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Republicans block Democratic bid to subpoena Kavanaugh documents

Republicans block Democratic bid to subpoena Kavanaugh documents
© Greg Nash

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday blocked multiple efforts by Democrats to subpoena documents from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's White House tenure.

The Democratic efforts were defeated in party-line votes by the panel, where Republicans hold the majority.

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Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump defends 0B US arms sale to Saudi Arabia Florida politics play into disaster relief debate O’Rourke faces pivotal point in Texas battle with Cruz MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, warned that nominations could be held up for years if the committee started issuing subpoenas.

"I believe it would be a mistake for the committee to issue a subpoena, thus setting up a court case which could go on literally for years," Cornyn said.

Democrats offered six subpoenas in total, including for documents from Kavanaugh's work as a staff secretary in the George W. Bush administration, as well as more than 100,000 pages that the Trump administration asked to withhold from the panel.

The first demand for a subpoena came from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinAmerican Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review Juan Williams: Trump, the Great Destroyer Top Judiciary Dems call for unredacted 'zero tolerance' memo MORE (D-Calif.), who wanted the committee to force the National Archives to hand over Kavanaugh's staff secretary documents.

Feinstein, the top Democrat on the committee, questioned what are "Republicans hiding" by not requesting the documents.

"I move for the committee to authorize the issuance of a subpoena for the National Archives for records from Judge Kavanaugh's service as staff secretary in the White House from 2003 to 2006," Feinstein said.

Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoKavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight Chris Cuomo: Presumption of innocence didn't apply to Kavanaugh because it wasn't a court case Lindsey Graham hits Dem senator: 'The Hirono standard is horrific' MORE (D-Hawaii) also tried to get a subpoena for documents from Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary that related to any work on Native Hawaiian, Alaskan Native and Native American issues.

She added that during Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary, the Bush administration was "confronted with issues relating to Native Hawaiian rights."

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin opposes Saudi arms sale over missing journalist Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight MORE (D-Ill.), meanwhile, asked for a subpoena for documents from the National Archives related to any advice Kavanaugh may have given on torture during the Bush administration.

Durbin warned that the Republican handling of Kavanaugh's nomination underscored the "deterioration" of the committee's bipartisan record.

"We are a whisper, a shell, of what this committee once was," Durbin said.

And Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDem senators urge Pompeo to reverse visa policy on diplomats' same-sex partners 15 Saudis identified in disappearance of Washington Post columnist The Senate needs to cool it MORE (D-Del.) wanted to subpoena the National Archives for documents that shed light on Kavanaugh's view on executive power.

"I am significantly concerned about his views on presidential power," Coons said.

Coons specifically wanted documents related to Kavanaugh's views on whether a president can be investigated or if he could fire a special counsel.

Democrats and outside groups have repeatedly expressed alarm that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would try to protect President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE from any cases that spin out of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation and reach the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh told senators during his confirmation hearing that he did not believe a president is "above the law," but repeatedly dodged about specific questions on subpoenas, the limits of a president's pardon abilities or if he would recuse himself from Trump- or Mueller-related cases.

In addition to the staff secretary documents, Democratic Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIs there difference between good and bad online election targeting? Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas Clusters of polio-like illness in the US not a cause for panic MORE (Minn.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight Hillary Clinton bursts out laughing about Kavanaugh's 'revenge on behalf of the Clintons' remark MORE (R.I.) also offered a motion to subpoena records from Kavanaugh's time as a White House lawyer over which the Trump administration has exercised constitutional privilege, preventing them from being released to senators.

Klobuchar said it was "outrageous" that senators had not been told why the documents were being held.

"We think it's outrageous we're not even given the reason why they were withheld," she said.

Whitehouse added that lawmakers were entering "foggy and dangerous territory" on executive privilege.

"They don't even call it executive privilege. They call it something called constitutional privilege," he said. "Who the hell knows what that is? That's never been litigated before."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who tried to adjourn Thursday's meeting, requested that the committee subpoena Bush administration officials and former Senate officials over a 2002 "hack" of Senate Democratic files.

Manny Miranda, one of the officials Blumenthal wanted to subpoena, is accused of improperly accessing Senate Democratic files and then distributing the information to White House and other Senate Republican staffers.

Blumenthal argued that their testimony was "vital" to helping "resolve key questions of fact that were raised in the hearing and that documents that have been released."

--Updated at 12:09 p.m.