Chief Justice John Roberts tried to convince Brett Kavanaugh to uphold Roe

In early May, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision was leaked to Politico. The official decision wasn’t released until June 24, a Friday. I remember the Politico story coming out on May 2, the night of the Met Gala, and it was like an earthquake. Even though everyone knew that the right-wing Christofascists had the votes on the Court, it was still shocking that they actually did it. The Dobbs decision was decided 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing a squeamish concurrence in judgment opinion, basically siding with the other Republican-appointed justices but saying that Roe and Casey shouldn’t be thrown out completely.

Immediately following the Politico leak, there was so much performative outrage about “who leaked this” and “the sanctity of SCOTUS decisions must be protected at all costs.” Chief Justice Roberts wanted the FBI to investigate the leak, remember? And remember how I said it felt like the Republicans were running a play, and we simply couldn’t see all of the moving parts yet? Well, in the months since the Politico leak, there hasn’t been any movement in the investigation. And then CNN dropped this story on Tuesday:

Chief Justice John Roberts privately lobbied fellow conservatives to save the constitutional right to abortion down to the bitter end, but May’s unprecedented leak of a draft opinion reversing Roe v. Wade made the effort all but impossible, multiple sources familiar with negotiations told CNN.

It appears unlikely that Roberts’ best prospect — Justice Brett Kavanaugh — was ever close to switching his earlier vote, despite Roberts’ attempts that continued through the final weeks of the session.

New details obtained by CNN provide insight into the high-stakes internal abortion-rights drama that intensified in late April when justices first learned the draft opinion would soon be published. Serious conflicts over the fate of the 1973 Roe were then accompanied by tensions over an investigation into the source of the leak that included obtaining cell phone data from law clerks and some permanent court employees.

In the past, Roberts himself has switched his vote, or persuaded others to do so, toward middle-ground, institutionalist outcomes, such as saving the Affordable Care Act. It’s a pattern that has generated suspicion among some right-wing justices and conservatives outside the court.

Multiple sources told CNN that Roberts’ overtures this spring, particularly to Kavanaugh, raised fears among conservatives and hope among liberals that the chief could change the outcome in the most closely watched case in decades. Once the draft was published by Politico, conservatives pressed their colleagues to try to hasten release of the final decision, lest anything suddenly threaten their majority.

Roberts’ persuasive efforts, difficult even from the start, were thwarted by the sudden public nature of the state of play. He can usually work in private, seeking and offering concessions, without anyone beyond the court knowing how he or other individual justices have voted or what they may be writing.

[From CNN]

I remember several commenters war-gamed this exact theory, that Roberts was squishy on forced-birthism and that he was trying to persuade Kavanaugh to uphold the fundamental legal precedent of Roe. I remember people theorizing that the Politico leak came from one of the Christofascist justices as a way to get Kavanaugh and Roberts “in line.” CNN says that directly too, that Alito, Thomas, Barrett and Gorsuch knew that Roberts was trying to peel off Kavanaugh and convince him to change his vote. The Politico leak was almost certainly a power play by one of the right-wing justices. My guess is Clarence Thomas. Weird that we’re not still hearing from Republicans about how the Politico leak must be investigated and the leaker must be punished.

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61 Responses to “Chief Justice John Roberts tried to convince Brett Kavanaugh to uphold Roe”

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  1. Emmi says:

    The man is probably worried about his legacy. Who can take the SC seriously anymore? Decisions don’t mean much when the next round of justices can just throw them out for political reasons. Whatever conservatives think, this will not go down as one of the great moments in American history. I would bet everything I have on that and the man probably knows that.

    • Amy T says:

      History isn’t going to be kind to any of these authoritarians and the aspiring fascists who worked to appoint and/or elect any of them. I just hope there’s still enough will now, while we’re living through it, to get them gone from power before they do too much more damage.

    • A says:

      I agree. I think that’s really the only reason Roberts has been anywhere near ‘moderate’ in his decisions. And why we get a little CNN article after the fact saying just how hard the poor lil guy worked to keep everybody happy and the institution safe. Dude sucks and I have very little patience for this kind of ‘he tried his best’ narrative these days.

    • Becks1 says:

      he is worried about his legacy. That is something SCOTUS watchers have said consistently about him. and we see that playing out clearly here – he doesn’t want the Roberts court known as the court that overturned Roe. Oh well, now it is.

      • Wiglet Watcher says:

        His legacy is he had no control over his Supreme Court as they overturned laws and overreached based on their personal and financial motivations while the country descended into chaos. That is His legacy.

    • ELX says:

      Alito, a real wing nut who loathes women, actually thinks the SC should make decisions in a vacuum and who cares about the real world outcomes when they have this pristine 1780s line of reasoning. There is no vacuum, of course, but these people are fine with sowing the wind since they are utterly convinced someone else will reap the whirlwind. Not true of course, but here we are with a faction of our society hell-bent on the delights of violent anarchy.

    • Lucy says:

      If he truly worried about his legacy, he could have had an ounce of courage or used his spine for a hot second at any point over the last 17 years on the court, but over the last 5 especially. One’s “legacy” should be that you changed America to recognize the humanity aaaand dignity of everyone, not whatever this is. Fuck John Roberts.

      • Saucy&Sassy says:

        Lucy, Yup!!! If he was so worried about the fact that abortion rights should remain, he should have voted to keep it. He didn’t. So, don’t tell me that he’s worried about his legacy. That’s performative crap, IMO. He’s helped evicerate the voting act and never blinked an eye. He’s as bad as the rest of them, and I think it’s time that Congress got off of their duffs and hold SCOTUS to the same Rules of Professional Conduct and Ethics that are required of every other judge. Sell it to someone who doesn’t think, Roberts.

      • HamsterJam says:

        “His legacy”, he wants to vote like a Christofascist but he doesn’t want to be called one.

        These constitutional originalists are violating the the First Amendment of the Constitution, the separation of church and state.

        We know they take the Second as literal truth, what is their argument for violating the first?

        Different religions believe an embreyo or fetus becomes a “person” at different times, for many it is once they are born.

  2. A says:

    Not that it ultimately matters but Dobbs was decided 6-3, since both Roberts and Kavanaugh voted the way they were always going to when the chips were down.

    • smegmoria says:

      Exactly. This CNN article reads like PR control from Robert’s side.

    • Jennifer says:

      Yup, THIS. If he really “meant” it, we’d have a 5-4 vote, but OF COURSE NOT.

      • MipMip says:

        Roberts did not side with the conservative justices to overturn Roe- that decision was 5-4. The decision to close the Mississippi clinic was decided 6-3 with Roberts onside.

        The five ultra-conservative judges then took that ruling a step further and used it as an excuse to overturn Roe. That was huge judicial overreach and Roberts did not side with that decision. That is the decision he tried to get Kavanaugh onside for.

      • Becks1 says:

        Thanks @MipMip. this is an important thing to understand. It WAS a 5-4 vote to overturn Roe. Kavanaugh voting with Roberts would have preserved Roe. It still would have meant that the Mississippi law was upheld, which would have been bad in and of itself, but we would have had 4 justices voting to overturn Roe and 5 voting to preserve it (one way or the other).

        I think people are missing that bc they keep hearing about roe being overturned, but there were two opinions upholding the Mississippi law – one was overturning Roe (the majority) and the other (Roberts’ opinion) did not overturn Roe. Had Kavanaugh (or Gorsuch or whoever) switched to Roberts opinion, Roe would have been preserved.

      • Tiffany:) says:

        Thank you, MipMip for setting the record straight. It is an important distinction.

    • agirlandherdogs says:

      Yes, it’s important to report that vote correctly. If Roberts was really putting his money where his mouth is, he would have voted with the dissenting justices, and it still wouldn’t have done any good. But at least he would have stood for something. Thomas and Alito HATE Roberts. I’ve been a strong believer in the theory that one of the right wing justices leaked the opinion in order to prevent the less stalwart in their number from changing his vote.

      In response to someone’s comment up thread about Roberts’ legacy, I don’t really think he has much to worry about, honestly. Anyone who knows anything about how the court works has completely lost faith in the SC as an independent arbiter of the law. The mental gymnastics the right wing justices engaged in in order to justify their predetermined conclusions have destroyed any trust the Court has built over the last 200+ years. Roberts will just be a sad footnote in this miserable history.

    • Nic919 says:

      Roberts didn’t vote overturn Roe but to hold to the 15 week restriction that is outlined in Roe. If Kavanaugh had supported him then Roe would not have been completely overturned. These two along with the three liberals would have meant that Roe wasn’t overturned. It would also not have triggered all the state laws that were ready to criminalize it once Roe was explicitly overturned.

      It would not be a great situation but it wouldn’t be triggering the disasters that are happening all over and creeping to contraception and same sex marriage.

  3. jo73c says:

    So he disagreed, but still voted along party lines instead of with his ‘conscience’ – f* him anyway then – he picked his side.

    • SarahCS says:

      This is what needs to be remembered, not his PR campaign.

      So you tired to persuade someone to vote a certain way and then you DIND’T vote that way yourself? Your actions tell us what we need to know.

      • Becks1 says:

        What? no. He wanted Kavanaugh to join HIS opinion. roberts wrote a separate opinion from the majority. He wanted Kavanaugh to join THAT opinion, which would have preserved Roe. It wouldn’t have been great, but it would have been better than where we are now.

    • Chanteloup says:

      Exactly. FUCK John Roberts and the rest of these corrupt assholes who in no way should be called “justices” That is inelegant but the evil makes me sick and at a loss for words

  4. Nohandmaidstalesplease says:

    Scotus is an international embarrassment and display of incompetence. The Stepford-wifebot is absolutely unqualified, just as the wannabe rapist. And Clarence &his pschowife are actual terrorist supporters.

    • Wiglet Watcher says:

      It makes me sick to my stomach this comment is all true.

    • Lucy says:

      As a non-American…can confirm.

    • Saucy&Sassy says:

      Nohandmaidstalesplease, I keep wondering if the handmaiden asks her husband how she should vote.

      I want to know why these CHRISTIANS (they’re NOT) think it’s okay to lie to the Senate Committee during their confirmation hearings? If you can’t trust their answers in the hearings, why would we believe anything they say now? This is a court filled with a majority of racist, sexist white supremists. That will follow them always.

  5. CC says:

    Roberts’ blunder was not having a few cases of beer on hand.

  6. North of Boston says:

    Sure, Jan

    • Emmlo says:

      Sorry, John. No partial credit.

      I loathe these wingnut justices and all that they represent. No consistency, no real legal argument, just hypocrisy nakedly clinging to power. Take down the barriers in front of the Court and please continue to enjoy being picketed wherever you go.

  7. Southern Fried says:

    It’s always seemed like Robert’s main desire is to be respected by all, secure a respectable place in history. This is in spite of what he saw the Republican Party becoming which makes him a part of the problem. Screw him with his gigantic ego. His legacy is that of shill for the Fascist party.

  8. Rapunzel says:

    These morons have opened Pandora’s box and will live to regret it.

  9. Shelly bean says:

    Clarence Thomas looks so evil. If I was religious, I would truly think he was possessed by the devil. The look in his eyes gives me the chills. There is something wrong there.

    • Truthiness says:

      Ten of Clarence Thomas’ clerks have gone on to work for Trump, a number that seems unusually high to me. Jan 6 villian John Eastman for example. Laura Ingraham is a former clerk of Thomas’.

      • wordnerd says:

        Holy crap! I didn’t know that. Clarence Thomas’ Academy for the Abhorrent.

    • Bisynaptic says:

      Thomas is an agent of chaos.

  10. girl_ninja says:

    All this person cares about is how history will remember him. He wants it to be known that this is supposedly not what he wanted. Too bad. This is his legacy and all of those wicked and corrupt “justices.”

  11. HeyKay says:

    Clarence Thomas and Bret Kavanaugh should have never been cleared to be members of SCOTUS.
    Vile, crooked, closed-minded, misogynistic creatures with their own personal agendas.

    We The People are not being served by our elected officials.
    Every day we are losing our hard earned legal rights to “pursuit of happiness” or you know, basic human decency.

    So fed up and truly angry about politics in the past few years, I can’t find words to explain it.
    WTH is going on? And why isn’t there any moderation or common sense?

    Kavanaugh, he always seems to be angry and shouting…go ahead drop dead and hurry up!

  12. Lightpurple says:

    And yet he voted to kill women anyway. Every women being denied methotrexate to treat cancer, lupus, or RA is on him. Every woman not getting proper care immediately after a miscarriage is on him. Every 10 year old forced to bleed to death as she delivers her rapist’s baby is on him. Every woman who dies of an ectopic while an ER doctor awaits a decision on what to do from hospital administration is on him. Every pregnant woman forced to stay in an abusive marriage in Missouri is on him. Every woman denied lifesaving treatment for septicemia or eclampsia is on him.

    His legacy is deadly.

    And Ginni Thomas was the leak

    • Both Sides Now says:

      Agreed @ Lightpurple!!! His legacy was dead once he voted with these self serving pr!cks on the SC. Roberts could had voted NO, but he didn’t, which is proof that he didn’t have the balls to begin with.

      Roberts devastated legacy is due to his own actions not anyone else’s and this pathetic PR play is ludicrous. You can STFU Roberts!! It was due to your own undoing, nothing more.

      Thomas and Kavanaugh never should have been accepted for SCOTUS!! They are both a tremendous liability to our rights as well as the efforts of the environment.

    • Tiffany:) says:

      He didn’t vote to overturn Roe (5-4 decision). He voted to keep the Mississippi law in place (6-3).

      But I completely 100% agree that Ginni Thomas was the leak. The reason their investigation is getting nowhere is because they are focused on clerks, not Justices and their spouses.

  13. C says:

    Major decisions about our lives are now coming from a rapist, an ill-educated fundamentalist FLDS type woman, and a man who put pubic hair in a woman’s beverage, and this jackass who let it happen.

    • Both Sides Now says:

      @ C, your depictions make my stomach turn, even though it’s the truth.

      May they all suffer the fate of never finding peace from angry protesters as well as within their own private lives.

  14. Mrs. Smith says:

    ITA lightpurple. I often think of these same scenarios and my blood boils. Not only are all women at risk to be denied health care, but the justices knew that throwing this Dobbs decision back to the states would choke the country with chaos. That part really burns my a** because this is the part where the conservative judges get to be entertained by what they’ve done. They watch the news and smirk at how hard they’ve owned the libs.

    And I believe you’re correct. It was Ginni.

  15. Jessica says:

    You don’t get kudos for doing absolutely nothing. He’s worried about his legacy, sure, but maybe don’t allow such an awful legacy to develop in the first place??? It’s your own fault, Roberts! You support dismantling privacy protections, but you feel super bad about it? Give me a f*cking break. If you cared, you wouldn’t have voted with the right wing nut jobs. PR after the fact isn’t going to cover up your votes.

  16. Missy says:

    From what I understand Roberts voted to allow the ban after 15 weeks instead of the viability standard so allow abortions pre 15 weeks. Liberals voted to keep roe as is i.e till viable , but other conservatives voted to completely overturn roe so he basically did a moderate vote.

    • Nic919 says:

      Yes. Although Roberts helped create the overall mess, he didn’t vote to overturn Roe.

      But at this point the christofascists have the power and Alito and Thomas felt they could do this

      Also the shadow dockets have been a total abuse of protocol even before Dobbs came out. The bounty law in Texas should have been suspended until there was a full USSC hearing, but the shadow docket didn’t do anything about it.

      If Roberts was serious about his legacy he would be shutting down the games with shadow dockets and have an independent investigation of the leak. Which we know is Thomas or his wife. Those two just don’t care anymore.

      • Lucy says:

        Eh. I don’t really care how he voted on overturning Roe. It doesn’t really matter. At this point it’s like sure, he didn’t technically rob the bank but he did drive the getaway car so he’s definitely getting charged with bank robbery.

  17. Betsy says:

    I still want to know how involved in/aware of Thomas was in the planning of the GOP’s insurrection against the US. We know his wife was involved in the planning, and we know these two are a sickly intertwined fascist plant. So we have an actual seditionist on the Supreme Court.

    Potted Plant John Roberts can _____ my _______. He might not be the hardest line fascist, but he’s willing to help them accomplish it, so that’s the same thing. History will remember this blackguard for the contemptible chinless fascist that he is.

  18. Pamela says:

    I have to say, I am an attorney. And I think that Roberts is concerned about his legacy. He doesn’t want his name associated with the overturn of Roe. But in all honesty, he is a good jurist. He does what a chief justice should do and his opinions are well-reasoned. I don’t agree with his politics, and I don’t often agree with his decisions. But he recognizes the importance of stare decisis, which he should. And I can appreciate that he is operating within the court the way he is supposed to, or so it seems. Also I remember listening to NPR when this story broke and Nina Totenberg or whoever was reporting said that if they investigate and find out anything they won’t reveal it because of the potential to further undermine the authority of the court.

    • Saucy&Sassy says:

      Pamela, how did we end up with a branch of government that no one can investigate and put the results in the public? They are a public institution.

    • Bisynaptic says:

      Roberts is a ratfucker of the highest order. He goes way back.

  19. MsIam says:

    Well he’s a voter suppression specialist so he gets no fcuks from me regardless. But this “court of last resort” is a joke, it feels like its bought and paid for by special interests. I have zero confidence in the fairness of their decisions.

  20. Nope says:

    History will not be kind to Any of these people!That is their legacy! Not caring about people and letting them die. Wish they had term limits.

  21. JRenee says:

    This SC will not be looked at kindly in the history books. And I agree, the leak came from the Thomas’s and no investigation will be done because the court knows where the leak originated.

  22. Liz55 says:

    The leak made it possible for the ACLU and Planned Parenthood to collect a record number of signatures (more than 753k) to get a proposal on the ballot in November in Michigan that would amend the state constitution so that access to abortion and contraceptives are a guaranteed right.

    So now it just needs to be passed by the voters in November.

    These people are trying to force their religious beliefs on the rest of us. I’m glad so many people are fighting back.

  23. lamgirls3 says:

    The only justice will be if Brett Kavanaugh gets hit by a bus.

  24. Lens says:

    I’m old enough to remember the conservatives outraged by legislating by the bench. That’s where we are at now. They don’t follow precedent, even 50 years of upheld precedent. They are appointed for life to supposedly keep them from the whims of politics – well nope. Not working. Let’s get Term limits for this crew like there is for the other branches.