Republicans and Democrats are at an impasse over which documents are relevant to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, threatening Republican hopes the nomination can move quickly through the Senate.
Weeks after he was nominated, Kavanaugh’s extensive paper trail both as a judge on the DC Circuit and as a staff secretary in the Bush-era White House remains a flash point between the two parties with Republicans accusing Democrats of leading a fishing expedition for irrelevant information and Democrats accusing Republicans of obscuring Kavanaugh’s past record.
Sen. John Cornyn, a leading Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee and majority whip, told reporters Wednesday that he has agreed to sit down with White House counsel, Senate Judiciary Committee top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa to try and work something out, but Cornyn wouldn’t give a deadline for when an agreement would be made.
“I agreed to meet with Sen. Feinstein, Sen. Grassley and the White House counsel to talk more about that, but I know there are a lot of conversations occurring, and I think the intention is to produce relevant documents as soon as possible on a rolling basis.” Cornyn said.
Cornyn added that the document production for Kavanaugh will “probably dwarf the amount of documents produced either for (Supreme Court Justice) Elena Kagan or (Supreme Court Justice Neil) Gorsuch just by virtue of his long service as a judge and also in the White House.”
The disagreement over documents boiled over Tuesday on the Senate floor with Grassley going to the floor to blast Democrats and Feinstein releasing a statement calling for Republicans to have more transparency in the nomination.
“For years, Republicans argued the Senate should see all the documents for a Supreme Court nominee, but now they’re trying to change that standard. All we’re asking for is the same documents from his tenure in the White House that Republicans asked for in the past. No more, no less,” Feinstein said in a statement.
After his meeting with Kavanaugh, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott told reporters Wednesday that he feared Democrats were “perhaps starting a witch hunt” in their demands to see all of Kavanaugh’s prior writings.
Behind closed doors Tuesday, White House counsel Don McGahn met with top Republican senators where the issue of document production was one of the issues discussed, per a source.
Last week, Democrats had threatened not to meet with Kavanaugh until more progress could be made on document production. So far, two red-state Democrats have set up meetings with Kavanaugh. Republicans predict it will be hard for Democrats to hold the caucus together.
“If he wasn’t such a choir boy, I think they might band together, but if they do that, it will just look like they are totally partisan,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
While the liberal base is fired up ahead of the midterm elections and urging Democrats to remain united in opposition to Kavanaugh, a handful of Democratic senators are running in states where President Donald Trump easily won and the vote for Kavanaugh could come just before voters head to the polls for their elections. That could make it difficult for Democrats to hold the caucus together.
“We’re still trying to find common ground on document production and we’re not there,” Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said.
Asked whether Democrats would have trouble staying united, Durbin said “it’s way too soon to say that.”
“I think people were keeping their powder dry as Chuck (Schumer) asked them to. We’ll see how this unfolds,” he said.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Ted Barrett and Kristin Wilson contributed to this report.