Democrats unsuccessfully move to adjourn Kavanaugh's Senate hearings: "What are we trying to hide?"

More than 40,000 pages of Kavanaugh documents were released in the final hours before confirmation hearings began

Published September 4, 2018 12:45PM (EDT)

Brett Kavanaugh (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Brett Kavanaugh (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats unsuccessfully called for a delay in the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump's nominee to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, after the lawyer for former President George W. Bush released more than 42,000 pages of documents late Monday related to Kavanaugh's work as a lawyer in the Bush White House.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) began a round of objections moments after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) tried to open hearings Tuesday morning. Harris said Democrats received thousands of documents related to Kavanaugh that they have not had time to review.

"We cannot possibly move forward. We have not had an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing," she said. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also objected, as did Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), while Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) appealed to Grassley's "sense of decency and integrity."

"We are rushing through this process in a way that is unnecessary," Booker said.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked, "What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?"

NBC News reported that the Senate Democrats efforts to protest and delay the confirmation hearings of Kavanaugh were "coordinated and agreed to over the weekend."

The Democratic opposition follows the news that more than 40,000 pages of documents related to Kavanaugh were released hours before the start of his confirmation hearings were scheduled to begin, The Washington Post reported Monday night.

William A Burck, the lawyer representing Bush, told Grassley that the documents, which were retrieved by the National Archives, should be treated as "committee confidential," according to the Washington Post. The newspaper noted that the 5,148 documents totaled 42,390 pages.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued an outraged statement regarding the timing of the release. "The Senate was just given an additional 42,000 pages of Kavanaugh documents the NIGHT BEFORE his confirmation hearing," Schumer wrote on Twitter Monday night. "This underscores just how absurd this process is. Not a single senator will be able to review these records before tomorrow."

In a second tweet, Schumer added, "Republicans know this has been the least transparent SCOTUS process in history," and called for the hearings to be delayed until lawmakers can fully review Kavanaugh's documents.

The majority staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed back against Schumer late Monday on Twitter, announcing they had completed their review of the newly-released documents related to Kavanaugh "Grassley and his team are prepped and ready for Judge Kavanaugh's hearing to begin," the Senate Judiciary account tweeted. The committee is made up of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

During a Monday night appearance on Fox News, Grassley pushed back against Democrats who alleged the timing of the document dump makes it impossible to go through scrutiny. According to the Iowa Republican, more documents on Kavanaugh have been released than on any other nominee. "This is more documents than the last five Supreme Court nominees have had total," he claimed.

The development comes only days after it was reported that the Trump administration, was withholding from the Senate more than 100,000 pages of records related to Kavanaugh's time as a White House lawyer in the Bush administration. The administration said it was withholding the documents on the basis of executive privilege, The New York Times reported.

Kavanaugh's hearings were scheduled to begin Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. ET and are expected to last four days, so members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will have additional time to review the records before a vote is taken on sending Trump's nomination nomination to the full Senate later this month. Questioning of Kavanaugh will not begin until Wednesday.

Information on the subject matter of the documents has not been released, and Bush's lawyer asked that the records be kept from the public and made available only to committee members and staff, The Washington Post reported.

Kavanaugh is Trump's second Supreme Court nominee. He has been chosen to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy. If confirmed, Trump's choice would secure the high court's conservative majority and continue the president's aggressive push to move the federal judiciary to the right.

"Throughout legal circles, he is considered a judge's judge, a true thought leader among his peers," Trump said of Kavanaugh. "He is a brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style, universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time. And just like Justice Gorsuch, he excelled as a clerk for Justice Kennedy."

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By Shira Tarlo

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