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 CornynWhite House trying to beat back bipartisan Cornyn infrastructure amendment Senate GOP shifts focus to fight over Biden's .5 trillion budget McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal 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 FeinsteinNearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children 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 HironoDemocrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Hillicon Valley: Facebook tightens teen protections | FBI cautions against banning ransomware payments | Republicans probe White House-social media collaboration Top FBI official advises Congress against banning ransomware payments 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 DurbinDick DurbinSenate eyeing possible weekend finish for T infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cuomo defiant as Biden, Democrats urge resignation Democrats barrel toward August voting rights deadline 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 CoonsChris Andrew CoonsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - White House, Dems play blame game over evictions Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals 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 TrumpMajority of Americans in new poll say it would be bad for the country if Trump ran in 2024 ,800 bottle of whiskey given to Pompeo by Japan is missing Liz Cheney says her father is 'deeply troubled' about the state of the Republican Party MORE from any cases that spin out of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 KlobucharDemocrats barrel toward August voting rights deadline Manchin 'can't imagine' supporting change to filibuster for voting rights Hillicon Valley: Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation | Amazon fined 6M by EU regulators MORE (Minn.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Democrats to introduce measure taxing major polluters Lobbying world Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law 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.