Kavanaugh refuses to answer questions on Trump pardons

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sidestepped two questions from Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  MORE (D-Vt.) on Wednesday about potential pardons from President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America 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 (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 ManafortCohen released from federal prison to home confinement due to coronavirus concerns Advocates call on states to release more inmates amid pandemic Michael Cohen to be moved to home confinement due to coronavirus concerns: report 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 GrahamSenate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks Comey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe Schumer: GOP should 'stop sitting on their hands' on coronavirus bill MORE (R-S.C.), who has emerged as an ally for the president, told reporters last month.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRomney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force McConnell, Romney vie for influence over Trump's trial RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' 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 ComeyComey, Rice, Clapper among GOP senator's targets for subpoenas amid Obama-era probe GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests Rosenstein to testify as part of Graham's Russia investigation probe MORE.