On Monday, the National Archives released a memo from Brett Kavanaugh proposing graphic sex questions to then-President Bill Clinton involving Monica Lewinsky. Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, urged independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s legal team not to give Clinton any “break” on the issue. Liberals pounced on the memo as evidence of a double standard between Trump and Clinton.
“I am strongly opposed to giving the President any ‘break’ in the questioning regarding the details of the Lewinsky relationship — unless before his questioning on Monday, he either (i) resigns or (ii) confesses perjury and issues a public apology to you,” Kavanaugh wrote in a two-page memo to Starr’s team, two days before Clinton’s grand jury testimony in 1998. The Washington Post first reported the memo.
Kavanaugh claimed to have tried to defend Clinton, but could find no justification for the former president’s behavior. “I have tried to bend over backwards and to be fair to him and to think of all reasonable defenses to his pattern of behavior. In the end, I am convinced that there really are none. The idea of going easy on hm at the questioning is thus abhorrent to me,” the lawyer wrote.
“The President has disgraced his Office, the legal system, and the American people by having sex with a 22-year-old intern and turning her life into a shambles — callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle,” Kavanaugh wrote. “He has tried to disgrace you and this Office with a sustained propaganda campaign that would make Nixon blush.”
Kavanaugh’s memo went on to ask graphic sexual questions about Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky.
“If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?” Kavanaugh wrote in a proposed question to Clinton. “If Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions in the Oval Office area, you used your fingers to stimulate her vagina and bring her to orgasm, would she be lying?”
“If Monica Lewinsky says that she gave you oral sex on nine occasions in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”
Liberals pounced on what they claimed to be a double standard between this line of questioning and Kavanaugh’s presumed silence on President Donald Trump’s indiscretions.
“Brett Kavanaugh wanted to ask Clinton if he ejaculated into Monica Lewinsky’s mouth 9 times, & if he masturbating in his secretary’s trash can. Does he think current president should be asked about his sex acts, which he paid women to be silent about?” tweeted Michelangelo Signorile, editor-at-large at HuffPost.
Brett Kavanaugh wanted to ask Clinton if he ejaculated into Monica Lewinsky’s mouth 9 times, & if he masturbating in his secretary’s trash can.
Does he think current president should be asked about his sex acts, which he paid women to be silent about? https://t.co/YMEzjoZM6K
— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) August 20, 2018
“Republican hypocrites like Brett Kavanaugh wanted Clinton to resign over his affair but defend Trump as he pays $280,000 to porn stars and Playboy playmates, brags about ‘pussy grabbing’ and adultery, and dozens of women accuse him of sexual misconduct,” CNN political commentator Keith Boykin tweeted.
Republican hypocrites like Brett Kavanaugh wanted Clinton to resign over his affair but defend Trump as he pays $280,000 to porn stars and Playboy playmates, brags about "pussy grabbing" and adultery, and dozens of women accuse him of sexual misconduct. https://t.co/E98me7adgr pic.twitter.com/808hqgo18y
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) August 20, 2018
Josh Marshall, editor and publisher of Talking Points Memo, wrote that Kavanaugh is a “first rate hypocrite” because he defended presidential immunity from judicial subpoenas shortly after writing this scathing letter. Kavanaugh charged that Clinton “has required the urgent attention of the courts and the Supreme Court for frivolous privilege claims.”
Months after writing this letter, Kavanaugh would suggest that U.S. v. Nixon (1974) may have been wrongly decided, because it ordered the president to turn over documents under a judicial subpoena, like the Starr investigation did to Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh calling the very presidential privilege he would later support expanding “frivolous” seems hypocritical.
But Marshall went too far in his attack. The Talking Points Memo editor argued that the letter reveals “clearly the voice of someone who simply hated president Clinton.” He went on to conclude, “For his whole career, Kavanaugh has believed in maximal presidential power. Unless it’s a Democrat, unless it’s a president he opposes.”
Interestingly, when Kavanaugh suggested that U.S. v. Nixon be overturned, Clinton was still president. Perhaps a presidential privilege that was “frivolous” after U.S. v. Nixon would no longer be frivolous if that case were overturned. In other words, it is not necessarily hypocritical for Kavanaugh to use the law against Clinton and then later argue that the law should be changed — even while Clinton was still president. The judge did not necessarily alter his position, he did his job with the current legal system, and then later advocated for changing it.
Democrats have been demanding the full release of records involving Kavanaugh, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) arguing that “documents are key to understanding Kavanaugh’s views on issues and whether or not he misled the Senate to get his current job.”
The New York Times editorial board explains the importance of our fight for Brett Kavanaugh’s records. Documents are key to understanding Kavanaugh’s views on issues and whether or not he misled the Senate to get his current job. https://t.co/VZyZ7iaLCs #WhatAreTheyHiding
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) August 20, 2018
The release of more documents seems a reasonable request, and this particular document suggests that the more documents will come out, the better Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will end up looking.
Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), tweeted his appreciation for the released document, which he described as Democrat opposition research. “The best part about this oppo is the level of lib self-ownership involved,” Holmes tweeted. “How dare Kavanaugh accurately depict something Bill Clinton actually did and lied about in the oval office with an intern!”
The best part about this oppo is the level of lib self-ownership involved. How dare Kavanaugh accurately depict something Bill Clinton actually did and lied about in the oval office with an intern! https://t.co/TsThpn3AyQ
— Josh Holmes (@HolmesJosh) August 20, 2018
Director and producer Robby Starbuck said the document “makes me like Kavanaugh even more.” He remarked, “I’m surprised it’s being used as a hit piece when he acknowledges Monica Lewinsky as a victim and the unscrupulous use of power by President Clinton.”
This Memo from Brett Kavanaugh regarding Bill Clinton’s conduct is kind of amazing. I’m surprised it’s being used as a hit piece when he acknowledges Monica Lewinsky as a victim and the unscrupulous use of power by President Clinton. It makes me like Kavanaugh even more. pic.twitter.com/6WXpmj8rvA
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) August 20, 2018
Democrat congressmen and congresswomen have not yet used the new document to attack Kavanaugh, but they likely will.
When they echo the arguments about a “double standard” between Trump and Clinton, Republicans should counter that while President Donald Trump has a sordid history with women, he has never taken advantage of an intern in the Oval Office. Trump’s affairs are bad, but Clinton’s are arguably far worse, especially when it comes to bringing direct disgrace on the office of the presidency.
Follow Tyler O’Neil on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.