Published 3:08 p.m. UTC Sep 6, 2018
WASHINGTON – Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was back before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday for the second day of hearings that are continuing well into the night.
This time, though, Kavanaugh was able to respond to questions and the public was able to hear directly from him on several key topics.
Kavanaugh, an appeals court judge nominated for the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump, answered senators' questions on high-profile issues ranging from abortion to gun control to presidential power.
Here's a look at what the judge had to say on some of the most controversial issues as the day went on.
First, the protests
A coalition of groups opposing Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination urged activists across America to travel to Washington to disrupt his Senate confirmation hearings this week, and many answered the call.
Capitol police arrested 70 people for outbursts and disruptions during Kavanaugh's hearing Tuesday – and the protests continued during his testimony Wednesday.
The protests were so constant that Wednesday's hearing assumed a decidedly halting cadence, and senators expressed frustration at the interruptions. Police temporarily closed off the hearing from additional spectators at one point, leaving some seats empty.
Roe vs. Wade is 'important precedent'
Kavanaugh is a devout Catholic and some abortion rights advocates fear he could become the deciding vote that overturns Roe vs. Wade – the landmark 1973 case that decided women have a constitutional right to an abortion.
"It has been reported that you have said that Roe is now settled law," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said to the judge. "What do you mean by settled law? Do you believe it is correct law?"
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Kavanaugh said the case "is an important precedent of the Supreme Court that has been reaffirmed many times."
He said the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood vs. Casey had created "precedent upon precedent" by clearly reaffirming Roe in ruling that "matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime ... are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment."
Kavanaugh also told Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that "my personal beliefs are not relevant to how I decide cases."
Won't say if a president can pardon himself
Democrats tried to get Kavanaugh's to say how he might rule if matters relating to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation implicate the president.
He would not say if he believes a sitting president has the right to refuse to answer a subpoena or to pardon himself, as Trump has said he has the right to do. Kavanaugh called it a "hypothetical question.
When asked if he would owe loyalty to President Donald Trump, Kavanaugh said his loyalty would be to the Constitution.
"No one is above the law in our constitutional system," he said.
And he praised the landmark Supreme Court ruling that President Richard Nixon was required to turn over White House tape recordings and other evidence related to the Watergate scandal.
Explains his dissent in gun control case
Kavanaugh defended his dissent in a key 2011 gun control case before the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The majority of judges upheld Washington, D.C.'s, gun registration law and its ban on semi-automatic weapons, which the city classified as assault weapons.
Kavanaugh said he based his dissent on a Supreme Court ruling that "dangerous and unusual weapons" – such as machine guns – could be banned. But he said he didn't see semi-automatic rifles as "unusual."
"Handguns and semi-automatic rifles are weapons used for hunting and self-defense," he said. "That’s what makes this issue difficult."
What about Trump tweets?
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona tried not once, but twice, to engage Kavanaugh in questions arising from one of President Donald Trump's tweets, but the Supreme Court nominee declined to respond.
Flake said he was concerned about the executive branch and asked whether a president should be able to use his authority to carry out directives for political gain. He specifically referred to Trump's tweet against Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday, where he complained that criminal charges against two Republican congressmen could hurt the party in the midterm election.
Kavanaugh said maintaining judicial independence "requires me to avoid commenting on current events."
Flake then took Trump out of the question. Kavanaugh still declined to engage in a hypothetical he said closely resembled the earlier one.
Contributing: Nathan Bomey, Associated Press