Senate

Durbin accuses Kavanaugh of misleading senators in 2006 hearing

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of misleading the Senate Judiciary Committee during a hearing more than a decade ago, releasing emails Tuesday he says proves his claim.

 

Durbin released two pages of emails from 2002 stamped "committee confidential" - meaning they had not been cleared for public release - that detail Kavanaugh's conversation with two other White House officials on the nomination of William "Jim" Haynes to fill a judicial vacancy.

 

"It is clear now that not only did Judge Kavanaugh mislead me when it came to his involvement in the Bush Administration's detention and interrogation policies, but also regarding his role in the controversial Haynes nomination," Durbin said on Tuesday.  

 

The emails released by Durbin show Kavanaugh, then an employee in the George W. Bush White House, discussing a potential Haynes nomination with two of his colleagues in a brief email thread. 

 

After the two colleagues exchanged emails discussing Haynes, Kavanaugh replies saying that they need to "resolve" the package of judicial nominations, potentially including Haynes, "quickly." 

 

"What is the basis for saying he would be an across-the-board judicial conservative? I have no reason to think that one way or another outside of defense/military area - and I know others have questions about that," Kavanaugh added. 

 

Haynes, as general counsel to the Pentagon, was involved in the Bush administration detention policy after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

 

When one of Kavanaugh's White House counsel colleagues asked who had questions about Haynes, Kavanaugh replied: "Call me." 

 

Durbin on Tuesday seized on the emails as evidence that Kavanaugh misled senators when he testified during his 2006 confirmation hearing to sit on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

 

The Democratic lawmaker had asked Kavanaugh at the time about his involvement in Haynes's nomination, including if he knew about Haynes's work on Bush's detention and interrogation policies.

 

Kavanaugh told senators that while he knew Haynes, "it was not one of the nominations that I handled."

 

Durbin on Tuesday called the emails the latest example of a "theme" around Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, confirmation hearings for which took place last week.

 

"He says one thing under oath, and then the documents tell a different story. It is no wonder the White House and Senate Republicans are rushing through this nomination and hiding much of Judge Kavanaugh's record - the questions about this nominee's credibility are growing every day," Durbin said.

Spokesmen for Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley's (R-Iowa) office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the status of the emails released by Durbin.

 

Raj Shah, a spokesman for the White House, quickly hit back at Durbin's "latest lie in attempting to smear" Kavanaugh. 

 

"When you look at the full testimony, Sen. Durbin's cherry-picking of Judge Kavanaugh's words is more deceptive. In later testimony, Judge Kavanaugh explicitly answered 'yes' he was 'involved in discussions involving the nominations of Haynes,'" Shah said in a series of tweets responding to the emails Durbin released. 

Shah's tweet includes a screenshot over questions between Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kavanaugh from the 2006 hearing. Schumer, following up on Durbin's question, asks Kavanugh if he was "involved" in discussions about Haynes, including if voiced opinions about him. 

 

"I don't remember the timing of that, but if it was when I was in the counsel's office, it would have come through the Judicial Selection Committee when I was part of it," Kavanaugh responded. 

 

When Schumer asked if he could give a yes or no answer about if he was involved with discussions on Haynes, Kavanaugh added "senator I believe those were when I was still in the counsel's office, so the answer would be yes." 

 

Shah, following up in a separate tweet, questioned what Durbin's "point" is by releasing the emails on Tuesday. 

 

"He has none. ...Dems are dishonestly conflating being the WH Counsel lead responsible for "handling" the nomination with any discussion of the nomination whatsoever. It's a complete and total smear with no basis," Shah added.

 

Durbin's office said in a release that the emails are still marked "committee confidential" and had not been cleared for release by Republicans or Bill Burck, a lawyer for Bush who has been sorting through documents from Kavanaugh's work as White House counsel.

 

The emails aren't the first time Democrats have accused Kavanaugh of misleading senators during his 2006 hearing. 

 

Both Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) - who, like Durbin, are members of the Judiciary Committee - seized last week on Kavanaugh emails regarding Bill Pryor's judicial nomination.

 

Kavanaugh previously said that he was not involved in the nomination proceedings, but could not rule out last week that he might have questioned Pryor, who is controversial because of his stance against Roe v. Wade.

 

Asked by Leahy if he interviewed Pryor, Kavanaugh said he didn't "believe so, but added it's possible.

 

"I don't believe so but if I did it would have been part of the general process," he said. "It's possible; we interviewed hundreds of nominees."

 

Asked later by Grassley, who argued that Democrats were trying to misrepresent the email, Kavanaugh added that he was not the "primary person" on Pryor.

 

Updated: 7 p.m.

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