Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked the National Archives Tuesday to release a cache of documents from Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s service in the George W. Bush White House.
The request tracks Democratic promises to scrutinize Kavanaugh even after his confirmation to the Supreme Court.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee received only a small fraction of Justice Kavanaugh’s White House records before voting on his nomination,” Democratic Reps. Jerry Nadler and Henry Johnson wrote in a letter to the Archives. Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee, while Johnson leads a subcommittee that oversees the federal bench.
“Now and as always, the Court’s fidelity to the principles of equal and impartial justice, as well as the public’s faith in the integrity of the judiciary, are foundational to maintaining the rule of law,” the pair wrote elsewhere.
Kavanaugh held two positions in the Bush administration. From 2001 to 2003 he was a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office. Thereafter, he served as staff secretary until his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2006. The National Archives has finished processing records from Kavanaugh’s tenure as White House counsel, according to the Nadler-Johnson letter. Additional items will be available pursuant to the Presidential Records Act beginning in 2021.
The letter asks for records relating to Kavanaugh’s tenure in both posts. Democrats asked the Archives to produce documents from Kavanaugh’s service in the White House counsel’s office, and to release records from his staff secretary files on a rolling basis as they become available.
“Chairman Nadler’s request is so far outside the scope of judicial ethics, it’s harassment,” said Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “Senate Democrats spent months launching false accusations in an attempt to smear Justice Kavanaugh’s reputation and block his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and now House Democrats want to follow suit with yet another fishing expedition to tarnish his good name.”
Democrats say they are seeking the justice’s records in connection with the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction over judicial ethics and disqualification. The letter notes a House subcommittee recently held a hearing on transparency in the federal courts, while lawmakers are considering legislation that would impose a code of conduct on the justices.
Though the Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed much of Kavanaugh’s work as a White House lawyer, most of his staff secretary records were not made public. The staff secretary manages the president’s paper flow. During Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation, Senate Republicans said the production of those documents — some 2.9 million pages — would not be productive. Mundane items like proclamations or schedules would not be especially probative, the GOP said, while memoranda dealing with the military and national security could be too sensitive for public consumption.
Democrats countered that the staff secretary does serious, substantive work as the last control point for information presented to the president.
At least one member of the Judiciary Committee has suggested the panel should investigate Kavanaugh for perjury. Democrats have put forward various theories as to how Kavanaugh allegedly perjured himself while testifying during this Supreme Court nomination.
Kavanaugh has kept a low profile since joining the high court in October 2018.
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