Senate Democrats Want to Talk Transparency? Let's Talk About MemoGate
During Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing last week, there was a bitter showdown between Democrats and Republicans over tens of thousands of documents from the judge's time as a top aide in the Bush White House. Democrats insisted the public has a right to see every single document from the judge's past.
Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) said he was willing to risk expulsion from the Senate for making the confidential documents public (even though the ones in question had already been cleared for release). His Democratic colleagues backed him up.
“Count me in too…. I am releasing that document to the press and I would defy anyone reading this document to be able to conclude that this should be deemed confidential in any way, shape or form,” said Senator Hirono.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called the "confidential" designation of the docs "bogus" and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) gave Booker her full support, demanding that "every single document" be made available to review.
"This confirmation is too important for us to conceal documents that may reveal the nominee's views and I think we shouldn't be proceeding under these grounds,” Senator Coons (D-DE) agreed.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) really stuck his neck out: “And I just want to say to my colleagues, particularly my colleague from New Jersey, I completely agree with you. I concur with what you are doing and let's jump into this pit together. And I hope my other colleagues will join me. So if there's going to be some retribution against the senator from New Jersey, count me in. I want to be part of this process.”
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) tweeted: “For the record, I used text of so-called 'committee confidential' documents in my opening statement on #Kavanaugh. I did not seek 'permission' because I think the designation was invalid and without legal effect.”
And Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) tweeted: "I stand with Senator @MazieHirono and Senator @CoryBooker. Senate Republicans’ abuse of committee confidentiality has kept 190,000 pages of Judge Kavanaugh’s record needlessly hidden from the American people. It’s a sham. What more are Republicans hiding? Enough!"
It's safe to say that in 2018, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are all about being open and transparent when it comes to releasing sensitive documents. But they weren't always that way.
In 2003, when a Republican staffer discovered a cache of confidential Democrat communications on the committee's single computer network and leaked the scandalous contents to the Wall Street Journal, it became the scandal of the decade and was dubbed "MemoGate." Even though the network was shared by both Republican and Democrat staff and the Democrat papers had been "freely accessible for some time," the staffer was accused of stealing and even hacking the information.