Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) insinuated Tuesday that President Donald Trump selected Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in an attempt to rig investigations in favor of himself.
Booker (pictured above left) noted during the first day of the nominee’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing that Kavanaugh (pictured above right) was not on a list of potential nominees that Trump posted during the 2016 campaign or an updated listed he released shortly after taking office. Instead, Trump added Kavanaugh and other potential candidates in November 2017.
Booker suggested during his opening statement at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing that the addition is related to independent counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.
“In all of this, we have one judge being chosen who was not on the original list,” Booker said. “He wasn’t on the outsourced Federalist Society original list. He wasn’t on the second version of that list. He got on that list after this special investigation got going. In other words, after the president was in jeopardy.”
Trump, Booker said, “pulled the one person from all of that list — that was added late — that would give him, in a sense, the ability to pick a judge that has already spoken vastly about a president’s ability to be prosecuted, about a president’s ability to dismiss or end an investigation.”
Democrats and progressive activists have focused on Kavanaugh’s views on executive power and privilege, including his contention that burdening a president with civil lawsuits and criminal investigations while still in office can have a detrimental impact on the running of the country.
But no senator has as forcefully made the case, as Booker did, that his appointment resulted from Trump’s desire to protect himself.
John Malcolm, a scholar at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation think tank who has advised the White House on potential judicial nominees, cried foul.
“I thought it was errant nonsense,” he told LifeZette. Malcolm said he is confident that Kavanaugh would have turned down the nomination if the president had dangled it as part of some deal.
“The mere suggestion that this situation is rigged is an offensive suggestion,” he said.
Malcolm said he views statements by Booker and some other Democrats as an “unofficial announcement” of their intention to run for president.
In his mini-speech — which dragged on well beyond his allotted 10 minutes — Booker said he opposes Kavanaugh’s nomination not just because of his judicial views but the “perverse process by which it came forward.”
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Booker said Kavanaugh should recuse himself from any case involving Trump.
“This is not manufactured outrage,” he said. “This is sincere concern for a process that seems wrong and just not objective and fair.”
But Malcolm said Kavanaugh would have no ethical obligation to bow out of cases involving Trump. He said the framers gave justices lifetime appointments in order to free them of political considerations.
He noted that the Supreme Court in the 1970s voted unanimously to order then-President Richard Nixon to turn over tape recordings in the Oval Office during the Watergate investigation — even though Nixon had appointed four of those justices.
Likewise, Malcolm added, the high court voted unanimously in the 1990s to require then-President Bill Clinton to be questioned under oath by lawyers representing Paula Jones in her sexual harassment lawsuit. The unanimous ruling included two Clinton-appointed justices.
“Not only is there no precedent [for a justice recusing under those circumstances, but] these justices have shown they can be independent,” he said.
The hearing resumes Wednesday with Kavanaugh submitting to what is expected to be intensive, often hostile questioning by committee Democrats, led by ranking minority member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Booker and another California Democrat on the panel, Sen. Kamala Harris, are likely 2020 seekers of the Democratic presidential nomination and thus will use their time questioning Kavanaugh to pitch their party’s left-wing base of workers and donors.