Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh

Democrats making a last-ditch effort to block Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court are arguing he misled members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with incomplete or unsatisfactory answers to questions. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) made the pitch publicly to undecided Republicans, arguing that during his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh “evaded” questions, gave “totally unsatisfactory” answers or, in some cases, “offered misleading testimony” and “shaded the truth” about his work in the George W. Bush White House. 

“I urge my colleagues on the other side to scrutinize Judge Kavanaugh’s comments to the Judiciary Committee  … and decide for yourself whether he was completely forthcoming,” Schumer said during a Senate floor speech Wednesday.{mosads}

“Because if a nominee provides false or misleading testimony to a committee that should weigh heavily, very heavily on the minds of every senator when it comes time to vote, to confirm or reject the nominee,” Schumer said. 

The White House has dismissed the comments from Democrats as an attempt to “smear” Kavanaugh. 

But Democrats argue that Kavanaugh’s testimony, as well as “confidential” documents released after the hearing, show that he wasn’t truthful about his work in the Bush White House, where he served as an associate counsel and staff secretary.

“Time and again, on issue after issue, Judge Kavanaugh has misled the Senate, under oath, when a job promotion was on the line. That is disqualifying,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a former committee chairman, said when he announced his opposition to Kavanaugh. 

If confirmed, Kavanaugh, 53, is expected to tilt the court to the right for decades. 

Leahy said he had “never been more concerned” about a Supreme Court nominee’s “willingness and unwillingness to be truthful under oath.” He made the remarks as part of the Senate Democratic weekly address released on Friday.

The allegations from Democrats are just part of a swirl of eleventh-hour drama that has roiled the final weeks of Kavanaugh’s nomination. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of a handful of undecided centrists in both parties, has seen her staff field “vulgar” calls over the nomination. Her office on Thursday received a cardboard cutout in the shape of male genitalia with words “f— you and the donor class you rode in on” written on it.

Kavanaugh’s nomination, meanwhile, is entrapped in the midst of a sexual misconduct allegation over reports of a letter detailing an alleged incident between Trump’s nominee and an unidentified woman, when they were both in high school.

Kavanaugh said Friday that he “categorically and unequivocally” denies the allegation, which liberal outside groups opposed to the nominee say should block his confirmation. 

Democrats, who have otherwise been eager to lambast Kavanaugh, have been silent on the letter, instead focusing on the policy and political implications of confirming Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee. 

Kavanaugh’s nomination is scheduled to come to the Senate floor by the end of the month. 

Democrats can’t block Kavanaugh’s nomination on their own. Democrats would need to win over Collins and one other GOP senator, and keep their own caucus united to prevent his confirmation.

Democrats have focused their allegations, in large part, on Kavanaugh’s work on controversial Bush-era judicial nominations.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) used his latest disclosure of “committee confidential” documents, which have not been cleared for public release, to raise new questions about Kavanaugh’s involvement on circuit court nominee Charles Pickering, who was considered controversial because of his record on civil rights. 

Kavanaugh told senators during his circuit court confirmation hearing that Pickering was “not one of the judicial nominees that I was primarily handling.”

Separately, White House spokesman Raj Shah said that “nothing whatsoever in these emails” contradicts that Kavanaugh wasn’t “primarily” handling the nomination. 

Several emails released by Booker, however, show Kavanaugh discussing Pickering’s nomination with his colleagues, taking part in meetings with Senate staff and drafting an op-ed for a separate Bush administration official defending Pickering. 

Leahy and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) separately seized on Kavanaugh’s work on the nomination of Bill Pryor, who was considered controversial because of his views on Roe v. Wade. 

Kavanaugh, as part of written answers given to the committee, said he was not the primary handler of that nomination for the Bush administration either. 

Shah said Democrats are trying to argue that Kavanaugh having any discussions on a nominee is the same as being the primary person responsible for the nomination within the White House counsel’s office. 

“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,” he said

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) separately remains convinced that Kavanaugh misled the committee during his confirmation for his District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals spot about his work on the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11, 2001, detention and torture policies. 

“What it is it worth for these witnesses to stand before our committee, raise their hand and take an oath, if they then turn around and say things that are not true to us and are not held accountable. Is there any credibility in this committee?” Durbin asked his colleagues during a heated Judiciary Committee meeting. 

Durbin wanted to subpoena White House documents on the issue but was blocked by Republicans. Kavanaugh has said he wasn’t read in on the programs and pointed, as proof, to the fact that he isn’t mentioned in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s so-called torture report. Feinstein’s office has countered that the report “does not address whether Judge Kavanaugh was telling the truth.”

It’s unclear if Democrats can convince moderate senators that Kavanaugh was untruthful. None of the five senators considered swing votes have publicly raised red flags about the issue. 

Collins told the Portland Press Herald after Kavanaugh’s hearing that if he “was not truthful, then obviously that would be a major problem for me.” 

Collins had a one-hour phone call with Kavanaugh on Friday, but her office declined to discuss details of the call. 

In addition to Collins and undecided Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), GOP Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), who is retiring after this year, hasn’t said how he will vote but characterizes himself as “inclined” to back Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), asked if he had concerns about Kavanaugh’s truthfulness, demurred, saying he was “going through all the background stuff.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said the issue had been flagged for review and Manchin’s staff is working on setting up a second meeting with Kavanaugh. 

“That’s been brought to my attention basically, a couple of things that they were concerned about. We’re looking into that to see if there’s any credibility to it,” Manchin said. 

Manchin added that during their late July meeting Kavanaugh seemed “very forthcoming and very open,” but if there is “evidence” that Kavanaugh misled senators that would be “devastating … [but] it’s also just as erroneous to jump to a conclusion.”

Tags Chuck Schumer Cory Booker Dianne Feinstein Dick Durbin Jeff Flake Joe Donnelly Joe Manchin Lisa Murkowski Patrick Leahy Susan Collins

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