Senate Democrats are threatening to sue for documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s record, the latest escalation in a partisan battle over the court.
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats were prepared to sue if their Freedom of Information Act request for all documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House – both as staff secretary and in the White House counsel’s office – was denied.
“Today we are announcing we stand ready to sue the National Archives for Judge Kavanaugh’s full record if necessary,” the New York Democrat said.
Republicans have argued that documents related to Kavanaugh’s three years as staff secretary are not relevant to his confirmation to the highest court, but Democrats says Republicans’ decision to withhold the records constitutes a threat to transparency.
“I think they’re feeling under a lot of pressure. I get it. They know they can’t stop the confirmation, but they’ve got to put on a good show, and I assume that’s what is going on here,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texan who’s the No. 2 Republican in the Senate as the majority whip.
Last week, Democrats filed a FOIA request for all the documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the White House with several groups including the National Archives and the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
“This FOIA request is a last resort. It is unprecedented because the concealing of documents is unprecedented,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut. “We need these documents to do our job.”
Blumenthal said he stood “ready to go to court” if the FOIA request weren’t complied with.
Schumer said he will meet with Kavanaugh next week and he plans to ask why the judge doesn’t appeal to the archives and Bush library himself to release his full record.
“I’ll ask him all about these documents and about what he intends to do about it. He can’t duck – he can’t duck it. It’s his documents, he should say – he should have said already he wants them released if he is an open, fair, wonderful man Supreme Court justice that he’s trying to portray himself to be,” Schumer said.
For their part, Republicans have continued to argue that Kavanaugh’s nomination is among the most transparent in years. They have said the release of Kavanaugh’s extensive writings from his time on the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in addition to documents from his time as counsel in the Bush White House have been robust. Senate Republicans don’t need a single Democratic vote to approve Kavanaugh to the court if everyone in the GOP conference votes “yes.” Still, Democrats – facing pressure from the base – have fought the nomination over documents and have continued to push back on Kavanaugh’s record.
“I understand there’s going to be a little bit of drama and histrionics and that’s just part of the process, but in the end I believe he’ll be confirmed and that’s the most important part,” Cornyn said.