Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court pick, told senators Thursday a sitting president must comply with a judge’s orders.
Democratic senators have peppered him for hours this week with questions related to what they see as Trump’s desire to ignore any coming subpoenas or court orders. Both could come as the result of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s Russia election meddling probe or criminal cases in federal or state court.
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., was the latest to do so Thursday.
But Kavanaugh disputed Durbin’s notion that he has said a sitting president has the “final word” on whether to comply to a judge’s orders. Rather, the nominee told him if a court order is aimed at a chief executive, that direction “is the final word.”
The chamber’s No. 2 Democrat also told Kavanaugh his nomination is about “more than just documents,” saying the high court will rule on “life and death” matters during his likely term — even though his Democratic colleagues made much of the three days about unreleased documents.
And the Illinois senator all but congratulated the nominee on being hours away from having taken his “last exam.”
Moments later, Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee came to the nominee’s defense about his role in the George W. Bush White House’s crafting of its rules for a controversial post-9/11 terrorist detention and interrogation program.
Democrats continued Thursday painting Kavanaugh, then the White House staff secretary, as being involved in helping write those guidelines. The nominee contends he merely took materials “prepared by others” to Bush’s desk. Lee repeated that, and said the matter should “break for you” because lawyers often are called upon, especially in government, to perform all kinds of tasks.
Lee also offered Kavanaugh another chance to cite Federalist Paper No. 69, which in the nominee’s words states the presidency “is not a monarch,” and therefore “not above the law.”
Despite Kavanaugh’s repeated utterances of that line Wednesday and Thursday, however, Democrats continue to have doubts about how he might rule on a case involving Trump and executive immunity.
The committee took a break at 1:17 p.m. for a lunch and floor votes break — with a rare humorous moment. Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said “adjorned” as he banged down his gavel. He caught himself amid chuckles and corrected with, “recessed.”
Watch: Booker, Grassley, Cornyn Battle Over Release of Bush-Era Kavanaugh Emails