Senator Susan Collins sided with her Republican colleagues in attempting to exclude thousands of records from President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s time at the White House from consideration before his nomination is heard before the Senate. The documents could include key information on his stances on sensitive issues including torture and mass surveillance.
“I don’t see a need for those,” Sen. Collins told the Huffington Post on Tuesday after Senate Democrats requested last week to review additional emails and other documents from a three-year period during Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush administration.
Collins, who was one of only five Republicans to vote to confirm President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, did so only after Senate Republicans demanded an in-depth vetting of Kagan’s record from when she worked for the Clinton administration.
“Determining a nominee’s fitness to serve a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court is one of the most critical and consequential responsibilities that any senator faces,” Sen. Collins said during Kagan’s confirmation hearings in 2010.
Advocates were hoping that Collins would apply the same scrutiny when she considers Kavanaugh.
“When Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court, Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Patrick Leahy and ranking member Senator Jeff Sessions made a bipartisan request for the full record of her work in the Clinton White House,” said Eliza Townsend of the Maine’s Women Lobby. “That was an appropriate request, and it is appropriate for the committee to do the same for Brett Kavanaugh.”
Last Friday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Texas requesting documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure as White House legal counsel from 2001 to 2003.
Grassley, however, denied the Senate Democrats’ request for additional documents from Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary to President George W. Bush from 2003 to 2006—a period when Kavanaugh may have a played a high-level role in shaping the administration’s positions on enhanced interrogation and warrantless wiretapping programs.
“The document request that Senator Grassley has made is very comprehensive,” Sen. Collins said of the records, which will not account for Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley is a gatekeeper of the documents the Senate will review during confirmation hearings. Senate Democrats say Grassley’s rejection of their request is a departure from past bipartisan document requests from the Judiciary Committee.
Collin’s lack of interest in learning about Kavanaugh’s full record is disconcerting to some advocates, who feel this is another indicator that she will vote in line with Senate leadership and seat Kavanaugh, who was selected from a list of jurists compiled by the conservative Federalist Society. Collins has voted for judicial nominees put forward by Republican presidents nearly 99 percent of the time, according to a Boston Globe analysis.
Advocates are keeping pressure on Maine’s senior senator and calling on her to allow the public to see Kavanaugh’s full record during the Bush administration. With the GOP holding just a 51-49 majority in the Senate, they are hoping Collins, or Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both more centrist Republicans, may be swayed to block the nomination of Kavanaugh, given his extreme stances on abortion rights and other issues.
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“Judge Kavanaugh has said that his time as staff secretary to President Bush is useful to him as a judge,” said Townsend, who along with 20 other organizations, helped organize a rally at the Maine State House on July 28 demanding Collins not seat Kavanaugh. “We, the American people, deserve to know what issues he worked on for President Bush and how he handled them.”
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are attempt to bypass the Judiciary Committee by requesting Kavanagh’s records be released by former President Bush himself.
“My purpose is to ask you to authorize that the complete record of Judge Kavanaugh’s service in the White House be made public so that all Americans can be informed about this nomination and the Senate can fulfill its constitutional advice and consent obligations,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a letter to President Bush.
The Presidential Records Act allows a former president or his aides special access to the papers, which usually remain private until 12 years after the president leaves office.
(Photo via Senator Claire McCaskill/Flickr)