Kavanaugh refuses to answer questions on Trump pardons

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sidestepped two questions from Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Defense: Congressional leaders receive classified briefing on Iran | Trump on war: 'I hope not' | Key Republican calls threats credible | Warren plan targets corporate influence at Pentagon Key Republican 'convinced' Iran threats are credible Graham, Leahy request briefing on decision to yank personnel from Iraq MORE (D-Vt.) on Wednesday about potential pardons from President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE amid the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian election interference.

Asked at his Senate confirmation hearing if Trump could pardon himself, Kavanaugh said he had never looked at self-pardons. 

"The question of self-pardons is something I have never analyzed. It's a question I have not written about. It's a question, therefore, that's a hypothetical question that I can't begin to answer in this context, as a sitting judge and as a nominee," Kavanaugh told Leahy. 

ADVERTISEMENT

When Leahy followed up with a question about if Trump could pardon others in exchange for them agreeing not to testify against him, Kavanaugh similarly demurred. 

"Senator, I'm not going to answer hypothetical questions of that sort," Kavanaugh said. 

Leahy wrapped up his questions by warning that he hoped "for the sake for the country that remains a hypothetical question."

The back-and-forth came during Kavanaugh's second day during the Senate Judiciary Committee's weeklong hearing on the high court nomination. 

Kavanaugh is expected to face several rounds of questions about executive authority and will likely get direct questions about special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's probe. 

Democrats are concerned that Kavanaugh will give conservatives a fifth vote on the Supreme Court and could help protect Trump from Mueller's probe if it reaches the Supreme Court. 

Talk of potential pardons for individuals in Trump's orbit has loomed over Mueller's investigation and the trials that have spun out of the probe.

The New York Times reported last month that Trump and Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer, had discussed the potential fallout of a pardon for former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortUkrainian who meddled against Trump in 2016 is now under Russia-corruption cloud Feds ask judge to postpone ex-Trump campaign aide's sentencing Giuliani cancels trip to Ukraine to press Biden investigation MORE, who was recently convicted on bank and tax fraud charges.

Trump has also appeared sympathetic toward Manafort, saying in a tweet that he felt "very badly" for Manafort and his "wonderful family." 

Republicans, including Trump's allies on Capitol Hill, have warned the president against pardoning Manafort, arguing that it would backfire. 

"I would not recommend a pardon. You've got to earn a pardon. I think it would be seen as a bridge too far,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump, Europe increasingly at odds on Iran Trump: Anonymous news sources are 'bulls---' Trump: 'Good chance' Dems give immigration 'win' after Pelosi called White House plan 'dead on arrival' MORE (R-S.C.), who has emerged as an ally for the president, told reporters last month.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCorker: 'I just don't' see path to challenge Trump in 2020 Ex-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' Pollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge MORE (R-Tenn.) separately said it would be bad for Trump's "health." 

“I would think that would be very damaging to his health. It would be another strategic error just like the Comey error,” Corker said, referring to the firing of then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyClash with Trump marks latest break with GOP leaders for Justin Amash Giuliani says Trump is 'doing the right thing' by resisting congressional subpoenas Giuliani strikes back at Comey: 'No one really respects him' MORE.