Kavanaugh refuses to say if he would recuse himself from Trump, Mueller cases

Greg Nash

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sidestepped questions on Thursday about whether he would recuse himself from cases tied to President Trump or that spawn out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into the 2016 election.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, pressed Kavanaugh to say that if confirmed he would recuse himself from any such cases that could come before the Supreme Court, arguing the move would help alleviate “suspicion” that Trump picked Kavanaugh to protect himself from Mueller’s probe.

“Why not right now, right now, even at the jeopardy of President Trump pulling back your nomination, why not now alleviate all of that suspicion that a reasonable person can have?” Booker asked. 

“Why not just announce right now that you will recuse yourself from any matters coming before the Supreme Court involving the Mueller investigation?” Booker added.

But Kavanaugh demurred, saying he would not make a commitment on how he could decide or resolve a case that might come before him on the Supreme Court.

“If I committed to deciding a particular case, which includes committing to whether I would participate in a particular case, all I would be doing is demonstrating that I don’t have the independence of the judiciary … that is necessary to be a good judge,” Kavanaugh said.

The Trump nominee has shied away from commenting on issues related to the president, arguing he shouldn’t weigh in on political controversies. 

Booker also tried to get Kavanaugh to say if he had “great respect for Trump,” a remark Kavanaugh made about then-President George W. Bush when he was sworn in as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006.

When Kavanaugh ducked the question, Booker asked if he believed Trump would withdraw his nomination if Kavanaugh agreed to recuse himself.

Kavanaugh sidestepped that question as well.

“In this process I need to uphold the independence of the judiciary,” he stated. 

Democrats have called on Kavanaugh to recuse himself from cases related to Trump or Mueller. They worry that Kavanaugh would vote to protect Trump from the probe, if it reached the Supreme Court, and potentially give Republicans a fifth vote on the matter.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked on Thursday if a “reasonable person” could question Kavanaugh’s independence on cases involving Trump.

“My independence, I believe, has been demonstrated by my 12-year record,” Kavanaugh answered. “I believe deeply in the independence of the judiciary.” 

The Democratic senator then asked Kavanaugh if he would recuse himself from cases involving the criminal or civil liability of Trump, to which he demurred.

“The independence of the judiciary requires that I not commit,” he told Harris.

Kavanaugh’s dodge on Thursday comes after he gave a similar answer to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) the previous day.

Blumenthal asked if Kavanaugh would recuse himself from issues tied to Trump’s “criminal or civil liability” that come before the Supreme Court.

“Senator, one of the core principles I’ve articulated here is the independence of the judiciary,” Kavanaugh said. “One key facet of the independence of the judiciary … is to not to make commitments on particular cases.”

Blumenthal interrupted Kavanaugh, saying he would take the answer “as a no.”

“It’s really a yes or no question,” Blumenthal added.

Kavanaugh said he should not make a commitment about a particular case that could come before him “to be consistent with the principle of independence of the judiciary.”

Tags Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination Cory Booker Donald Trump Robert Mueller Special Counsel investigation Supreme Court of the United States

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