Hours before the start of hearings on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, the lawyer for former President George W. Bush turned over 42,000 pages of documents from the nominee’s service in the Bush White House, angering Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who issued what is certain to be a futile call to delay the proceedings.
“Not a single senator will be able to review these records before tomorrow,” Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted Monday evening.
Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, responded that “our review team will be able to complete its examination of this latest batch in short order, before tomorrow’s hearing begins.”
The hearings are scheduled for 9.30 Tuesday morning, with opening statements by committee members. No information was released on the subject matter of the documents and Bush’s lawyer asked that they be kept from the public, made available only to committee members and staff.
Kavanaugh, appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by Bush, served the former president in the White House Counsel’s Office from 2001-03 and as staff secretary from 2003-06.
William Burck, a lawyer representing Bush, said in a letter to Grassley that the 5,148 documents totaling 42,390 pages retrieved from the National Archives were to be treated as “Committee Confidential,” with access limited to Judiciary Committee members and staff with no public availability, at least for the time being.
In the letter to Grassley, Burck said lawyers working on behalf of the former president would determine at a later date which of the documents are “appropriate for public release.”
The Bush legal team had already turned over about 415,000 pages to the committee, with about 147,000 of them withheld from public view. President Trump has claimed executive privilege to prevent release of more than 101,921 pages of records from Kavanaugh’s tenure in the White House. Kavanaugh, as “an associate and senior associate White House counsel, dealt with some of the most sensitive communications of any White House official,” including deliberations on judicial candidates, Burck said in a letter to the committee Friday.
The level of production of documents from Kavanaugh’s White House days, both in the counsel’s office and as Bush’s staff secretary, has been a central point of attack for Democrats jousting with the White House and Republicans over the Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee. Demands for documents from his staff secretary service have been rejected by Republicans.
Now-Justice Elena Kagan was the last Supreme Court nominee to have served in the White House. Christopher Kang, deputy counsel under President Obama, told the Washington Post that Obama did not invoke privilege on any documents involving her work.
“Republicans know this has been the least transparent SCOTUS process in history,” Schumer tweeted, “and the hearings should be delayed until we can fully review Judge Kavanaugh’s records.”
Foy countered that the volume of documents turned over dwarfs “the total Executive Branch material for the last five confirmed nominees combined.”
The hearings are expected to last four days, so staffers and members will have more than a few hours to review the documents before any vote is taken on sending the nomination to the full Senate.