Some Republicans Want The Supreme Court To Punish Comey. There’s One Problem
President Donald Trump favorably quoted a Fox News contributor who urged the Supreme Court to punish former FBI Director James Comey in a pair of Sunday morning tweets.
The contributor, former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, said Chief Justice John Roberts should hold Comey in contempt for alleged abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), though Roberts has no such power.
It’s not clear whether a live broadcast or a news report prompted the president’s tweets, but Chaffetz pushed for the chief justice’s intervention as recently as Friday.
“The chief justice of the Supreme Court — once the inspector general does the FISA report — they could very well hold people in contempt,” Chaffetz said during a Fox News broadcast Thursday.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating alleged abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) relating to the Trump campaign. Comey might be entangled in that ongoing probe, since he signed FISA warrants targeting former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
....reports are coming. Comey very vulnerable. But where is the Supreme Court. Where is Justice Roberts? If you lie to a court, you should be held in contempt. So, if you abused the FISA, you must be held accountable. I hope Justice Roberts will take action.” Jason Chaffetz, Fox— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2019
But neither the chief justice nor the Supreme Court has freestanding power to hold individuals in contempt. Though the chief justice appoints the 11 judges who sit on the FISC, he has no authority to supervise the panel, direct its work, or remove its members.
The Supreme Court could review a FISC matter that came before them through ordinary legal procedure, but it cannot take any action against FISC or Comey on its own.
Republicans have floated the prospect of questioning Roberts about FISA abuses before. When GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California chaired the the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he entertained the prospect of calling Roberts before the committee to testify. House Republicans ultimately did not seek the chief’s testimony.
Horowitz issued a report that was sharply critical of Comey’s handling of records memorializing his conversations with the president. The IG concluded Comey broke Bureau policies and set a “dangerous example” for federal employees.
Fox News and the White House did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.