- The Washington Times - Monday, July 30, 2018

Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh won the support of one critical Republican senator Monday and met privately with a key Democrat as he inches closer to securing enough votes for confirmation to the high court.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of a few Republicans who had not immediately backed President Trump’s nominee publicly, said he was assuaged after his meeting last week that Judge Kavanaugh would bring an open mind to privacy cases and be a strong supporter of First and Second Amendment rights.

“My conversation with Judge Kavanaugh reinforces my belief that he will evaluate cases before the Supreme Court from a textual and originalist point of view,” Mr. Paul said.

Mr. Trump took to Twitter to praise Mr. Paul. He said the senator’s support “means a lot to me, and to everyone who loves our country!”

Mr. Paul was one of three Republicans whom Democratic leaders hoped to sway to vote against confirmation, along with Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Mr. Paul’s support leaves Democrats with only a narrow path to defeating Judge Kavanaugh.

SEE ALSO: National Archives releases first batch of Kavanaugh documents

Depending on turnout at the time of the vote, Democrats will likely need all 49 members of their caucus to vote against confirmation and then persuade one or two Republicans to vote against Judge Kavanagaugh as well.

That math grew even more complicated after Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, met with Judge Kavanaugh on Monday.

Mr. Manchin said he hadn’t made up his mind, but his office released photos showing the two men shaking hands and smiling broadly as they talked for two hours.

Mr. Manchin was the first Democrat to speak with Judge Kavanaugh, breaking with party leaders who urged a freeze on such meetings.

“Over the last two weeks, West Virginians have contacted me more than 8,000 times with their opinions on Judge Kavanaugh and the questions they have for him, and when I met with him today, I asked him several of their questions,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement after the meeting.

“I look forward to attending his confirmation hearing, meeting with him again and continuing to talk to West Virginians throughout this process,” he said.

Analysts say the decision will be difficult for Mr. Manchin, who is up for re-election in a state that Mr. Trump won by 42 percentage points in 2016.

Republicans also are ramping up pressure.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, the Republican who holds West Virginia’s other U.S. Senate seat, wrote an op-ed in The Journal, a newspaper in Martinsburg, urging senators to give Judge Kavanaugh a fair shake.

“West Virginians understand how important it is for government agencies to be confined to their authority under the law. And Judge Kavanaugh has a record of holding agencies accountable,” Ms. Capito wrote.

Meanwhile, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network has run ads in West Virginia highlighting Mr. Manchin’s choice of backing Mr. Trump or siding with Democratic leaders.

“Will Sen. Manchin stand with the people of West Virginia in supporting President Trump’s extraordinarily qualified Supreme Court nominee, or will he stand with the extremists in his party like Chuck Schumer?” said Carrie Severino, the group’s chief counsel.

Several other Democratic senators have said they will buck party leaders and at least meet with Judge Kavanaugh, who sits on the federal circuit court in the District of Columbia.

Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, urged members of his party not to meet with the judge until all of the nominee’s records from his time working for President George W. Bush’s administration are disclosed to the Judiciary Committee.

Republicans have asked the Bush presidential library to release records from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the White House Counsel’s Office from 2001 to 2003 but did not demand documents from his time as Mr. Bush’s staff secretary from 2003 to 2006.

Mr. Schumer said the way the Republicans handled the request, by releasing a letter Friday, suggests they are trying to hide their moves from the public.

“My Republican colleagues know that this was wrong. That’s why they sent it so late on a Friday — hoping to bury it. This letter makes it clear that Republicans intend to block the Senate — and the American people — access to the bulk of Judge Kavanaugh’s White House records,” Mr. Schumer said on the chamber floor Monday.

Mr. Schumer has asked Mr. Bush to get involved personally in the release of the documents. He said he fears Republicans are trying to change the review process used by the National Archives, which oversees the library.

The Archives released a file Monday of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from his time working for independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr before working in the Bush White House.

Judge Kavanaugh worked for Mr. Starr during the investigation of President Clinton and the death of White House counsel Vincent Foster.

Judge Kavanaugh didn’t author most of the documents released Monday, but he did draft one dealing with the types of oversight and access that members of Congress could have to the independent counsel’s investigation.

“Congress has every right to investigate the same subjects we are investigating, but it is not clear to me that Congress has any right to piggy-back on our investigation by using our reports of interviews that have been conducted in circumstances where the witnesses reasonably expected confidentiality,” the nominee wrote in a 1995 memo.

In a 1995 memo marked “urgent,” Judge Kavanaugh said releasing the travel office report detailing Mr. Foster’s whereabouts before his death would be appropriate, given that much of it had been detailed in earlier media reports.

Mr. Starr praised Judge Kavanaugh in a statement Monday for his work during the investigation.

“Throughout his tenure in the independent counsel’s office, Brett Kavanaugh consistently demonstrated an open-minded search for the truth. He rigorously focused on the facts, and thoughtfully explored the implications of those facts in a balanced, reasoned manner,” Mr. Starr said in the statement, which was released by the White House.

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

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