WASHINGTON ― The Supreme Court did not receive a formal invitation from President Donald Trump to have dinner at the White House this Thursday, a court spokeswoman and a White House aide confirmed on Monday.
“An invitation was never extended,” said the aide, who added that the dinner plans, which were first noted in a weekly agenda sent to reporters early on Sunday, were only tentative and subject to change.
Indeed, later Sunday night, the dinner was no longer listed in an updated weekly planner the White House made available to reporters.
“That evening, the President will have dinner with the Justices of the Supreme Court, including his successfully confirmed nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch,” said the initial White House report, which was notable for highlighting events touting Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Asked about the scrapped dinner plans on Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the president’s team had “moved some things around” in Trump’s schedule and was hopeful a dinner would happen at a later date.
But he rebuffed the suggestion that somehow Trump wanted to implicate the Supreme Court in the publicity efforts surrounding his accomplishments during the 100-day sprint.
“I think having a relationship and meeting with the Supreme Court at some point would be a great idea and something that we hope to have on the schedule at some point soon,” Spicer said.
Wining and dining the justices isn’t unprecedented in American history, but Trump is a unique president, enmeshed in a series of high-profile lawsuits naming him as a defendant in his official capacity — including over his conflicts of interest and his beleaguered travel ban on six predominantly Muslim countries.
Since these cases could conceivably reach the court in the near future, some people have expressed concern about the ethics and the optics of the justices attending a White House dinner while the cases move through the courts.
“Why would the Supreme Court agree to do this?” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), whose state is suing Trump in federal court over the travel restrictions. “I can think of no legitimate reason to dine with a litigant.”
Under the law and ethics canons, justices and judges are expected to steer clear of situations and comments where their impartiality could reasonably be questioned by the public or parties before them.
“I have to be very careful about expressing any views,” Gorsuch said.