Friday, July 08, 2005

SCOTUS Watch: Retirement Speculation Rampant

[Updated extensively, newer posts at bottom.]

Last night's rumors that Chief Justice Rehnquist would retire this morning between 10 and 11 a.m. proved off the mark, but that hasn't stopped the swirls of intrigue over the course of today. Speculation continues to mount, apparently bolstered by more hints from Robert Novak, that Rehnquist may retire this afternoon. Erick Erickson as RedState is now saying that the White House is "operating under the assumption, based on presumed knowledge of Novak's source," that the C.J. will submit his retirement at 4:50 this afternoon, once the president is back on terra Americana. Word was, earlier in the day, that the White House had quietly asked Rehnquist not to submit a resignation until the president returned to the country. But until we get something official, it's all just speculation.

Erickson adds, following up on the second part of last night's rumors, that "third-party sources" are telling him that Justice John Paul Stevens is making preparations to retire, and that he has "reportedly sent signals that he will retire once replacements for both O'Connor and Rehnquist have been confirmed." I still don't believe this particular line of rumor, since it makes very little sense for Stevens to retire under the current political environment. Erickson makes a decent point in an update, which he calls his "monkey wrench theory": "If O'Connor is gone and Rehnquist is gone, it makes sense for Stevens to go too as it would give the Democrats a much better rallying cry to prevent the President from stocking the Supreme Court with conservatives. Say hello to Justice Gonzales." But I still don't (yet) see the writing on the wall for this course of action.

The Rehnquist part makes some sense though, and we'll have to wait for the next couple of hours and see what happens.

[Update: While Drudge trumpets (in red) Novak's 'announcement at 4:50' rumor, SCOTUSblog says there will be no retirement announced today. So once again ... who knows. -- 3:34 p.m.]

[Update: Media is not yet reporting any action on the Rehnquist front: Drudge has a screaming headline (although he's finally taken down the siren): "BUSH GETS TWO. REPORT: REHNQUIST RETIRES; TO BE ANNOUNCED TONIGHT." Erick at RedState reports a source has told him "It is done," that the Chief Justice has retired. But nothing confirmed at this hour. -- 5:00 p.m.]

[Update: Wonkette is having great fun with this whole story. Don't miss this. -- 5:09 p.m.]

[Update: Drudge adds "WHITE HOUSE PLANS ANNOUNCEMENT" to his site; RedState says (in red) that another source has confirmed the retirement, and that sources close to the White House are "MIA," which he takes to mean "something is going on." Of course, it could just mean that they saw Air Force One land and figured they'd better get off the phone with bloggers and get back to work. No? Or, wait ... it's after 5 ... maybe they went home? -- 5:14 p.m.]

[Update: Bush now at the British Embassy in Washington, having gone there directly from Andrews AFB after arriving from the G8 summit. He's signed the condolence book and just made brief remarks. The British Ambassador thanked the president for his visit and the American people for their strong support. Bush will now go to the White House ... what will he say there? -- 5:21 p.m.]

[Update: Drudge, changing his headline again: now just says "REPORT: REHNQUIST TO RETIRE" under a darkened picture of the Chief Justice. And Erick? "William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States, has retired. A White House statement is forthcoming. Should caveat this: A very good source says this" (in red). More caveats, more unconfirmed rumors. -- 5:24 p.m.]

[Update: From RawStory:
"... senior reporters at CNN believe such reports are bogus, saying they believe that conservative columnist Robert Novak - who first floated such reports - is wrong. A Time Magazine reporter dispatched an email across the city at 4:30, asserting the White House has rescheduled Monday meetings for Tuesday to accomodate a retirement announcement Monday, though others on the Hill say the meetings were rescheduled earlier this week." -- 5:28 p.m.]

[Update: Drudge adds "Other reports suggest notice will come Monday." -- 5:31 p.m.]

[Update: This is really getting amusing. 10-11 a.m. Oops. Missed that one. Oh, sorry, I meant 4:50, when the plane lands. Come and gone. "It's a done deal." Or not. Ah, the thrill of the hunt. A retirement now will even be sort of anti-climatic. -- 5:37 p.m.]

[Update: RedState makes it official: "I am reliably told that details are being worked out to give the Chief Justice an appropriate send off as the head of the third branch of American government. While the official announcement may be delayed to allow time to coordinate, I think the sources are most likely right and, despite my gut feeling that we've all bought into a Novak generated feeding frenzy, I'll go with the sources, Novak, and Drudge and make it official." There's a gang of reliable sources right there. -- 5:44 p.m.]

[Update: Wonkette: "Oh, Drudge, you have gone soft like a certain not-yet-retired judge's wattle." -- 5:45 p.m.]

[Update: RedState notes that SCOTUSblog has pulled its post from earlier that Rehnquist would not be retiring. This is interesting; when you pull up the front page, you get yesterday's entries. The link from earlier gets you this. What's up with that? -- 5:49 p.m.]

[Update: All quiet on the cable news front. CNN is talking about doormen who watch for terrorists; MSNBC stays in London, and Fox is taking a commercial break. -- 5:51 p.m.]

[Update: Where is Novak? He owes somebody a dollar. -- 5:54 p.m.]

[Update: Wolf's on the story! Discusses the speculation. Airing video of Rehnquist this morning. Asked "Is the speculation of your resignation true?" Rehnquist says "That's for me to know and you to find out." Love it! -- 5:55 p.m.]

[Update: Jeff Toobin on CNN: "Seems likely that he will leave. But when will he leave? You got me." -- 5:57 p.m.]

[Update: The latest from Wonkette:

"RedState fashions a non-denial denial: Rehnquist has retired, but "details are being worked out to give the Chief Justice an appropriate send off as the head of the third branch of American government." Fuschia pleather catsuit, maybe?

In any case, that was exciting. And, yes, we just spent two hours live-blogging a non-event when we could have been drinking. But it was all worth it just to see Bob Novak be so spectacularly wrong."

Still too soon to tell, I'm going to keep playing along for a little while. -- 6:00 p.m.]

[Update: Noah O'Donnell on MSNBC, calls the Rehnquist question "the hot topic in Washington." Says they just got word that the Supreme Court has closed for the day with no word of a retirement. But that she'll keep us posted. Whew. -- 6:02 p.m.]

[Update: Drudge now headlines "'That's for me to know and you to find out'". -- 6:03 p.m.]

[Update: RedState gives up too: "Drudge has nixed the 'tonight' part of his headline. The White House has put on a full lid. I'm saying nothing will come about tonight. Monday perhaps. I'm going home." -- 6:05 p.m.]

[Update: Trying to monitor all the news channels at once - I would think if anything was happening tonight they'd at least try to do it prior to 6:30 so the networks could cover it. Still nothing so far. All's quiet, I'm beginning to think Erick had the right idea. But I'll stick with this for a little while, see if anything new materializes. -- 6:16 p.m.]

[Update: From a commenter (thanks!): SCOTUSblog has added a new post, explaining the disappearing previous one: "We removed Marty's post and then my follow-up saying that Rehnquist wouldn't retire today. We may have a further post on why we did that, but I just wanted to put up a post to make sure that no one thought that we were trying to 'rewrite history.' At this point, what I can say personally is that my own information throughout the day has been that the rumors were inaccurate. And I'm not aware of people on the blog having contrary information." Also this: "The White House has told the press corps that there will be no more news today. The S. Ct. press corps has gone home too. It wasn't true." Also, commenter notes that Bush will be landing at the White House in the coming minutes. -- 6:22 p.m.]

[Update: As folks are pointing out, the White House has indeed put a "lid" on new news from there this evening. That pretty much does in Novak's speculation that a retirement would come today. Perhaps this weekend, although Monday seems much likelier. As Erick at RedState noted earlier, a fitting formal announcement for the Chief Justice would be appropriate, that may be why we're seeing a delay in the proceedings for the moment. Or of course the whole thing could be hooey and Rehnquist is sticking it out. -- 6:30 p.m.]

[Update: Drudge has removed the SCOTUS text from his website, but leaves up the headline "me to know," etc. and the darkened picture. -- 6:32 p.m.]

[Update: Norah O'Donnell again on MSNBC, reports the "rumors" that Rehnquist will step down. Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network (conservative) and Nan Aron of the Alliance for Justice (liberal) on with her to discuss the events of the day. Long says she's heard "nothing as a certainty ... when the rest of the world knows, we'll find out." O'Donnell adds the full lid, says there will be no announcement tonight. -- 6:36 p.m.]

[Update: Wonkette operative reports that the president was informed that Rehnquist plans to retire, but that the White House wanted to focus news attention on the event at the British embassy this evening. -- 6:40 p.m.]

[Update: A very appropriate comment at RedState: "Never have so many who are living so well wasted so much time thinking about something so utterly beyond their control. The global punditocracy: just say no!" I know, I know, I'm contributing to the madness. But hey, I'm just passing them along. -- 6:47 p.m.]

[Update: The Corner is putting itself to bed too. K.J. Lopez says "D.C. folks are heading home. Hearing White House press shop indicates nothing's coming ...." - 6:51 p.m.]

[Update: Brian Williams on NBC reported the rumors in about thirty seconds, said "there was no announcement from the White House or the Court." If anybody caught the other networks handling this (if they did), let me know. -- 6:52 p.m.]

[Update: Alright, I'm finally declaring an end to this for the evening, since the rumor mill seems to have run out of stem for the night. Bottom line: Novak was wrong, at least about the timing. I agree in principle that a Rehnquist retirement in the near (possibly very near) future is likely, and Monday morning will certainly be a key moment to watch. Of course, if anything changes I'll be back at this, and will continue to add events and new rumors as they occur. If you're being linked directly to this post, please click up to the main page; I will have new threads there as events warrant. -- 7:02 p.m.]

[Update: There's a new post on this topic, up here. -- 9 July, 9:16 a.m.]


At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Phil S said...

Great, GREAT running commentary! Funny as hell; a welcome relief from all the other stuff out there today!!

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

SCOTUSBlog has posted sem-explanations.

FYI, White House schedule puts POTUS's landing back on the lawn at 6:25. Shortly thereafter we should hear if the White House has issued a lid for the night.

Always a possibility of announcements over the weekend, of course.

At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

White House has issued a lid. Nothing tonight from them.


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