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Senate Dems Say Kavanaugh Would Threaten Checks On Presidential Powers

The Statue Of Justice
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

Two Democrats on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee say information revealed by President Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court nominee is troubling. They point to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s answers on a questionnaire as evidence that he believes the president should have unchecked power.

Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York says the Senate Judiciary Committee received a completed questionnaire from Judge Kavanaugh on Saturday.

“Brett Kavanaugh holds an almost monarchical view of executive authority,” Schumer says. “In at least three separate instances, Brett Kavanaugh has shown a willingness to openly question precedent relating to presidential power and accountability.”

Plus, he says:

“When Brett Kavanaugh was asked if he could overturn precedent in any one case, he said he would overturn the case of Morrison v. Olson,” says Schumer. “You may recall that’s the case that upheld the constitutionality of the independent counsel law.”

Schumer says it’s telling that Kavanaugh selected an executive power case as ripe for repeal.

“From his writings in 2009, we learned that Kavanaugh believes that only Congress should be able to investigate a sitting president,” Schumer says.

Schumer says new information reveals that Kavanaugh believes the 1974 U.S. versus Nixon Supreme Court ruling that forced President Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes may have been wrongly decided.

“If Kavanaugh would have let Nixon off the hook, what is he willing to do for President Trump?” asks Schumer.

Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Blumenthal says he just reread the unanimous decision of U.S. versus Nixon. And Blumenthal says the message of the case is no one, no president is above the law.

“A blank check for the president to control the special counsel dooms enforcement and investigation of criminal laws against members of the executive branch,” says Blumenthal.

He calls it a radical view of the Constitution and judicial procedure.

“He has a view of presidential powers that is not only imperial, it is essentially out of the mainstream,” Blumenthal says. “Brett Kavanaugh is an outlier when it comes to this view of an imperial presidency.”

Senate Republicans who have met with Judge Kavanaugh commend him, saying he would be a staunch defender of the Constitution. Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has tweeted that Kavanugh’s qualifications are beyond reproach. Norm Eisen disagrees. He is former ambassador and special counsel to President Obama.

“When you put these dots together, you’re in a situation that we’ve never had before in American history and that is a president himself, a named subject in a criminal investigation, choosing a justice, admittedly with attention to some of these views by the White House, choosing a justice who could very well provide the determining vote or voice on his own exposure,” says Eisen.

Eisen is board chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

“Under these historically unique circumstances, we cannot have the usual refusal to answer questions by Judge Kavanaugh," Eisen says. "He must answer direct and pointed questions on these issues. If he refuses to answer, it’s my view that he must recuse and if he refused to do that, under these unique circumstances, he should not be confirmed, his confirmation should be held.”

Senators Schumer and Blumenthal voiced concern about how Kavanaugh’s view might impact Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

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