COLUMN: What now, since the last branch of government with any fidelity has been infiltrated by an unscrupulous activist?

Leaks and backstabbing happen all the time in Congress. But a new line was crossed when private data from both the Trump campaign and administration was allegedly mined by opposition spies – and a CIA operative in the White House leaked a presidential phone call.

Now another, equally ominous and shocking threshold has been blithely stepped over, in the leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion that would purportedly overturn Roe v. Wade.

In short, the integrity of the third and last branch of government has now been ruptured.

As a decades-long editorial writer, I can tell you with some authority that a robust exchange of ideas – either on an editorial board or inside the U.S. Supreme Court – depends entirely on trust and confidentiality. Without them, honest, soul-baring discussions so necessary to exploring essential truths just can’t be had.

How will the high court get that back, now that someone in their midst has betrayed a sacred confidence? How can justices trust in the inviolability of their inner sanctum? Won’t they have to assume that whatever they even ruminate about in writing might be fodder for public outrage?

How can a true intellectual odyssey take place in a climate of such haunting distrust?

Moreover, if the person who leaked the internal draft is a clerk attached to a particular Supreme Court justice, how would that impact the justice’s own reputation? Could that justice even stay on the high court, knowing that his or her judgment about staffers was so horribly flawed?

Every judge and justice has a point of view, a bias, a political bent. We know that. This is different. Much different. Someone inside this court has turned out to be more activist than jurist. And that’s toxic.

It’s been highly toxic for the other two branches to be in the clutches of blind ideologues and ends-justify-the-means activists. Now the Supreme Court has been infiltrated by one of them, by an extremist with utterly no regard for the solemnity of the court – or the honor of it or any other institution.

This is what happens when political extremists believe that nothing is more important than wielding power over us.

Condemnation of the historic leak – one of the most despicable acts ever perpetrated on the judiciary – was swift and ample.

“It’s impossible to overstate the earthquake this will cause inside the court, in terms of the destruction of trust among the justices and staff,” writes the independent SCOTUS blog produced by lawyers, professors and law students. “This leak is the gravest, most unforgivable sin.”

Fair-minded constitutional professor Jonathan Turley calls the leak “nothing short of breathtaking. It would constitute one of the greatest breaches of security in the history of the court.”

“Leak from the Supreme Court is one of the biggest stories of our time,” tweeted respected investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson.

“This leak is outrageous and dangerous,” Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, said in a statement. “I pray and remain hopeful the Supreme Court stays true to this potential decision, but this unprecedented, intentional leak is malicious and threatens the independence of our highest court. Our judicial system should never be intimidated by the woke Left.”

“The left continues its assault on the Supreme Court with an unprecedented breach of confidentiality, clearly meant to intimidate,” tweeted Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri. “The justices mustn’t give in to this attempt to corrupt the process. Stay strong.”

“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the court was intended to undermine the

integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the court will not be affected

in any way,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in a pointed statement Tuesday. He called the leak “a singular and egregious breach of … trust that is an affront to the court and the community of public servants who work here.”

Roberts has ordered the marshal of the court to investigate the leak.

Finding a way to repair the catastrophic damage from the leak won’t be nearly as easy.

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