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 Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks 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 FeinsteinFive takeaways from Mueller's report Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates GOP senators divided on Trump trade pushback 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 HironoHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Overnight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine 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 calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal 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 CoonsMenendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions Dem report questions State Dept. decision to revoke award to Trump critic Senate Dem calls on Trump to apologize for attacks on McCain 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 TrumpGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Trump speaks to rebel Libyan general attacking Tripoli Dem lawmaker: Mueller report shows 'substantial body of evidence' on obstruction 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 KlobucharSanders announces first endorsements in South Carolina Telehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? 2020 Dems call on Mueller to testify about redacted report MORE (Minn.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Senators press drug industry 'middlemen' over high prices 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.