Durbin Meets with Kavanaugh, Calls for More Docs

Senate minority whip repeats every Democratic opposition meme as September 4 confirmation hearing draws closer

Image Credit: Al Drago/Getty Images

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday he doubts Democrats can prevent confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“I want to make clear,” Durbin (pictured above) told a crowd of reporters after meeting with Kavanaugh, “if we used every single minute of every single hour of every day under the rules, there would come a time when there would ultimately be a vote. And if the American people are still in the dark over 35 months of this man’s public service at the highest levels of government, shame on us.

“Simply delaying it for a matter of days or weeks doesn’t answer the basic question — What is it about the documentation coming from Brett Kavanaugh and these 35 months that Republican are so afraid to show us?”

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Durbin was referring to the estimated 1 million documents he and other Senate Democrats are demanding Trump provide to the Senate Judiciary Committee from Kavanaugh’s years of working in the White House for President George W. Bush.

Durbin said he won’t decide his vote until after Kavanaugh’s hearing, which begins September 4.

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Durbin is the latest of a handful of Senate Democrats to meet with Kavanaugh, thus defying Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s opposition strategy of refusing the traditional confabs.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) were the first Democrats to meet with Kavanaugh.

“What you see here in the blacked-out months is what I call the black hole in Brett Kavanaugh’s record,” Durbin said while pointing at a premade chart. “[It’s] some 35 months as staff secretary to the president, which the Republicans refuse to share with the American people and allow this committee to review.”

Related: Schumer Finally Meets with Trump’s Supreme Court Pick

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Kavanaugh supposedly said during the meeting that he did not create the standards for disclosure of those documents. Durbin decided to follow up by asking him about issues he worked on while serving as staff secretary, such as same-sex marriage, abortion,  the Iraq War, and abuses against detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison.

“The point I’m making here is that 35 months of time where Brett Kavanaugh served as staff secretary to President Bush was a period of time that was rife with issues of great constitutional moments,” he said.

“It’s the reason the American people have a right to know what he said, how he advised the president, what he wrote. Those are things that the Republicans are hiding from the American people,” Durbin added.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and other Republicans see the Democrats’ demand as nothing more than an attempt to delay the nomination process until after the midterm elections in November. Democrats would then potentially be in a position to block the nomination if they regain control of the Senate.

The conviction of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on eight counts related to bank and tax fraud, along with former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen’s plea deal with federal prosecutors, has also opened the door to another delay tactic, with Schumer claiming the nomination should be put on hold until all related legal issues in those cases are resolved. Schumer also threatened on August 16 to sue the National Archives for the Bush-era documents.

“The last point I want to raise with you is one I raised with him that is timely,” Durbin said. “The prosecution and conviction of Paul Manafort and the guilty plea agreement with Michael Cohen. The issue is the vulnerability or culpability of a sitting president of the United States. And that is an issue where Brett Kavanaugh has changed his position dramatically.”

Related: Schumer Reaches for Kavanaugh Delay with Cohen Plea Deal

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday called the Democrats’ demand “a desperate and pathetic attempt to obstruct a qualified nominee.”  Cohen pleaded guilty to facilitating payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal after they claimed to have engaged in affairs with Trump. The president’s former lawyer now claims he did it at the request of an unnamed candidate, who is presumably Trump.

Democrats elsewhere have continued to resist the nominee by refusing to meet with him, despite the short time remaining before the upcoming recess. Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) held a news conference Tuesday to discuss how his nomination threatens health care for women of color.

Grassley told a judicial committee meeting last week that Kavanaugh submitted the most robust bipartisan committee questionnaire ever, at roughly 17,000 pages. Approximately 250,000 documents from the Bush White House period have already been turned over to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kavanaugh will also be meeting with Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) throughout the day.

A Quinnipiac University Poll found that 44 percent of voters support Kavanaugh’s nomination, while 39 percent oppose him. The survey was conducted from August 9 to 13.

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