- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2018

Republicans have sent the clearest signals yet that they will not allow Democratic foot-dragging to delay their push to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, ditching negotiations and plowing ahead with their own more-limited investigation into Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s background.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also has given his boldest prediction to date, saying that while he doesn’t expect much Democratic support, Judge Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the high court.

“He’ll be confirmed. It probably won’t be a landslide, but he’ll be confirmed,” Mr. McConnell told WHAS Radio in Kentucky on Friday.

He has said there will be a vote before the November election. Other Republicans are eying an even faster deadline of the beginning of October, when the court’s next term begins.

Democrats are intent on pushing the process longer, hoping to carry it through the elections, where they want the court seat to be a galvanizing issue for liberal voters. At best, they see the issue helping them gain control of the Senate, and then, if they can push confirmation into next year, they would be able to bottle up or defeat the nominee.

That helps explain why an otherwise pedestrian fight over Judge Kavanaugh’s paper trail from the George W. Bush White House has turned into a massive battle on Capitol Hill.

Democrats said they want to see all the documents that came under Judge Kavanaugh’s purview from 2001 to 2006, when he was first in the White House counsel’s office and then Mr. Bush’s staff secretary.

That could total more than 1 million documents.

Republicans say they agree on the White House counsel’s office paper trail, but say there’s no reason to wait on the documents from the staff secretary years, saying most of those are papers he merely forwarded from hundreds of other staffers and won’t give much insight into his own beliefs or approach to legal issues.

The documents, though public records, are not yet in the public domain, since they are part of Mr. Bush’s presidential papers, which under the law wouldn’t normally be released for years.

But Congress has the power to request them ahead of schedule, and such requests are standard for Supreme Court nominees.

Bipartisan negotiations over the scope of that official request broke down last week. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley announced that he is moving ahead unilaterally, asking the Bush presidential library for Judge Kavanaugh’s official files from his time in the counsel’s office, as well as any emails he sent or received — including ones on which he was merely copied.

Mr. Grassley also asked for White House documents relating to Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He was confirmed to that post in 2006.

But the Iowa Republican said there’s no need to peruse the bigger set of documents from the staff secretary years.

“As I have said repeatedly, I am not going to put the American taxpayers on the hook for the Senate Democrats’ fishing expedition,” Mr. Grassley said.

Enraged Democrats said the GOP was leaving out “what may be the most important thing in Judge Kavanaugh’s record.”

“What are Republicans hiding in Judge Kavanaugh’s record?” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

“We don’t know what Brett Kavanaugh knew about President Bush’s efforts to override a torture ban — and that’s just one of many issues,” Mr. Schumer tweeted Sunday. “This is a why Republican efforts to hide Judge Kavanaugh’s documents from his time as Staff Secretary are so wrong.”

He tried to rope Mr. Bush into the fight as referee, firing off a letter asking the former president to step in and force his library to release more documents, and to do it quicker.

“You have been an advocate of transparency regarding your presidential records, and you have previously taken steps to make portions of your Library’s collection of White House documents more available to the public. I believe that making Judge Kavanaugh’s complete record public is consistent with your commitment to transparency and is strongly in the public interest,” Mr. Schumer wrote.

Mr. Grassley said the National Archives do retain the right to refuse to make some records available and designate others to be seen only by the committee on a confidential basis. He asked that the production of documents begin by next Wednesday, and that it be concluded by Aug. 15.

Mr. Schumer said he fears Republicans will find a way to scrub Judge Kavanaugh’s records from the Bush archives through a pre-release review.

Mr. Schumer said he doesn’t object to Mr. Bush having a chance to review records — a standard part of releases this soon after an administration — but he wants the Archivist of the United States to be more intimately involved in decisions.

Republicans dismiss the Democratic demands as part of an overall pattern of delay.

Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, said that he worked with Judge Kavanaugh in the Bush administration and that millions of document’s passed through the staff secretary’s preview as the gatekeeper for the president.

“To go on a fishing expedition into millions of documents that he had nothing substantive to say about would be a mistake,” Mr. Portman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. McConnell said most Democrats have already signaled they oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court, so they’re seeking the documents to try to create mischief.

The actual number of senators in play is perhaps 10 at most — a few Republicans and slightly more than a half-dozen Democrats up for re-election in states President Trump won in 2016, including Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, who is scheduled to meet Monday with Judge Kavanaugh.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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