Kavanaugh refuses to answer questions on Trump pardons

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sidestepped two questions from Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyBooker wins 2020 endorsement of every New Jersey Democrat in Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Can Bernie recapture 2016 magic? Leahy endorses Sanders for president MORE (D-Vt.) on Wednesday about potential pardons from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall 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. 

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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 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 ManafortWhite House braces for Mueller report Hillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring Manafort to be sentenced for bank, tax fraud in Virginia on March 8 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 GrahamActing Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump FBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it MORE (R-S.C.), who has emerged as an ally for the president, told reporters last month.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy 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 ComeyRosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump FBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it MORE.