Kavanaugh refuses to answer questions on Trump pardons

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sidestepped two questions from Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOvernight Energy: Senators push back on EPA's new FOIA rule | Agency digs in on rule change | Watchdog expands ethics probe of former EPA air chief Bipartisan senators fight 'political considerations' in EPA's new FOIA rule Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning MORE (D-Vt.) on Wednesday about potential pardons from President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota 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) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction 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 ManafortHow Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann's offer to an oligarch could boomerang on DOJ Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Key numbers to know for Mueller's testimony 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 GrahamGraham says he will call Papadopoulos to testify GOP group defends Mueller ahead of testimony The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller Time: Dems, GOP ready questions for high-stakes testimony MORE (R-S.C.), who has emerged as an ally for the president, told reporters last month.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTrump announces, endorses ambassador to Japan's Tennessee Senate bid Meet the key Senate player in GOP fight over Saudi Arabia Trump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' 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 ComeyBarr warns encryption allows 'criminals to operate with impunity' Mueller testimony could be frustrating for both parties Davis: Advice to House Democrats — Mueller is right to stick to the facts; don't ask him to imitate Starr and Comey MORE.