Key Senate Democrats called on Republicans Wednesday to suspend the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh after Michael Cohen – the president’s personal lawyer for decades– pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts in a New York court.
In court on Tuesday, Cohen said that “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” he kept information that would have harmed Trump from becoming public during the 2016 election cycle. Almost simultaneously, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial crimes in a Virginia courtroom.
On the Senate floor, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “In my view, the Senate Judiciary Committee should immediately pause the consideration of the Kavanaugh nomination.”
The notion that Republicans would entertain delaying the confirmation process was quickly and predictably shut down by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley on Wednesday afternoon.
“Justice Breyer’s confirmation occurred when President Clinton’s records had been subpoenaed by a grand jury. Obviously, we are nowhere close to that situation today. Calls to delay the hearing are just the latest tactic from opponents who decided to vote ‘no’ weeks ago and are frantically looking for anything that sticks. The hearing will begin as planned on September 4,” said George Hartmann, a spokesman for Grassley.
Republicans – if they remain united– don’t need a single Democratic vote to confirm Kavanaugh.
The calls to halt the nomination process come as the Democratic base is searching for ways to stop Kavanaugh. The fight has largely centered upon documents and the lack of documents that have been released related to Kavanaugh’s time as the staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House. Now Democrats hope the Cohen and Manafort news may breathe new life into their opposition.
According to one Democratic Senate aide, Democrats began contemplating calls for delays last night in the hours after the news of the plea deal came down. Then, Wednesday morning, members met for a usually scheduled steering committee meeting where the discussion continued, and it became the consensus position.
“Today, it is undeniable that documents of clear public interest are being hidden from the American people. Documents that would shed a light on both his views and his fitness to serve on our Nation’s highest court. Wearing blinders in this moment is fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional obligation to provide advice and informed consent,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement.
Still, it’s unclear how two GOP moderate Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will vote.
Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday, “The Judiciary Committee should cease reviewing, the hearings that are scheduled from about two weeks from now and deal with the matter of a President being credibly implicated or alleged to being a criminal co-conspirator.”
“What I want right now is for us to when it comes to Kavanaugh…to wait until this Mueller probe is done,” Booker said. “No American citizen should be able to choose the person who will be judging them when they are subject to a criminal investigation should those matters come before that judge.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii who also sits on the committee, announced she would cancel her meeting with Kavanaugh in the wake of the Cohen plea agreement. She called on Republicans to halt consideration of the nomination.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday called Democrats’ cancellations of their meetings with Kavanaugh “desperate and pathetic.”
“This is a desperate and pathetic attempt by Democrats to obstruct a very highly-qualified nominee. The hearing date is set for September 4,” Sanders said on Wednesday.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said, “The Kavanaugh hearing should be postponed, the Supreme Court will be forever stained and tainted if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed after his nomination by a [President] that has been implicated in the most serious criminal wrongdoing affecting the outcome of his own election.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Jonah Eatman, Casey Riddle, Ariane de Vogue and David Siegel contributed to this report.