National Archives distances itself from Bush team on Kavanaugh documents

National Archives distances itself from Bush team on Kavanaugh documents
© Greg Nash

The National Archives is distancing itself from President George W. Bush's legal team as both groups work to hand over hundreds of thousands of documents tied to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. 

The Archives said Wednesday that the decision for Bush's representatives to provide documents directly to the Judiciary Committee, bypassing the agency, "is something that has never happened before."

"This effort by former President Bush does not represent the National Archives or the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The Senate Judiciary Committee is publicly releasing some of these documents on its website, which also do not represent the National Archives," the agency said in a statement. 

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The statement comes days after the Bush legal team began handing over documents to the Judiciary Committee. The group is vetting which documents get handed over to the Senate panel and what subset of those documents can be made public. 

The legal team — represented by William Burck, a former Bush aide — noted in the initial batch of documents they gave to committee that because of "constraints" with the National Archives, Burck and his staff were deciding which documents could be released publicly. 

"In light of the constraints on [National Archives and Records Administration's] resources, and in the interest of expediting appropriate access to President Bush’s presidential records in furtherance of education and research about the Bush Administration, we are producing to the Committee on a rolling basis commencing today publicly releasable versions of documents that, in our view, do not contain information covered by a Presidential Records Act exemption or applicable privilege," Burck wrote in an Aug. 8 letter to Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley extends deadline for Kavanaugh accuser to decide on testifying Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Kavanaugh accuser seeks additional day to decide on testimony MORE (R-Iowa).

Democrats and outside groups have bristled at the decision, arguing that it allows a GOP operative, who has previously worked with Kavanaugh, to cherrypick which documents get released to the public. 

Republicans counter that the Bush team's review will allow them to get documents from Kavanaugh's work as a White House lawyer faster than the National Archives's timeframe.

The National Archives is separately reviewing and turning over documents from Kavanaugh's tenure as a White House lawyer, but warned Grassley that the request would total more than 900,000 pages and wouldn't be able to be fulfilled until late October, which would run up against the GOP timeline for confirming Kavanaugh. 

“Because Judge Kavanaugh served both in the White House Counsel’s Office and as Staff Secretary under President George W. Bush, was then nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Bush, and also served with the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr, the Archives has literally millions of pages of records related to him,” Gary Stern, the National Archives's general counsel, said Wednesday

Republicans want Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court before the next term starts in October and have scheduled a Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to begin Sept. 4.