It’s another hot and humid day outside on Capitol Hill, and it is expected to be a long and at times heated atmosphere inside, as the Senate Judiciary Committee questions federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is President Donald Trump’s choice to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The first day was punctuated by frequent outbursts from people in the audience, as the Capitol Police hauled out over six dozen different demonstrators, who interrupted Senators in both parties, but mainly aimed their barbs at GOP Senators.
10:09 pm – The gavel sounds, and the second day of the Kavanaugh hearing is over. Senators – and the nominee – will be back at 9:30 am for more on Thursday. My read as of now is that Kavanaugh is on track for confirmation. But there are some odd threads out there – documents still to be revealed, this question about the Mueller probe brought up by Sen. Harris, which could keep things going on Thursday.
9:50 pm – Here’s the exchange between Harris and Kavanaugh.
9:30 pm – An odd moment just now in the hearing, as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asks Kavanaugh if he spoke about the Mueller investigation with people who work at the law firm which represents President Trump – Harris made it sound like she knew the answer; Kavanaugh said he didn’t know everyone who worked at that firm. After getting no answer, Harris moved on.
9:20 pm – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) comes out of the hearing room to give his Twitter followers an update.
9:05 pm – Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) brings up the issue of TV cameras in the Supreme Court. As a reporter, I doubt that I will ever see that, but Kavanaugh seems slightly open to the idea, maybe he says for the announcement of decisions.
8:45 pm – The hearing is still chugging along. And more documents are being released about Kavanaugh, as emails from his time at the Bush White House are now being made available. A quick look through them showed emails about lunch and various meetings – but maybe you will find more.
7:40 pm – Protesters are still outside, gathered on the lawn of the Capitol, rallying to “Stop Kavanaugh”
7:10 pm – Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) pestered Kavanaugh for almost the entirety of her thirty minutes of questioning, raising a wide variety of subjects, pressing him on sexual harassment in the Judicial Branch, accusing him of ruling regularly against workers, and even raising questions about native people in Alaska and Hawaii. For the first time on this long day, Kavanaugh sounds like he’s gritting his teeth a little. “Senator, I stand by my record,” Kavanaugh said. “My opinions speak for themselves, and I’m very proud of them.”
6:25 pm – Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) asks Kavanaugh about President Trump’s tweet from Monday, where he criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for allowing the indictment of two GOP lawmakers to proceed in an election year. Kavanaugh refuses to comment, saying he should not get involved in current events.
6:15 pm – For those wondering, there have still been a number of people removed today from the hearing room, but the outbursts have had little impact on the proceedings – and it seems that some Democrats probably wish that the tactic would end as well.
5:45 pm – Kavanaugh goes through an extended legal sparring session with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a sharp critic of President Trump. Blumenthal started his question session of raising the possibility that a case involving the President could come before the Supreme Court – with Kavanaugh on the bench. “We’re in uncharted territory here,” Blumenthal said, asking Kavanaugh to recuse himself. Kavanaugh refused.
5:00 pm – Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) follows up on some of the questions that Sen. Coons had pressed on with Kavanaugh, starting with a hypothetical about a future President who decides to drive drunk and kills someone. Kavanaugh – who doesn’t like hypotheticals – says that President would not be immune from the law.
4:30 pm – As Washington tries to figure out who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, Judge Kavanaugh is fencing with Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), who is repeatedly pressing for insight on how Kavanaugh might deal with limits on Executive power, and questions of investigations of a President. Kavanaugh says his Minnesota Law Review article was a suggestion to Congress, not his opinion, as he tells Coons, “I have not taken a position on constitutionality.” Coons isn’t satisfied.
3:50 pm – Some questions are tougher than others. Opening question of Sen Ted Cruz R-TX to Kavanaugh: “What makes a good judge?”
3:40 pm – For my ham radio friends, Judge Kavanaugh just referenced an opinion he wrote in a case involving the American Radio Relay League, the largest organization representing amateur radio operators in the United States. Kavanaugh was being asked about his rulings on government regulations.
3:25 pm – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) presses Kavanaugh on an article written for the Minnesota Law Review during the Obama Administration, in which the Judge suggested that Congress should pass a law that does not allow investigations of a sitting President. Kavanaugh said he did “not take a position” in that article, but a lot of Democrats see it much differently. You can read it at this link.
3:00 pm – Some questions are tougher than others.
2:55 pm – Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly side stepped questions from Senators – especially Democrats – when it comes to hypotheticals about possible cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, on investigations of Presidents and more. But just now in an exchange with Sen. Mike Lee (R-IN), Kavanaugh answered a hypothetical.
2:20 pm – President Trump now weighing on the Kavanaugh hearings, saying he watched part of it this morning. “I’m happy with the Kavanaugh hearings… He’s an outstanding intellect, he’s an outstanding judge.”
2:15 pm – While the Kavanaugh hearing grinds on, outside groups and Senators are making it very clear where they stand on Judge Kavanaugh – but there is no evidence that the dynamic of this nomination has been changed in any way so far.
1:57 pm – Kavanaugh is asked directly about the issue of how he would rule on questions dealing with insurance company coverage of pre-existing medical conditions. Kavanaugh refuses to answer, saying he went back as far as the hearings for Justice Thurgood Marshall, to say that nominees can not be forced to talk about hypothetical court cases.
1:37 pm – After Kavanaugh testified earlier today that his view changed on investigations of Presidents after Nine Eleven, he’s now been asked by several GOP Senators about where he was on Nine Eleven, when Kavanaugh worked at the White House. “The threat still exists, of course.”
1:25 pm – It’s clear from Twitter that other Senators are watching this hearing. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) is obviously not impressed with the answers of the nominee when it comes to how he would deal with investigations of a President.
1:20 pm – For one of the few times so far in this hearing, Kavanaugh crossed swords with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), as Durbin criticized Kavanaugh over one of his decisions. “I have no agenda in any direction,” Kavanaugh said. “I’m a judge.” But Durbin scoffed at that. “I’m just a judge, I’m just follow precedent,” Durbin said. “Gosh, we’ve heard that so often,” his voice dripping with skepticism.
1:10 pm – Angered by how some documents are being held back as ‘committee confidential,’ Democrats have stepped up their criticism of Republicans, hinting that the GOP is hiding things about Kavanaugh’s time working for the Bush White House. On the floor, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer denounced the GOP, and objected to a normal request for the Judiciary Committee to meet while the Senate is in session. Because of that objection, Senate Republicans moved to adjourn the Senate for the day, so that the Judiciary Committee’s hearing wouldn’t have to be cut short.
12:25 pm – Along with being asked about whether a President can be subpoenaed in a criminal proceeding, Judge Kavanaugh was asked if a President could pardon himself. Kavanaugh also sidestepped that question.
12:15 pm – The Senate Judiciary Committee breaks for lunch. There were no electric moments in the first morning of questions for Judge Kavanaugh, but look for more of the same the rest of today.
11:45 am – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) now doing some defense work for Kavanaugh after the Leahy questions. “You will probably get about 55 votes,” Graham says. “In other times, someone like you would probably get 90 votes.” Graham also mentioned the father of a girl killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting. Yesterday, the father tried to shake Kavanaugh’s hand, but the judge turned away.
11:35 am – What Leahy is alleging is that a Republican staffer on Capitol Hill had somehow been able to get information from Leahy during past judicial confirmation fights in the Bush Administration, and sent that on to officials at the White House, including Kavanaugh. Leahy says the information was ‘stolen.’
11:20 am – Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is taking Kavanaugh through an email chain that seemingly contains a draft letter authored by Leahy and other Democratic Senators, as Leahy makes the case that Kavanaugh – working at the time in the Bush White House – was receiving information supposedly stolen by GOP staffers on Capitol Hill. While the Q&A is interesting, it’s not what some Democratic strategists want Senators spending time on in the hearing.
11:05 am – One thing that is notable about Judge Kavanaugh – despite all of the political controversy surrounding his nomination, the Judge has the respect of a number of people on the Democratic side of the ball. This from Neal Katyal, a stern critic of President Trump, and a former Acting Solicitor General in the Obama Administration.
11:00 am – The hearing is going about as one might expect at this point. Democrats have been bringing up more hot-button political issues like gun control, abortion, and investigations of a President, while Republicans have been lobbing hanging curve balls, giving Kavanaugh the chance to talk about his record and experience as a judge. That’s not a criticism of the GOP – the Democrats would do exactly the same if this was their nominee before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
10:45 am – Feinstein kept pressing Kavanaugh further on the issue of investigating a President, reminding him that he had been in an aggressive prosecutorial role in the Starr investigation, but wrote a law review article during the Obama Administration which said Congress should move to preclude criminal investigations of a President. With obvious overtones of the ongoing Trump-Russia probe, Feinstein asked if a President could be subjected to a criminal subpoena. Kavanaugh did not give a direct answer.
10:30 am – Asked about his seeming shift in opinion on investigations of a President, Kavanaugh says he suggested to the Congress that investigations of a President be limited because of what Kavanaugh said he saw in the aftermath of the Nine Eleven attacks. Pressed further, Kavanaugh says he believes U.S. v. Nixon was decided correctly. “I have said that holding is one of the four greatest moments in Supreme Court history.”
10:25 am – Feinstein then shifts into abortion, and Roe v. Wade. “What do you mean by settled law?”
10:20 am – Feinstein and Kavanaugh are circling each other on gun control, as Feinstein presses the judge on how far the courts can go in terms of gun restrictions. “I had to follow the precedent of the Supreme Court in that case,” Kavanaugh said, defending his decision on an assault weapons ban case. Kavanaugh notes that he grew up in an urban area, referring directly to gun violence in DC. “This was known as the murder capital of the world”
10:15 am – For now, things are quiet in the hearing room, as police seem to have put a hold on allowing the public into the Kavanaugh hearing.
10:08 am – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is the first Democrat to ask questions of Kavanaugh. She tells him right away that she will ask about gun control and abortion.
10:00 am – As a veteran reporter, you get a gut feeling about things happening in the Congress. Right now, I don’t sense that Kavanaugh is in any danger of being rejected by the U.S. Senate. But these confirmation hearings are done for a reason – it’s why they play the games on Saturdays and Sundays. Sometimes the favorite in a big football game doesn’t win. But Kavanaugh seems more than ready for this hearing. Time will tell.
9:55 am – Kavanaugh has not been flustered by the yelling behind him in the committee room. Each time a demonstrator starts yelling, the Supreme Court nominee has paused, but then continued his testimony.
9:50 am – Kavanaugh: “No one is above the law in our constitutional system.”
9:45 am – Sen. Grassley offers up a hanging curve ball to Judge Kavanaugh to kick off the Q&A, asking what makes a good judge. “I think the first quality of a good judge in our constitutional system is independence,” as protesters began shouting before Kavanaugh could finish his first sentence. Kavanaugh several times noted the importance of decisions like U.S. vs. Nixon, where the court ordered President Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes.
9:37 am – It only took about 90 seconds for the disruptions to start in the hearing room, as several people began shouting at Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), and were then hauled out of the hearing room. Pretty soon, there might not be any seats for the public if things keep going like this.
9:25 am – As Senators arrive for this hearing, it’s not the only big news of the day on Capitol Hill. The Senate Intelligence Committee is also likely to make some news, as the heads of Facebook and Twitter testify about how those social media platforms have toughened their ability to block foreign adversaries who are trying to influence the 2018 elections.
9:15 am – The line is not as long as on Tuesday, but people are lining up in one of the parks next to the Senate office buildings, waiting for the chance to go through security, and then into the Hart Senate Office Building for the hearing. (One note – the building is *not* named for former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO), but rather for Sen. Philip Hart (D-MI), who died of cancer in 1976.