Dispute over releasing documents dominates Kavanaugh hearing
United States Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation tumbled into highly charged arguing on Thursday over whether key documents were being withheld, and one Democrat risked Senate discipline by releasing confidential material. A newly disclosed email revealed that President Donald Trump's pick once suggested Roe v Wade was not settled law.
Roe v Wade is a landmark decision issued in 1973 by the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the constitutionality of laws that criminalised or restricted access to abortions.
The finger-pointing over the unusual vetting process for Trump's nominee made for a rough start for the final day of questioning of Kavanaugh, who has so far avoided major missteps that could block his confirmation. Republican John Cornyn of Texas said senators could be expelled from office for violating confidentially rules, while Democrats, led by Cory Booker of New Jersey, responded, "Bring it on."
Meanwhile, it was shown in an email obtained by The Associated Press, that Kavanaugh had taken a different tone on a 2003 abortion case than he had during Wednesday's hearing, when he stressed how difficult it is to overturn precedents like Roe. In the email, Kavanaugh was reviewing a potential op-ed article in support of two judicial nominees while he was working at the George W. Bush White House, according to the document. It had been held by the committee as confidential.
"I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current justices on the Court would do so," Kavanaugh wrote, referring to justices at the time, in an email to a Republican Senate aide. The document is partially redacted.
Asked about it by the committee's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, Kavanaugh reiterated his previous testimony that "Roe v Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court."
Pressed further by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, Kavanaugh denied he was questioning Roe as settled law. Kavanaugh said that he was not discussing his views, but rather "what legal scholars might say". He said he offered the comments because he's "always concerned with accuracy".
The 15-year-old email underscored a dispute that has dominated part of the hearing over Kavanaugh's unusually long paper trail stemming from his years in the Bush White House. The panel's process resulted in hundreds of thousands of pages of Kavanaugh's documents being withheld as confidential or kept from release under presidential privilege by the Trump White House.