that wants to make the January 6 riot their entire midterm message. The riot differs from these protests in that the demonstration got out of hand and violated the Capitol building in an attempt to disrupt and overturn the counting of Electoral College votes, but that’s a difference to which we can only say so far. If and when the mobs start attacking the houses of the justices or their neighbors or start threatening physical violence, it’s every bit as insurrection-y as January 6, and the repeated lack of interest from Biden and Psaki would become a huge political liability.
Perhaps Psaki and Biden are starting to realize that, especially after arguments like these get floated and immediately ridiculed:
It had an impressive ratio before the account got locked, though. pic.twitter.com/kwZgrc0epe
— Ed Morrissey (@EdMorrissey) May 9, 2022
“When the mob is right” is a very strange modifier for a Con Law professor to take. Chafetz locked his account after taking flak over this position, and the White House was looking at even more criticism this week unless it at least paid some sort of lip service to the rule of law. Don’t expect Psaki or Biden to do more than this, though.