Democrats pepper Supreme Court nominee with questions

USA TODAY

Published 9:57 PM EDT Sep 12, 2018

Democrats pepper Supreme Court nominee with questions

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats are demanding written answers from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to more than 1,000 questions following a four-day confirmation hearing last week that elicited more heat than light.

The queries go beyond the law to policy, politics and Kavanaugh's personal life, including his finances and potential benefactors. Several senators sought details on the federal appeals court judge's debt-fueled purchase of baseball tickets and asked if he has been a gambler.

The avalanche of questions follows more than 20 hours of testimony last week and some 17,000 pages of personal backup material submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It represents an escalation of the battle over documents that began after President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh, 53, to replace retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy in July.

“Submitting this many written questions appears to be just one more effort to gum up the process. It’s unnecessary and dilatory, especially when many have already decided to vote against Judge Kavanaugh," committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said. "What more do they need to know to vote ‘no?' "

Each side cites different statistics to label Kavanaugh's nomination transparent or shrouded in secrecy. Republicans note some 500,000 pages of documents have been released, mostly from his tenure as White House associate counsel under President George W. Bush.

But Democrats say millions of pages were withheld from his years as Bush's staff secretary while thousands more were stamped classified by the Trump administration or given to senators on a confidential basis. 

For that reason – and because Kavanaugh refused to answer most questions about his personal opinions and views on Supreme Court cases in his confirmation hearing – all 10 Democrats on the committee sent follow-up questions this week. Grassley claimed the total came to more than was asked of all previous nominees. 

Popular topics included Trump's potential legal woes, abortion, guns, health care and Kavanaugh's years working in the White House and for independent prosecutor Ken Starr. Democrats asked what he knew about topics ranging from the treatment of accused terrorists to the leaking of grand jury testimony about President Bill Clinton.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, one of several former prosecutors on the panel, asked a series of questions about Kavanaugh's financial affairs, including several about gambling. His next question was, "Is lying under oath an impeachable offense for an Article Three judge?"

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware asked whether Trump has been truthful or has said anything Kavanaugh condemns. He asked if all the nominee's statements have been accurate and truthful, or whether he may have answered any questions in "a certain way to avoid disclosing relevant information."

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois noted that Kavanaugh acknowledged being "a little biased" in favor of a proposal he made to speed up judicial nominations. "In order to alleviate concerns about such bias, please provide a list of all proposals you helped work on while you were at the Bush White House," Durbin wrote.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut began his list of questions with two actions that gained attention during the committee hearing – Kavanaugh's reference to a religious group's description of contraceptives as "abortion-inducing drugs" and a claim by the father of a student killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting that Kavanaugh ignored his outstretched hand.

Trump was a favorite subject of Democrats' questioning, both at the hearing and in their written questions. Blumenthal attached a list of Trump's tweets attacking judges and asked Kavanaugh, "Which statements do you agree with? Which statements do you disagree with?"

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