Politico’s top editors and executives spent Sunday morning drinking Bloody Marys and snacking on waffles and wienerschnitzel as they chatted with top Washington officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, at an annual brunch hosted at the opulent Georgetown home of Robert Allbritton, one of the founders of Politico.
What wasn’t discussed: Politico was in for a giant scoop, one that would rock the country less than 36 hours later.
At lunchtime, Politico was working on a story about a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, according to two people with knowledge of the process inside the newsroom. Knowledge of the document and the article about it was contained to a very small group.
The article, published Monday night, immediately put Roe v. Wade and the court address front and center of the nation’s political debate. But he also spotlighted Politico, an organization that has reshaped coverage of Washington with its comprehensive reporting on all things political since it was founded 15 years ago.
The news organization is now at the center of a debate about who leaked the document and why, including rampant speculation about the motives of Politico’s sources. It is extremely rare that a major draft opinion within the Supreme Court is leaked to the press.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court confirmed that the draft opinion was authentic. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in a statement that he had directed the court’s bailiff to investigate the leak, which he described as “a singular and egregious breach of trust.”
Politico has said little about the reporting behind the article, written by reporters Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, or the deliberations before publication. His spokeswoman declined to comment for this article. Politico editor-in-chief Matthew Kaminski has said he would let the article speak for itself. The article said that the document was provided by “a person familiar with court procedures,” and that the person had provided additional details that helped authenticate the document, but did not say what those details were.
In the hours before the article was published, Mr. Kaminski and Politico Executive Editor Dafna Linzer called senior editors to inform them that the article would be published and that a memo would be sent to the newsroom, according to one of the people with knowledge of the process.
Moments after publishing the article, Mr. Kaminski and Ms. Linzer alerted the newsroom in an email, defending their decisions.
“After an extensive review process, we are confident in the authenticity of the draft,” they wrote. “This unprecedented insight into the judges’ deliberations is clearly news of great public interest.”
News organizations around the world, including The New York Times and The Associated Press, were quick to follow Politico’s reporting. In an interview with Gerstein on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Monday night, Maddow told Gerstein that he would “always in her entire life be the reporter to break this story.”
Although the views of individual justices have occasionally been released publicly before the Supreme Court has announced a decision, the leak of a major draft opinion is unusual, said Lucas A. Powe Jr., a law professor at the University from Texas in Austin. and a former Supreme Court law clerk who has been studying the high court for more than 50 years.
“His loyalty is to his justice and to the court, and he just doesn’t leak stuff,” Powe said of standard practice among Supreme Court clerks.
Politico was justified in writing about the draft opinion, which is newsworthy and relates to a matter of national public concern, said Marty Baron, former executive editor of The Washington Post, who oversaw the publication of several high-profile stories, including the leaked documents. in 2013 by Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency.
“This seems pretty simple,” Baron said. “They were provided with a document. The document was authenticated to his satisfaction and they published it.”
The post sparked a swift reaction from supporters and opponents of abortion rights, who demonstrated at the Supreme Court in Washington.
On Tuesday, Traci Schweikert, Politico’s chief talent officer, sent an email to workers detailing security measures the company has “proactively” implemented for its offices, such as restricting access to certain floors, “given the increased visibility Politico after our report on the Supreme Court last night.”
“Please note that anyone accessing our elevators with you and the ability to ‘shadow’ our floor,” the email read. Employees were also advised to consider the privacy settings on their social media accounts to avoid potential online harassment.
“If you choose public settings, we strongly encourage you to consider removing any personal information if your social media accounts identify you as a Politico employee,” the email added.
Founded in 2007, Politico was among a crop of new media that redefined news for the digital age. Prompted by Jim VandeHei and John Harris, two of its founders, to “win the morning,” Politico reporters and editors covered Washington far and wide, devoting space in their influential email newsletters to presidential campaigns and more trivial details. as birthdays of prominent local personalities. figures.
After a rapid rise to prominence, Politico has faced new competition in recent years, including from sites like Axios, which was started by Mr. VandeHei and others after he left Politico. Axel Springer, the Berlin-based publishing conglomerate, bought Politico from Allbritton last year for more than $1 billion as part of a plan to expand in the United States with a portfolio of titles including Insider and Morning Brew.
Earlier this year, Politico announced that Goli Sheikholeslami would be its new CEO, replacing Patrick Steel, who left in 2021.
The executives, as well as Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner, attended Politico’s brunch on Sunday, which serves as the end point of the flurry of events surrounding Saturday’s White House correspondents’ dinner.
It was something of an introduction for Ms. Linzer, previously a senior editor at NBC News and MSNBC, who began her new role as executive editor of Politico on April 25.
The scoop seemed to impress Döpfner, who praised Politico’s reporting in an email to staff Tuesday. “I admire how you carefully outlined the facts, putting the reader’s interest first in a nonpartisan way,” she said, according to a copy of the email seen by The New York Times.
Politico also praised the scoop internally. A summary of press clippings shared with Politico employees showed that the Supreme Court story topped cable news programming, dominated news websites and had “taken over Twitter.”