President Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court lied under oath, newly released documents suggest.
Sen. Patrick Leahy has accused the judge, Brett Kavanaugh, of giving testimony that contradicted newly released emails. The perjury allegedly took place during congressional hearings in 2004 and 2006, when the Senate approved Kavanaugh as a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
The judge told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2004 he had not obtained “documents that appeared … to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members.” The statement was at odds with a report by the Senate's sergeant-at-arms, who determined that Democratic staffer Manuel Miranda had stolen confidential emails and other documents from Democratic senators.
According to Leahy, emails disclosed this week indicate that Kavanaugh “got eight pages of material taken verbatim from my files, obviously written by Dem staff, labeled 'not (for) distribution.'” The Vermont senator explained that “the stolen material detailed Democrats' efforts to oppose President George W. Bush's judicial nominees.”
One of the emails was forwarded to Kavanaugh by a Republican staffer in the Senate, who wrote “spying” on the subject line and told Leahy: “I have a friend who is a mole for us on the left, (who) just called to tell me the following news.”
At Thursday's Judiciary Committee hearing, Leahy confronted Kavanaugh by telling him: “I'm concerned because there is evidence that Mr. Miranda provided you with materials that were stolen from me. And that would contradict your prior testimony."
Leahy later wrote that “it is simply not 'normal' to get real-time insider intelligence from a Democratic 'mole' and marked 'spying.'” He continued: “Red flags abound … and with 102,000 documents withheld by the Trump White House, mostly about judicial nominees, we can bet there's more. Judge Kavanaugh answered under oath more than 100 questions on this hacking in 2004 and 2006. His repeated denials that he didn't receive any stolen info and didn't suspect anything 'untoward' is simply not credible.”
Leahy initially said he could not make the emails public because they had been designated as “committee confidential” material. However, he released the documents on Thursday.
“Kavanaugh committed perjury,” declared Dante Atkins, a communications aide to Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California. “Grassley knows that he committed perjury, and tried to keep the proof of Kavanaugh’s commission of perjury confidential. This is horrid and unconscionable.” The staffer was referring to Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pointed out that in 2004, Kavanaugh testified that he “was not involved in handling” Bush's nomination the previous year of Appeals Court Judge Bill Pryor, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights. “Newly released emails show that's not true,” Feinstein tweeted on Thursday. “Asked about how Pryor's interview went, (Kavanaugh) replied, 'call me.'”
The tweet prompted ThinkProgress to remark: “Maybe there's a reason Senate Republicans tried to keep Kavanaugh's emails secret.” The news site reported that the judge also lied when he claimed during his 2006 testimony that he was unaware of the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping before The New York Times exposed the program.
The senator who pressed Kavanaugh on the issue 12 years ago was none other than Leahy, who asked whether the judge had heard “anything about it prior to The New York Times article.” Kavanaugh replied that he knew “nothing at all.” However, some of the new emails show that Kavanaugh discussed domestic spying with former Bush administration official John Yoo.
On Wednesday, Leahy asked the judge whether he consulted Yoo “on the constitutional implications of any warrantless surveillance program.” Kavanaugh answered: “I can’t rule that … right in the wake of September 11? It was all hands on deck on all fronts.”
Yoo, when asked Wednesday night on Fox News about his communications with Kavanaugh, proclaimed: “I can say categorically that Brett Kavanaugh was not working on, was not in any meetings and did not work on any memos related to what became known as the ‘terrorist surveillance program.'” Yoo said Leahy “doesn’t really understand how classified programs work.”
Kavanaugh has been vague in his testimony this week, avoiding direct answers to questions concerning his views on controversial issues like abortion. The judge's confirmation by the Republican-majority Judiciary Committee is virtually assured, but Democrats hope to persuade at least two GOP lawmakers to join them in voting against Kavanaugh on the Senate floor. That would sink the nomination, and force Trump to pick another judge. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are under pressure to vote “no.”
CNN noted that one of the political ramifications of the hearings is the potential presidential candidacy of at least two committee members. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California are considering bids for the Democratic nomination in 2020.