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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - What to watch for as Mueller’s probe winds down Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Drug pricing fight centers on insulin 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 SchumerDon’t look for House GOP to defy Trump on border wall GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win 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 BannonPat Caddell leaves an indelible mark on the American political landscape Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 In next election against populists, centrist forces already making mistakes MORE, Reince PriebusReinhold (Reince) Richard PriebusIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? Ex-White House aide says 'cartoon villain' Kellyanne Conway bad-mouthed colleagues Trump Org hires former WH ethics lawyer to deal with congressional probes MORE, and Donald McGahnDonald (Don) F. McGahnManafort pardon would be impeachable, indictable and convictable Both political parties guilty of weaponizing impeachment More questions than answers in too many Trump stories 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.