POLITICS
09/04/2018 09:35 am ET Updated Sep 04, 2018

Read Live Updates From Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing

President Donald Trump nominated Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee begins Tuesday.

Kavanaugh and the White House did “intense” prep work to prepare for the hearing, Yahoo News reported last week.

President Donald Trump announced Kavanaugh as his pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on July 9.

Read live updates on the hearing below. (You may need to refresh the page to see the latest updates.):

4:48 p.m. ET

As the first day of the hearing wrapped up, Trump tweeted a critique of the Democratic senators’ coordinated protest.

― Sara Boboltz

2:59 p.m. ET

Hirono plans to ask Kavanaugh about sexual harassment, as she has done with many Trump administration nominees.

“The questions have never been asked before. And why is that? Because it would take a woman to ask questions like that, I would say,” she said.

—Marina Fang

2:58 p.m. ET

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said Kavanaugh had been nominated “precisely” to protect Trump.

“These are not normal times,” she said.

― Sara Boboltz

2:28 p.m. ET

Blumenthal just renewed his earlier motion to adjourn the hearing over the 42,000 recently released documents. Grassley declined.

— Marina Fang

2:26 p.m. ET

Both Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) read aloud Trump’s extraordinary tweet from this weekend attacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice.

Blumenthal wants Kavanaugh to “condemn this attack on the rule of law,” he said.

― Marina Fang

2:24 p.m. ET

Sen. Chris Coon (D-Del.) mentioned Watergate while expressing concern about Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the withholding of information.

“For the first time since Watergate, the nonpartisan National Archives has been cut out of the process for reviewing and producing your records. Senate Republicans have worked to keep committee-confidential nearly 2,000 pages of documents so the public can’t view them and we can’t question based on them,” he said. “Not only that, but for the first time in our history, the president has evoked an executive privilege to withhold more than 100,000 pages of documents on a Supreme Court nominee from the Judiciary Committee. This leads to a difficult but important question, which is: What might President Trump or the majority be trying to hide?”

― Nina Golgowski

2:14 p.m. ET

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said the “context” of Kavanaugh’s nomination “troubles me the most” due to his apparent stance on executive privilege given Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.

He also stated that testimonials on Kavanaugh’s character and performance as a youth basketball coach are irrelevant to his confirmation.

“We’re not here to consider you as the president of our neighborhood civic association,” Coons said.

Directly afterward, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) spent several minutes lauding Kavanaugh for his personal hobbies, including getting really excited about Kavanaugh’s marathon-running and basketball-coaching experience. Here’s a rough summary of the exchange.

Flake then read a letter about Kavanaugh’s performance as a youth basketball coach. The senator pointed to the experiences as indicators of Kavanaugh’s “temperament.” 

— Marina Fang & Sara Boboltz

1:52 p.m. ET

Praising Kavanaugh, Sen. Benjamin Sasse (R-Neb.) defended him against progressives who have warned that Kavanaugh’s confirmation could pave the way to the Supreme Court continuing to chip away at reproductive rights and potentially overturning Roe v. Wade.

“You’ve been accused of hating women,” Sasse said, calling it “drivel.”

“This stuff isn’t about Brett Kavanaugh when screamers say this stuff for cable TV news,” he added.

He went on to refer to the criticism as “hysteria.” As New York magazine’s Irin Carmon pointed out, that may not be the best word choice.

― Marina Fang 

1:46 p.m. ET

“Our political commentary talks about the Supreme Court like there are people wearing red and blue jerseys. That’s a really dangerous thing,” Sen. Benjamin Sasse (R-Neb.) told the room, saying the Supreme Court should be above politicization.

― Sara Boboltz

1:41 p.m. ET

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) largely focused on Kavanaugh’s past writings on executive privilege considering the ongoing special counsel investigation and charges that are currently pending against certain of Trump’s former staffers.

“The president has handpicked a nominee to the court with the most expansive view of presidential power possible,” Klobuchar said. She suggested Kavanaugh may support a president’s ability to fire a special counsel.

― Sara Boboltz

1:28 p.m. ET

And they’re back!

“No one could read 42,000 documents in an evening no matter how much coffee you drink,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said before her opening statement.

“A good judge would not decide a case with only 7 percent of the documents,” she told Kavanaugh. “This isn’t normal.”

― Marina Fang

1:23 p.m. ET

While the committee took a break, Fred Guttenberg, the father of Parkland shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg, tweeted that he approached Kavanaugh. And it didn’t go so well.

“Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as morning session ended,” he wrote on Twitter. “Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad. He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.”

Meanwhile, one reporter tweeted that Republican aides were handing out printed sheets describing the “Senate Judiciary Democrats By The Numbers” listing their “complaints about documents or records” and “total interruptions.”

― Saba Hamedy 

12:49 p.m. ET

Grassley announces a 30-minute break. He emphasizes the time, 1:17 p.m. ET, because Justice Neil Gorsuch came back 10 minutes late during his hearings last year.

— Marina Fang

12:47 p.m. ET

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) praised Kavanaugh as “unquestionably qualified” and accused his Democratic colleagues of requesting an impossible number of documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush administration, calling the request a tactic to “distract and delay.”

“They are making a demand that they know is impossible to meet,” he said.

He added that Kavanaugh has handed over more documents than “any other nominee.”

Cruz also stressed how unimportant the White House documents — which were largely withheld — are to the confirmation process, saying they reveal more about Cabinet members’ opinions than Kavanaugh’s.

― Nina Golgowski & Sara Boboltz

12:35 p.m. ET

“Mr. Chairman, we’ve seen this movie before,” Whitehouse says, concluding his opening statement of 5-4 cases decided by Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices.

Next up: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). After his remarks, there will be a 15-minute break.

— Marina Fang

12:22 p.m. ET

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is going through what he calls “a highlights reel” of 5-4 cases to emphasize how pivotal Kavanaugh’s nomination is. 

— Marina Fang

12:17 p.m. ET

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) wondered why there was “so much angst” over the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee. He also said confirmation hearings are a relatively new invention that began in the early 20th century and suggested they may not be helpful.

― Sara Boboltz

12:09 p.m. ET

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said his gravest concern “over and above” all else about Kavanaugh is that he was nominated by Trump.

Durbin questioned the character Trump has displayed while in office, along with the string of crimes prosecutors say his former campaign staffers committed. The senator suggested all of that reflects poorly on Kavanaugh and accused him of faithfully advancing the Republican agenda during the course of his career thus far.

“This is a president who has shown us consistently that he’s contemptuous of the rule of law. He has said and done things as president which we’ve never seen before in history,” Durbin said.

“He has dismissed the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he wouldn’t bend to his rule, he harasses and threatens his own attorney general on almost a daily basis in the exercise of his office, and I didn’t vote for Jeff Sessions, but I have to tell you, there should be some respect at least for the office that he serves in,” he continued. “And it’s that president who has decided you are his man. You’re the person he wants on the Supreme Court. So are people nervous about this? Are people concerned about it? Of course they are.”

― Nina Golgowski & Sara Boboltz

12:05 p.m. ET

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) accused Kavanaugh of misleading the Senate when he testified in a 2004 hearing that he played no role in deliberations over so-called enhanced interrogation techniques used on detainees by the George W. Bush administration in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Durbin said in his opening statement during Tuesday’s hearing that Kavanaugh “acknowledged” for the first time his involvement in the matter when he met with the nominee last month.

“For 12 years, you could’ve apologized and corrected this record, but you never did,” the No. 2 Senate Democrat said.

― Igor Bobic

11:56 a.m. ET

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the hearing, with all of its outbursts and protests, is unlike anything he’s ever heard but that its a sign of a working democracy.

“What we’ve heard is the noise of democracy. This is what happens in a free country when people can stand up and speak and not be jailed, imprisoned, tortured or killed because of it. It is not mob rule,” he said. “There’d been times where it has been uncomfortable ... but it does represent what we are about in this democracy.”

He went on to express concern about Kavanaugh’s appointment, asking: “Why is this happening for the first time in this committee? I think we need to be honest.”

― Nina Golgowski

11:42 a.m. ET

“We wouldn’t hire an intern, sir, without 90 percent of their resume, let alone put someone on the Supreme Court,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said, interrupting Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

― Sara Boboltz

11:40 a.m. ET

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) cited the Watergate scandal of the 1970s for why the Senate has nonpartisan hearings on government appointments.

“I think you only have to look at Watergate to see why we have that nonpartisan process,” he said. “My question still recurs: What is being hidden and why?”

― Nina Golgowski

11:31 a.m. ET

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expressed concern that Kavanaugh was selected by Trump to fulfill the president’s personal agenda.

“President Trump has promised that he would only nominate judges to the Supreme Court who would overthrow Roe v. Wade, judges who would dismantle the Affordable Care Act, judges who would reshape our judiciary,” he said. “Now if that’s not judicial activism, I don’t know what is.”

― Nina Golgowski

11:29 a.m. ET

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised Kavanaugh, calling him the “sort of person many of us would like to have as a friend and a colleague. You also apparently like to eat pasta with ketchup, but nobody’s perfect.”

He slammed some Democrats on the committee ― not by name ― for opposing the nominee because they want to run for president in 2020. He said they’re trying to get “that coveted TV clip.”

He also called on Grassley to “have this loudmouth removed,” referring to a protester. “We shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of stuff.”

― Saba Hamedy

11:23 a.m. ET

At least one Democrat is now coming out against Kavanaugh because of the records dump.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) just tweeted that he will vote against Kavanaugh because he is “now convinced they are hiding something.”

“I’ve seen enough,” he tweeted, calling the process “illegitimate.”

― Marina Fang

11:14 a.m. ET

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) brought up the importance of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which made abortion legal in all 50 states.

“The impact of overturning Roe is much broader than a woman’s right to choose,” Feinstein said. “It is about protecting the most personal decisions we all make from government intrusion. ... I deeply believe that all these cases protect Americans from over-involvement of government in their lives.”

Feinstein noted in her opening remarks that she was able to “see both sides, the terrible side and the human and vulnerable side” of abortion in the ’50s and ’60s, when she worked under California Gov. Pat Brown and had to “sentence women who had committed abortions ... and granted them paroles.”

― Saba Hamedy

CORRECTION: This post previously mentioned Feinstein working under Gov. Jerry Brown. It was Gov. Pat Brown.

11:12 a.m. ET

After expressing her doubts on Brett Kavanaugh’s ability to protect the privacy rights of all Americans, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) challenged the nominee’s stance on gun control policy.

“It’s pretty clear that your views go way beyond simply being ‘pro-gun,’” Feinstein began. She said Kavanaugh has concluded that banning assault weapons is unconstitutional because they haven’t historically been banned, accusing his reasoning of being “far outside the mainstream of political thoughts.”

The California senator then referenced the number of school shootings since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, saying there have been 273 school shootings, a number that appears to be as of February.

“If the Supreme Court were to adopt your reasoning,” she said, “I feel the number of victims would continue to grow. Even [former Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia understood that weapons that are most useful in military service can in fact be regulated.”

― Nina Golgowski & Sara Boboltz

11:01 a.m. ET

Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who said he’s participated in 15 Supreme Court confirmation hearings, called Kavanaugh “one of the most qualified nominees ― if not the most qualified nominee ― I have seen.”

― Nina Golgowski

10:51 a.m. ET

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked that Chairman Grassley renew and revisit Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s motion to adjourn, noting the committee has only 10-15 percent of documents about Kavanaugh.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) echoed Harris’ concern. “Ninety percent of [Kavanaugh’s] records” have been held, he said.

“The fact is we are about to proceed with a historic hearing ... having a hearing toward someone having a lifetime appointment on the most important court in the land,” he said. “We’re going into this only having access to 10 percent of the body of work of this man’s career. We are not asking for anything out of the ordinary ... we have gotten far more for every Supreme Court justice that has been mentioned here, far more than just 10 percent.”

“That’s not fair, that’s not right. It undermines our ability to do our job. It’s just plain wrong,” he added.

― Saba Hamedy

10:45 a.m. ET

“This is a hearing about who will sit on the highest court of our land. This is a hearing about who will sit in a house that symbolizes our system of justice in this country,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) told the room. She urged the committee to release as many documents as possible, citing a democratic process that prioritizes due process and transparency.

“That is why we have public courtrooms. That is why we have requirements … that there will be transparency,” Harris said.

― Sara Boboltz

10:43 a.m. ET

Kavanugh’s kids, who started the hearing sitting behind their father, have left the room.

― Paige Lavender

10:39 a.m. ET

An aide set up a prop behind Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) containing quotes by former Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) in which he complained about access to documents during Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s 2010 confirmation hearings.

It read, in part: “I think we are entitled to know why some of these documents have been withheld on the privacy rubric. We have no certification that the archivists have fully complied with the request of the committee. I just hate to go forward.”

― Sara Boboltz

10:38 a.m. ET

“Do you want this to go on all day? I’ve been accused of having a mob rule session,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says, noting he led the confirmation hearing proceedings for now-Justice Neil Gorsuch without that accusation.

“This is the same Chuck Grassley that ran the Gorsuch hearings,” he added.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) noted that it was Grassley’s colleague from Texas, Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who made the “mob rule” comment.

― Saba Hamedy

10:32 a.m. ET

Republican Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) says this is the first hearing he’s seen being carried out “according to mob rule.” He said it’s “hard to take it seriously” when Democrats on the committee have “already made up their mind before the hearing. There’s nothing fair about that.”

― Saba Hamedy

10:31 a.m. ET

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the most senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the rush to confirm Kavanaugh “unprecedented.”

“I’ve been in the Senate for 19 Supreme Court nominations,” he said. “What is being done here is unprecedented, and I keep coming back to the same question: What are we trying to hide? ... I’m just sorry to see the Senate Judiciary Committee descend this way.”

― Nina Golgowski

10:23 a.m. ET

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has refused to bring Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) motion to adjourn the hearing to a vote. Because the committee is not in executive session, he said, he is not required to do so.

― Sara Boboltz

10:09 a.m. ET

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) cited the committee’s responsibility to properly review Supreme Court nominees in requesting the hearing’s postponement.

“Mr. Chairman, we waited for more than a year with a vacancy within the Supreme Court under the direction of your leader in the United States Senate and the republic survived. I think the treatment was shabby of Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee. The fact that we cannot take a few days or weeks to have a complete review of Judge Kavanaugh’s record is unfair to the American people,” he said.

― Nina Golgowski

10:08 a.m. ET

“I really regret this but I think you have to understand the frustration on this side of the aisle,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said about the continued disruptions. “Everyone on this side of the aisle wants to be able to do a good job. They want time to be able to consider what the findings are.”

She added: “And they’re serious: the torture issue, the Enron issue, all of these issues we want to be able to ask questions on.”

Feinstein also invoked Merrick Garland, the judge nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama whose confirmation hearings were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the spring of 2016.

― Sara Boboltz

10:07 a.m. ET

Grassley again countered the Democratic senators’ criticisms, saying that the best way to judge a nominee’s record is through his decisions made in lower courts, referencing the number of documents that were released to the committee.

― Sara Boboltz

10:04 a.m. ET

NBC’s Kasie Hunt reported Democrats coordinated their protest strategy over the holiday weekend, with Schumer leading a call to plan the disruption.

― Paige Lavender

9:58 a.m. ET

“Not one senator here has had time to read through those 40,000 pages,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said.

— Marina Fang

9:55 a.m. ET

Democrats are now pushing back again, asking for Grassley to reconsider Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-Conn.) motion to adjourn the hearing.

“We have been denied real access to the documents we need ... which turns this hearing into a charade and a mockery of our norms,” Blumenthal said.

― Marina Fang

9:54 a.m. ET

Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has taken back control of the hearing and explains that he won’t delay the proceedings over the Democrats’ protest because the committee has already received scores of other documents and a questionnaire from Kavanaugh.

“Senators have had more than enough time and materials to assess Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications,” he says, adding that “I know today is an exciting day.”

— Marina Fang

9:53 a.m. ET

“This committee has more materials for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation than any nominee in history,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in response to criticism over the withheld documents.

― Sara Boboltz

9:50 a.m. ET

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) questioned the White House’s assertion of executive privilege to block more than 100,000 pages of records from Kavanaugh’s time serving the George W. Bush White House from release.

― Sara Boboltz

9:44 a.m. ET

Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) have also called for the hearing to be postponed.

― Nina Golgowski

9:41 a.m. ET

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) kicked off the day by citing the 42,000 pages of documents senators were given hours before the hearing started. As she spoke, protesters disrupted the hearing.

― Paige Lavender & Sara Boboltz

9:36 a.m. ET

Kavanaugh has entered the hearing room. Things will get started shortly.

― Paige Lavender

9:16 a.m. ET

Kavanaugh will vow to be “a neutral and impartial arbiter” if confirmed, according to excerpts of his opening statement.

“I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge,” Kavanaugh said in the statement released by the White House. “I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”

― Nina Golgowski 

8:54 a.m. ET

Protesters have gathered outside Kavanaugh’s hearing room, wearing red cloaks and white bonnets that resemble the dystopian attire featured in the novel turned Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

― Nina Golgowski 

CORRECTION: This post previously said “The Handmaid’s Tale” is on Netflix. It is on Hulu.

7:28 a.m. ET

The Washington Post reported Sunday that hours before Kavanaugh’s hearing was to start, 42,000 pages of documents were released on his time working in the White House under George W. Bush. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said “not a single senator” would be able to review all the documents before the start of Kavanaugh’s hearing.

Read more here.

― Paige Lavender

 

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