White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the Biden administration encourages “peaceful” protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices, despite the fact that such protests aim to intimidate the judiciary and appear to be illegal.
As Breitbart News reported Saturday, mobs of pro-abortion protesters gathered outside the homes of Supreme Court justices after the leak of a draft majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito that would reverse Roe v. Wade (1973). Though the protests have been peaceful, they are virtually unprecedented as a way to pressure the highest court — both directly and personally.
The scene in front of Chief Justice John Roberts’ house pic.twitter.com/vJVxxFoMNO
— Douglas Blair (@DouglasKBlair) May 7, 2022
Title 18 of the U.S. Code, section 1507, makes protests outside the private residence of a federal judge a federal crime:
Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.
On Friday, Psaki was asked about impending protests but declined to condemn or criticize them. On Monday, she issued a tweet denouncing violence, but did not specifically mention the protests outside the homes of Supreme Court justices.
.@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
On Tuesday, during her daily White House briefing, Psaki was asked whether the president felt that “the demonstrations outside of, say, Justice Alito’s home — are those attempts to interfere or intimidate?” The reporter noted that the Department of Justice had responded quickly and harshly to protests outside the homes of school board members in recent months.
Psaki evaded the question, accusing critics of hypocrisy (emphasis added):
I think I said yesterday, but I’m happy to repeat, because I think it’s important for everybody to hear, that the president long-standing view has been that violence, threats, and intimidation of any kind have no place in political discourse. And we believe, of course, in peaceful protest. What I do find is interesting, and I think many people have noted, is that there are voices on the right who have called out this protests that are happening while remaining silent for years on protests that have happened outside the homes of school board members, the Michigan Secretary of State, or including threats made to women seeking reproductive health care [sic], or even an insurrection [sic] against our capitol. So I know that there’s an outrage right now, I guess, about protests that have been peaceful to date, and we certainly continue to encourage that outside of judges’ homes, and that’s the president’s position, but the silence is pretty deafening about all of the other intimidation that we’ve seen to a number of people.
Psaki appeared to conflate protests outside a place of business (an abortion clinic) with protests at private residences, and protests at the private residences of individual government officials with protests aiming to sway to a Supreme Court case.
When the reporter alluded to the federal law against protests outside judges’ homes, given the pending case, Psaki was evasive again: “Well, but I think that intimidation and protest, intimidation outside of the homes of school board members, the Michigan secretary of state, you know, intimidation and threats, against people seeking legal reproductive health care [sic] and against our capitol and American democracy, also warrant some outrage, and we haven’t really seen that.”
Notably, Psaki did not deny that protesting outside a private residence constitutes an attempt to “intimidate” the justices.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.