West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin will meet with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, on July 30, according to an aide to the senator, making him the first Democratic senator to schedule a meeting with the Supreme Court nominee.
Until now, Democrats have declined to arrange courtesy calls with the judge, as is customary after a nominee is named, while Democratic leaders press the administration to provide all the documents from Kavanaugh’s past work in the government.
Republicans are balking at that request, in part, because it’s daunting. There could be more than a million records from his time working in the George W. Bush administration. Republicans argue that many Democrats have already announced they will oppose Kavanaugh and the push for documents is a ruse, designed to stall movement on his nomination.
Manchin is running for re-election in West Virginia, a state Trump won by a wide margin in 2016. The senator voted for Trump’s first pick to the court, Neil Gorsuch, and is openly seeking input from his constituents on what he should do about Kavanaugh. Manchin held a town hall with voters on the issue last week.
Kavanaugh is also scheduled Tuesday to meet with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of a handful of Republican senators who could vote against Kavanaugh, something that could sink the nominee if no Democrats were to vote for the nominee, given Republicans’ narrow 51-to-49-member control of the chamber.
In the meantime, Senate Republicans defended Kavanaugh after it was revealed over the weekend that he once said the Nixon vs. US decision, which led the resignation of President Richard Nixon, might have been “wrongly decided.”
“That just sounds like a law professor,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the GOP leadership and a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will host Kavanaugh’s as yet unscheduled confirmation hearing. “Lawyers are trained to argue both sides of an issue.”
“There are a lot of people who don’t think it was rightfully decided,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican and a past chairman of the Judiciary Committee, about the Nixon decision. “I don’t think anybody should jump to any conclusions just because of where he’s been over the years.”
Cornyn said Kavanaugh believes “no person is above the law.”
“I think his whole career has demonstrated his fidelity to the law. Even his Minnesota Law Review that people have raised some questions, he unequivocally said ‘no person is above the law,’” Cornyn added. “I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere.”
In that writing, Kavanaugh suggested a president should not be investigated while in office. Kavanaugh has also raised questions about the constitutionality of independent counsels, raising more Democratic concerns that he could pose problems for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Trump.
Democrats seized on the judge’s comments about Nixon, which were contained in Kavanaugh’s questionnaire that the Judiciary Committee released this past weekend.
“If Kavanaugh would have let Nixon off the hook, what is he willing to do for President Trump?” asked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “It is a fundamental principle of our democracy that no one is above the law, including the president. American presidents are not kings. But Brett Kavanaugh seems to have an imperial conception of the American presidency.”