Even before his second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, had finished his opening statement, President Donald Trump fired off a tweet attacking Democratic Senate Judiciary Committee members as “despicable.”
The president, just minutes after the White House dismissed the day’s pool that chronicles any presidential movements or public events, called the first day of the federal court judge’s confirmation hearing “a display of how mean, angry, and despicable the other side is.”
“They will say anything, and are only........looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress,” he wrote of Senate Democrats over two tweets. “So sad to see!”
The Brett Kavanaugh hearings for the future Justice of the Supreme Court are truly a display of how mean, angry, and despicable the other side is. They will say anything, and are only....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2018
....looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress. So sad to see!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2018
As Trump was posting those tweets, Kavanaugh began a days-long process of trying to convince Democrats senators he will not automatically rule against abortion rights and limitations on gun rights, among other policy issues they hold dear.
“My judicial philosophy is straightforward: A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. A judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent,” he told the committee.
The high court nominee has sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for 12 years and is poised to replace retiring swing-voter Anthony Kennedy, whom he calls a mentor. He quoted Kennedy in his first remarks to the panel.
“Kennedy explained in Texas vs. Johnson, one of his greatest opinions, judges do not make decisions to reach a preferred result. Judges make decisions because ‘the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result,’” Kavanaugh said.
Some Democratic Judiciary Committee members charged the nominee with ruling as a partisan judge during his time on the D.C. Circuit court. He answered such charges in his statement, saying, “the Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution.”
“The justices on the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle,” he said. “They do not caucus in separate rooms.”
Democrats are concerned he would take orders from the Trump White House if confirmed. And they are worried he was picked to help shield the president from any potential criminal indictment he might face.
To that end, the nominee mentioned an “independent judiciary” several times. But he never clearly stated his intention to resist any overtures from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., saying only that a justice must resist being “swayed by public pressure.”
The nominee spoke — finally — after all 21 members of the committee delivered lengthy opening statements, sometimes bickering among themselves and with Democrats frequently clashing with Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa.
“You can’t lose the election and pick judges,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said pointedly at his Democratic colleagues. “You want to pick judges, you better win elections.”
He and other GOP members spent over seven hours — as the nominee sat silent at the witness table — objecting to Democratic objections over the confirmation process and unreleased documents.
“Stop the theater,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said to his Democratic colleagues. He then predicted Democrats would use questioning on Wednesday and Thursday to paint Kavanaugh as an “activist judge.” Tillis urged them to instead focus on “legal theories.”
Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois and other Democrats demanded Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, delay the hearing until he and other members could convince the White House to release “hundreds of thousands” of documents stemming from the nominee’s time working in the George W. Bush White House.