Here’s the back story on Sen. Josh Hawley and nominee Neomi Rao

Mr. Hawley says he is merely doing his duty to vet a nominee. But if he has concerns about her views, he could have done what Senator Joni Ernst did on sexual assault and discuss them with Ms. Rao in private. Instead Mr. Hawley went public and raised his own profile in a way that created trouble for Ms. Rao’s nomination based on no apparent evidence other than the recollection by Mr. Snead.

His staff is also spreading to their media mouthpieces some highly selective quotes from Ms. Rao’s writings to suggest she supports the Supreme Court’s logic in gay-rights cases. They also say she—gasp—signed a letter with other former Supreme Court clerks supporting a liberal former colleague for an appellate seat. Her quotes analyze what the Court’s majority has said on dignity and privacy rights; they don’t endorse those views. And the country is in a bad place if you can’t support a personal friend who is liberal. All of this suggests a more concerted effort than Mr. Hawley admits to tarnish Ms. Rao.

We hoped to keep Mr. Snead’s name out of this because he appears to have meant no harm. He simply related the story about the dinner to some friends and was surprised to get a call from Mr. Hawley. We asked the Senator’s office whether he spoke with Mr. Snead, and a spokeswoman said she didn’t know. But we’ve confirmed it with multiple sources.