Day 4 of Kavanaugh confirmation hearing underway
Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) — After three days of senators sparring, and sharp questions for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, his confirmation hearing continued Friday with legal experts and outside witnesses, including former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean.
Day four — which is designed not to change minds, but to buttress already firmly-held positions — began with a show of decorum on both sides, and with few interruptions from protesters as had happened frequently when Kavanaugh testified.
Among the experts were law professors and Kavanaugh’s colleagues in the legal world, Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, Parkland student Aalayah Eastmond, and a disability rights advocate.
Delving deep into the specific implications of key decisions in cases that mark Kavanaugh’s long career as a judge, the experts offered a picture of two different men. One Kavanaugh — a brilliant, “scrupulously balanced” jurist, teacher, loyal friend, and champion of diversity. The other Kavanaugh — the radical judge who is an existential threat to women’s reproductive health, minorities of all stripes, and who “represents a grave legal danger,” according to Richmond.
Witnesses called by Democrats underscored concerns about Kavanaugh’s record on issues including voting rights, and civil rights for women and those with disabilities.
Under questioning from Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., Richmond agreed with concerns that Kavanaugh would be a threat to people of color — from voting rights to affirmative action.
“Among the troublesome constitutional interpretations Mr. Kavanaugh has penned while on the bench, his record on affirmative action is particularly disturbing and ripe for intense scrutiny,” Richmond said.
Pointing to Kavanaugh’s decision in the case of Doe v. DC, Elizabeth Weintraub, who was born with cerebral palsy, told the senators, “Judge Kavanaugh could have supported the civil rights of people with disabilities and this requirement, but he failed.”
“If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed I am afraid that might right to make decisions for myself will be taken away,” she added.
Alternating experts laid out polar-opposite views, with those invited by Democrats universally raising red flags against the nominee as a conservative who will, among other things, tank health care policy guaranteeing coverage and overturn Roe v. Wade or kill it by what New York University Law School professor Melissa Murray, a former clerk to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, warned was “death by a thousand cuts.”
Witnesses called by Republicans characterized Kavanaugh as a valuable addition to the Supreme Court.
Yale Law professor Akhil Amar said that Kavanaugh, perhaps more than any other Republican sitting judge on the bench, has intimately studied the Constitution “with more care.”
“It’s not just that he will be good on his own, he will help bring out the best in others,” he added.
Amar also strongly argued that Kavanaugh should not promise an opinion on the issue of recusal when it comes to President Donald Trump’s executive power.
He said that decision should be made when and if a criminal or civil case involving the President were to be brought to the High Court, noting that while the late Justice William Rehnquist recused himself from the 1970’s era case that forced President Nixon — who had nominated him — to comply with a subpoena, two other Nixon-appointed justices did not.
After the American Bar Association unanimously gave Kavanaugh its highest rating of well-qualified, when asked if Kavanaugh was “mainstream,” the ABA’s John Tarpley said, “Absolutely – he’s at the top of the stream.”
Affirming those sentiments, attorney Ted Olson said, “[Kavanaugh] possesses and consistently has exemplified the qualities” he believes would make a good justice.
The following panel featured Eastmond, who recounted the chilling moments during the shooting inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school to challenge Kavanaugh’s stance on guns.
Asked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who mentioned his experience with the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, about what she would say to Kavanaugh, the Parkland activist replied, “My life, along with all the other youth, is more important than that gun.”
Attention was riveted on her as she said, “If Kavanaugh doesn’t even have the decency to shake hands with a father of a victim, he definitely won’t have the decency to make life-changing decisions that affect real people.”
In a complete reversal from Thursday’s raucous hearing, during which Democrats staged a protest over the trove of documents related to the nominee’s time in the Bush White House that were marked “committee confidential” and have not been released to the public, Friday is not likely to bring similar fireworks.
But John Dean’s presence signals the minority’s commitment to thwarting a Kavanaugh nomination to the nation’s highest court.
Dean served as President Nixon’s White House lawyer and played a key role in bringing Nixon down after cooperating with prosecutors. Democrats have called him to testify about what he thinks should be the limits of presidential power and warn how it can be abused.
“My only interest is in good government, and more specifically, the operations of the institutions of government where I once served, which I have continued to study and write about – namely the Congress and the Presidency,” he says in his prepared remarks.
With the cloud of the Mueller investigation hanging over the Trump presidency, Kavanaugh was asked Wednesday by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., about the power of the presidency.
Coons wanted to know if a president can fire a special counsel “at will,” and Kavanaugh responded, “I have never taken a position on indicting or investigating a sitting president.”
Dean is poised to lay out a case against Kavanaugh, citing a history of judgments that suggest his pro-presidential powers position.
“There is much to fear from an unchecked president who is inclined to abuse his powers,” Dean plans to say before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “That is a fact I can attest to from personal experience.”
“If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, I submit we will have the most pro-presidential powers Supreme Court in the modern era,” he adds.
Across the country, Trump weighed in on the process, assailing Democrats’ opposition to Kavanaugh during his rally in Fargo, North Dakota Friday.
“The way they are screaming and shouting, it is a disgrace to our country actually,” he expounded to the cheering crowd. “I don’t know if anybody has been watching it. They are making fools out of themselves.
“The man is extraordinary,” the president added of his nominee.
Republicans hope to confirm Kavanaugh by the end of the month before the Court’s term begins in October.
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