WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed today that Democrats are poised to sue to get documents on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh requested through the Freedom of Information Act last week.
Senate Democrats contend that Republicans are trying to conceal documents about Kavanaugh’s career, which stretches back into the Ken Starr investigation, his three years as staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House, and his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Dems argue that their request is identical to the dig Republicans did through the records of nominee Elena Kagan, who was a domestic policy advisor in the Clinton White House and solicitor general under Obama.
Republicans say that the request for millions of documents is a stall tactic intended to derail Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) goal of having a new justice seated by Oct. 1.
Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats last week filed FOIA requests with the National Archives, the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency, giving the agencies until Sept. 6 to comply with the document requests.
At a Capitol Hill press conference today, Schumer declared that “Republican obstruction requires an extraordinary response, and that’s why we are making this FOIA request.”
“And today we’re announcing that we stand ready to sue the National Archives for Judge Kavanaugh’s full records if necessary, if the FOIA request isn’t granted,” he said. “The American people deserve a methodical and thorough examination of a nominee to the Supreme Court who will yield immense influence on their lives.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that the FOIA request “is a last resort.”
“It is unprecedented because this concealing of documents is unprecedented. And when I say concealing of documents, it is literally hiding documents from a relevant period in this nominee’s professional career,” he said. “Not only an instructive, but what he called the most instructive period of his professional life, three years as staff secretary to the president of the United States. The chairman has shattered all the norms, potentially violating the law, but we need these documents to do our job, literally to perform our constitutional duty to thoughtfully and deliberately consider this nomination.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted his thoughts on the document clash with Dems:
Want 2 know the best way 2 evaluate a justice? Ask Sen Schumer “everybody knows” a judge’s record on the bench “is the best way to evaluate a nominee” Good thing Kavanaugh has 12yrs of judic opinions Let’s stop the fishing expedition+review the relevant record ahead of Sept 4 hrg
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) August 16, 2018
Judiciary Republicans say they have 248,000 pages of Executive Branch material related to Kavanaugh, including 64,312 pages just received from the Office of President George W. Bush.
Blumenthal said Democrats “will be ready to go to court” if they don’t get their FOIA requests fulfilled within 20 days.
“I still have hope that they will in fact comply and provide the documents we need independently of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, as they have an obligation to do to members of Congress, just like to the public,” he said. “In fact, there’s a pretty good argument that we have a right to expedite it production of these documents. So the question really here is what are they afraid of the American people seeing? It is not enough that members of our committee see these documents.”
McConnell said on the Senate floor today that the best way to evaluate Kavanaugh would not be through the documents sought by Dems but by rooting through some 300 opinions he’s handed down over 12 years on the federal bench.
“When it was the Supreme Court nominee of a Democratic president, they themselves insisted that judicial opinions were more important than any other papers for evaluating a Supreme Court nominee,” he said.
Schumer added at his press conference, “Ask the American people if getting the full documentation of what Kavanaugh believes is grasping at straws. Because they’re rushing something through in a way that is — is, you know, just such a dereliction of duty and what America is all about.”