Senator Collins Undermines Transparency in Kavanaugh Confirmation

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On Tuesday July 31st, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) stated that she did not see a need for the Senate Judiciary Committee to review the plethora of documents related to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s tenure as White House Staff Secretary under President George W. Bush. This pertains to the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy. Collins is considered to be undecided over Kavanaugh’s nomination. However, in this instance, she has sided with Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA).  

The Huffington Post quotes Collins as saying, “I don’t see a need for those. The document request that Senator Grassley has made is very comprehensive,” Chairman Grassley has rebuffed calls to release this set of documents, calling it a “fishing expedition.” He also asserts that this is merely an attempt by Senate Democrats to stall the nomination. Over the weekend, Senator Grassley issued a statement that he would only retrieve documents from the National Archives that are relevant to the Supreme Court nominee’s tenure in the White House Counsel’s Office under President Bush.

Prior to serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Brett Kavanaugh served as Staff Secretary from June 2003 to May 2006. In this capacity, Brett Kavanaugh was essentially the gatekeeper of any and all information that reached the President’s desk. He was also likely to have been a player in President Bush’s circle of policymakers. He may or may not have authored and edited documents related to controversial national security programs such as warrantless wiretapping and enhanced interrogation. These are issues that have and will continue to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court. This is precisely why we need to see these documents. Without them, the public will not get a full picture as to how Judge Kavanaugh will decide certain matters before the Supreme Court. Disclosing this information will give the Senate and the public an important look into Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy.

There is also a critical precedent for this necessary disclosure of executive branch records. Prior to her confirmation as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan had a copious number of documents related to her tenure in the executive branch. The Judiciary Committee paused for nearly a month to review nearly 170,000 pages of information related to her positions in the Obama and Clinton Administrations. This tidy sum included every email Justice Kagan wrote while serving in the White House.

What are Senate Republicans seeking to hide? It seems to me that Senator Collins complicit actions by siding with Chairman Grassley may lead to a less-than-thorough vetting of Judge Kavanaugh’s credentials and judicial philosophy.        

James Nickerson