In one of the more remarkable Wikileaks exchanges, Clinton operatives Neera Tanden and Jennifer Palmieri took credit for “scaring off” Chief Justice John Roberts by threatening to make the Supreme Court’s decision in the first Obamacare case, NFIB v. Sebelius, a campaign issue. These are the players on the email thread:
Center for American Progress (CAP): a left-wing activist organization that was an arm of the Obama administration and now is an arm of the Clinton campaign.
Neera Tanden: President of CAP.
John Podesta: Former President of CAP, now Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
Jennifer Palmieri: Former White House Communications Director for Barack Obama, now communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Jake Sullivan: Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff when she was Secretary of State, now foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign.
In the main email in the thread, Neera Tanden harkens back to the first Obamacare case, decided on a 5-4 vote in 2012, and says that she believes the White House “scared off” Chief Justice John Roberts by politicizing the case. She suggests that the Clinton campaign should do the same with regard to the then-pending second Obamacare case, King v. Burwell. She identifies Justices Roberts and Anthony Kennedy as most vulnerable to political pressure:
I mentioned this to John some time back, but think it’s a bit more current now.
It is most likely that this decision has already been made by the Court, but on the off chance that history is repeating itself, then it’s possible they are still deciding (last time, seems like Roberts went from striking the mandate to supporting it in the weeks before). As Jennifer will remember, it was pretty critical that the President threw the gauntlet down last time on the Court, warning them in the first case that it would politicize the role of the Court for them to rule against the ACA. As a close reader of the case, I honestly believe that was vital to scaring Roberts off.
In this case, I’m not arguing that Hillary spend a lot of time attacking the Court. I do think it would be very helpful to all of our interest in a decision affirming the law, for Roberts and perhaps Kennedy to see negative political consequences to ruling against the government. Therefore, I think it would be helpful to have a story of how progressives and Hillary would make the Supreme Court an election issue (which would be a ready argument for liberals) if the Court rules against the government. It’s not that you wish that happens. But that would be the necessary consequence of a negative decision…the Court itself would become a hugely important political issue.
At CAP Action, we can get that story started. But kinda rests on you guys to make it stick.
What do you think? If you want to proceed, we should move soon.
Tanden then added this in a separate email:
And to clarify, the candidate wouldn’t have to do anything. I think we could move the story with just a nod from the campaign on the strategy.
Note how CAP seamlessly coordinates with the Clinton campaign, taking directions on whether to “move the story” from campaign officials. Tanden makes no pretense of independence.
Jake Sullivan responded that he is “into it,” but would “defer to Jen on this one.” Palmieri gave the green light:
She has already been making this an issue. Not sure how in depth you are suggesting but seems like this should be manageable.
Of course, the liberals’ belief that Justices Roberts and Kennedy can be influenced by political pressure, and that such pressure was “pretty critical” to the decision upholding Obamacare’s constitutionality, could be wrong. Their conversation is, in any event, chilling.