Issue over records roils Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing before Senate

WASHINGTON (Courthouse News) – Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee got off to a chaotic start on Tuesday, as Democrats protested the committee’s handling of records from the judge’s time in the George W. Bush White House.

Democrats immediately disrupted the planned flow of the hearing by requesting to delay the proceedings so senators could review Kavanaugh’s documents from his time as White House staff secretary under Bush. Meanwhile protesters periodically shouted from the back of the room, drowning out the voices of lawmakers and forcing pauses in the discussion.

“To go into this hearing without those documents is an undermining of the constitutional role to which we have all sworn an oath to uphold,” Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., said at the hearing.

Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley rejected requests from Democrats to vote on a motion to adjourn the hearing, calling them “out of order.”

Though Democrats raised concerns about the lack of access to Kavanaugh’s White House records, Senator Grassley said the judge’s portfolio of more than 300 opinions on the D.C. Circuit is the most important batch of documents lawmakers could ever hope to review.

“Senators have had more than enough time and materials to adequately assess Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications and so that’s why I proceeded,” Grassley said at the hearing.

Committee Democrats shot back that they have not had enough time to review all of Kavanaugh’s relevant documents, particularly a batch of more than 40,000 the committee received Monday.

“The majority rushed into this hearing and is refusing to even look at the nominee’s full record,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at the hearing.

The committee has received more than 480,000 pages from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House, which spanned from 2001 to 2006, but Democrats have said this represents but a small fraction of the documents that came across Kavanaugh’s desk and omits key issues and time periods.

Over the weekend, the White House blocked the release of more than 100,000 additional documents, citing executive privilege. President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh’s nomination in July.

The hearing is expected to last three to four days and will feature testimony from legal experts, former Kavanaugh law clerks and the longtime D.C. Circuit judge himself. Tuesday’s portion of the hearing will feature introductions from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Arnold & Porter partner Lisa Blatt.

Lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee are also expected to make their opening statements on Tuesday morning, which will set up the arguments that will dominate the remaining days.

Kavanaugh will then make his introduction to the committee, during which he is expected to praise retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, whom he is poised to replace, and D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland, whom Republicans blocked from taking a seat on the Supreme Court in 2016.

Borrowing a famous turn of phrase that Chief Justice John Roberts employed during his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh will also assure senators he will not play favorites if confirmed to the Supreme Court.

“A good judge must be an umpire – a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh will say, according to the White House. “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”

Senator Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has said Kavanaugh will begin answering questions from lawmakers beginning on Wednesday morning.