Judiciary Democrats go after Kavanaugh’s White House records

Two Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are going after Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s records from when he served in the White House more than a decade ago, arguing that only a small fraction was released prior to the vote on his nomination last year.

Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), who chairs the Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee, wrote a letter Tuesday to the head of the National Archives and Records Administration asking the agency to provide on a rolling basis Kavanaugh’s records from when he served in the George W. Bush administration as staff secretary and in the White House Counsel’s Office.

{mosads}The Democrats say it is important for the committee to review these records, which span from 2001 to 2006, particularly as the high court gears up to hear a series of important cases.

“In the coming year, the Supreme Court will again address important matters regarding civil rights, criminal justice, and immigration. The Court may also review certain high-profile cases related to reproductive rights, the separation of powers, and the limits of executive authority — all topics within the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee,” the lawmakers wrote to Archive’s David Ferriero.

“Now and as always, the Court’s fidelity to the principles of equal and impartial justice, as well as the public’s faith in the integrity of the judiciary, are foundational to maintaining the rule of law,” they added.

Nadler and Johnson argued that under the Presidential Records Act, they have a right to access to these documents because it relates to their responsibility to conduct oversight as the Judiciary Committee. And these records, they note, are important because Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who oversaw the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation vote of Kavanaugh last July, requested and received only a fraction of the records from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House. 

Grassley asked for records related to Kavanaugh’s role in the White House Counsel’s Office, not his time as staff secretary, they say. And he also later dropped his request for these records after receiving some from the Archives agency, their letter notes.

The members wrote that the Senate panel received such records only after a private attorney processed the documents, suggesting “he had withheld tens of thousands of documents as a result of his review.”

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, blasted the move as “harassment,” arguing that their request is “so far outside the scope of judicial ethics.”

“Senate Democrats spent months launching false accusations in an attempt to smear Justice Kavanaugh’s reputation and block his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and now House Democrats want to follow suit with yet another fishing expedition to tarnish his good name,” Collins said in a statement. 

The new effort comes after a judicial panel, the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, ruled last week to dismiss ethics complaints filed against Kavanaugh, finding that it did not have authority to review the claims against him because confirmation to the high court excludes him from the ethics rules in question.

The complaints alleged that Kavanaugh made “inappropriately partisan statements and behaving in a demonstrably hostile manner” during his public confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, during which he fiercely denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor, alleged that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party in the 1980s while they were in high school.

Kavanaugh furiously defended himself against these allegations, growing heated and confrontational with Democratic senators when they asked about his drinking habits and his social behavior.

While Kavanaugh later conceded that he used a “sharp” tone and “said a few things I should not have said,” he also defended his testimony in an op-ed for The Washington Post, calling the hearing “emotional.” 

The GOP-controlled Senate narrowly confirmed Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court last year.

Updated at 11:46 a.m.

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Chuck Grassley Doug Collins Hank Johnson Jerrold Nadler SCOTUS Supreme Court The Washington Post
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