Moments after Politico published a draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. that would strike down Roe v. Wade, a scoop that rattled the country, the publication’s top editors sent an email to its newsroom.
“After an extensive review process, we are confident of the authenticity of the draft,” Politico’s editor in chief, Matthew Kaminski, and its executive editor, Dafna Linzer, wrote. “This unprecedented view into the justices’ deliberations is plainly news of great public interest.”
The editors did not explain what that review process entailed, or how the lead reporters on the story, Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, had obtained the draft. The article said that the document was provided by “a person familiar with the court’s proceedings,” and that the person had provided additional details that helped authenticate the document, but didn’t say what those were.
Mr. Kaminski declined to comment further.
“We’re going to let the story and our staff note speak for themselves,” he said.
News organizations around the world, including The New York Times and The Associated Press, quickly followed Politico’s reporting. In an interview with Mr. Gerstein on “The Rachel Maddow Show” Monday evening, Ms. Maddow told Mr. Gerstein that he would “always in your entire life be the reporter that broke this story.”
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 Marshal of the Court to investigate the leak, which he described as “a singular and egregious breach” of trust.
Although the views of individual justices have occasionally been disclosed publicly before the Supreme Court announces a decision, the leak of an important draft opinion is extremely rare, said Lucas A. Powe Jr., a professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin, and a former Supreme Court law clerk who has been studying the high court for more than 50 years.
“Your loyalty is to your justice and to the court, and you just don’t leak things,” Mr. Powe said of the standard practice among employees of the Supreme Court.
Founded in 2007, the Arlington-based news publication Politico has reshaped coverage of Washington over the past 15 years with its granular reporting on all things politics. Urged on by co-founders Jim VandeHei and John Harris to “win the morning,” Politico’s reporters and editors covered Washington high and low, devoting space in their influential email newsletters to presidential campaigns and more trivial details like birthdays of prominent local figures.
Axel Springer, the Berlin-based publishing conglomerate, bought Politico from its co-founder Robert Allbritton last year for more than $1 billion, part of a plan to expand in the United States with a portfolio of titles that include Insider and Morning Brew.
This year, Politico announced that Goli Sheikholeslami would be its new chief executive, replacing Patrick Steel, who left in 2021.
May 3, 2022
A previous version of this article misstated when the former chief executive of Politico left his post. Patrick Steel left before Politico’s sale to Axel Springer, not after.