Four Supreme Court justices — Thomas, Roberts, Kavanaugh and Alito — focused on the potential harassment of the President with a wave of subpoenas.
“One could be manageable. But 100 could be impossible,” Justice Clarence Thomas said to House General Counsel Douglas Letter, describing how both houses of Congress and grand juries may be subpoenaing the Presidents’ documents all at the same time.
Justice Samuel Alito also scorched Letter with questions over whether the House subpoenas were harassing Trump.Letter answered that the subpoenas went to private third parties, and not to the President himself.
“That’s the issue here whether something should be done” to “prevent harassment of the President,” Alito said.
The exchanges were notable not only for how much the Republican-appointed justices emphasized a possible need to protect the President– but also because of how far their approach was from what the court was questioning before today.
Before the arguments, the court had asked the parties to describe why the court should even be involved in such a political situation.
Raising the question seemed to indicate that the court may have sought an off-ramp.
But the Supreme Court now appears to be grappling directly with how they regulate the subpoenas, or not.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh also mentioned potential harassment of the President, staking out a possibility that the court could use a test for Congressional subpoenas, such as making sure there was a critical need for the information.
Chief Justice Roberts also asked about Congressional subpoenas that may appear to be harassing the President. “How do you measure harassment in a case like that? At some point there’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” Thomas said.