National Archives warns it can't fulfill Kavanaugh documents request until October

National Archives warns it can't fulfill Kavanaugh documents request until October
© Anna Moneymaker

The National Archives on Thursday warned it won't be able to fulfill a GOP request for documents on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until October, throwing a potential wrench into Republicans' confirmation timeline.

Gary Stern, general counsel for the National Archives, sent a letter to Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyDem: 'Bulls---' to say GOP doing everything to contact Kavanaugh accuser Grassley wants unredacted version of letter from Kavanaugh's accuser Attorney for Kavanaugh accuser criticizes Senate panel's ‘rush to a hearing’ MORE (R-Iowa) saying the agency won’t be able to meet the Judiciary Committee chairman's Aug. 15 deadline for all documents pertaining to Kavanaugh's time as a White House lawyer during the George W. Bush administration. Instead, he indicated the files will likely be provided in batches.

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"We estimate that we can complete our review of the textual records and the subset of White House Counsel Office emails ‘from’ Kavanaugh ... by approximately August 20, 2018, and currently expect to be able to complete the remaining ... by the end of October 2018," Stern wrote.

That timeline throws into question whether Republicans will be able to confirm Kavanaugh before the midterm elections.

A GOP Judiciary Committee aide on Thursday said that the National Archives timeline won't impact the panel holding a hearing for Kavanaugh in September.  

"Because the George W. Bush Presidential Library has agreed to facilitate an open and transparent process, following the Archives’ established nonpartisan document review guidelines, the committee will receive documents in an even more rapid fashion from the Bush Library as the Archives continues its statutory document review," said Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Grassley.

He added that the committee "will be able to undertake its thorough review process along the same timeline set in previous Supreme Court confirmations" and as Grassley said separately on Thursday "he intends to hold a hearing sometime in September."

Republicans initially indicated they wanted Kavanaugh confirmed before the Supreme Court session starts during the first week of October, but they've since shifted their timeline to say he will be confirmed before the Nov. 6 elections.

“Let there be no misunderstanding that there would be any kind of delaying tactic that would take us past the first Tuesday in November,” McConnell told reporters late last month.

The fight for Kavanaugh's documents has emerged a lightning rod in the months-long Supreme Court battle.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation MORE (D-N.Y.) said the National Archives letter "confirmed our worst fears."  

"The vast majority of even the small portion of records the American public will see from Brett Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House will be pre-screened by a political operative and attorney for George W. Bush, Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonOur policies on immigration should be forward-thinking Ann Coulter believes Kushner wrote anonymous op-ed bashing Trump Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE, Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusBannon says right must support ‘RINOs’ CNN: Trump searching for Woodward sources in White House Woodward book rocks Trump White House MORE, and Donald McGahnDonald (Don) F. McGahnThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Better Medicare Alliance — McCain honored at US Capitol Trump didn't inform McGahn of hush-money payments in 2016: report MORE," Schumer said.  

Democrats previously warned that the lawyers being used by the Bush team to review documents have ties to prominent GOP figures.

Schumer added on Thursday that the process "appears to be designed intentionally by Republicans to deny the Senate and the American people the information they need to evaluate this critically important nomination.”

Democrats want records and emails from Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary at the White House, arguing they could provide insight into his thinking on issues like torture and surveillance.

But Grassley sent a request to the National Archives last month asking for documents tied only to his time as a White House lawyer. He did not request documents from Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary.

Stern noted in his letter that Grassley’s request could top more than 900,000 pages. That total includes about 49,000 White House Counsel Office emails "from" Kavanaugh that amount to around 300,000 pages, Stern said.

--Updated at 2:21 p.m.