POLITICS
09/05/2018 09:35 am ET Updated Sep 05, 2018

Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing Continues

Read live updates from his grilling on Capitol Hill.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing continues Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The hearing kicked off with chaos Tuesday as Democrats demanded more time to review 42,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time working in President George W. Bush’s White House. Theirs wasn’t the only coordinated dissent in the room ― protesters also disrupted the proceedings.

Read live updates from the second day of the hearing below. (You may need to refresh the page to see the latest updates.): 

10:08 p.m. ET

More than 12 hours after the second day’s proceedings began, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been dismissed for the evening.

― Doha Madani

9:40 p.m. ET

Kavanaugh continually refuses to answer questions on Roe v. Wade, but Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) asked whether the judge can think of any laws that allow the government to make a decision about a man’s body. 

Kavanaugh stumbled but eventually said, “I’m not thinking of any right now, senator.”  

 ― Doha Madani

9:28 p.m. ET

Sen. Kamala Harris asked Kavanaugh directly if he had a conversation about special counsel Robert Muller’s Russia investigation with anyone working at the law firm founded by President Donald Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz. 

There was a brief pause for the committee to discuss the appropriateness of the question before Harris was allowed to continue her line of questioning. 

Kavanaugh did not answer, saying he does not know who works at the Kasowitz, Benson Torres law firm.

― Doha Madani

8:49 p.m. ET

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) objected to Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) questioning Kavanaugh on an email the judge cannot see. 

“That’s why this system is rigged,” Booker responded.  

Booker argued, again, to release some of the “committee confidential” records that are being withheld from the public. 

― Doha Madani

8:40 p.m. ET

Booker has not relented on Kavanaugh’s position on racial diversity, profiling and targeted policing. The senator pressed Kavanaugh on his position on voting rights, citing a case from South Carolina in which the judge ruled in favor of a voter identification law despite evidence of the law’s discriminating effect. Booker called such laws a “modern-day poll tax.”

“We are at a time when states are enacting these laws all over our country designed to disenfranchise voters, as one federal court said about a South Carolina law, ‘targeting them with almost surgical precision to disenfranchise them,’” Booker said toward the end of his time. “And now we don’t even have the Voting Rights Act designed to curtail discriminatory laws before they go into effect. Your answers don’t provide me comfort.”

― Doha Madani

8:19 p.m. ET

Sen. Cory Booker pushed Kavanaugh on whether he shares Justice Antonin Scalia’s one-race theory, the belief that it’s “never permissible” for the government to remediate past discrimination. Booker cited old emails and opinion pieces written by Kavanaugh on the matter and asked what he believed now. 

“Senator, I am following the precedent set by the eight justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court. To put it in the words of Justice Kagan, who was asked some of the same questions, it would be inappropriate to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down,” Kavanaugh said.  

 ― Doha Madani

7:47 p.m. ET

There will be a 25-minute break. Kavanaugh is asked to return at 8:05 p.m. to speak with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

― Doha Madani

6:53 p.m. ET

Hirono pushed Kavanaugh on his relationship with federal court judge Alex Kozinski, who has been accused of making sexually inappropriate comments to female clerks and lower-level staff members and showing them pornography on his office computer. Kavanaugh insisted he had no knowledge of the allegations before they were reported publicly.

― Doha Madani

6:46 p.m. ET

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Kavanaugh the same two questions she’s been asking all of President Donald Trump’s nominees for the last seven months:

“Since you became a legal adult, have you ever made unwanted requests for sexual favors or committed any verbal or physical harassment or assault of a sexual nature?”

“Have you ever faced discipline or entered into a settlement related to this kind of conduct?”

Kavanaugh said no to both inquiries.

― Doha Madani

6:39 p.m. ET

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) asked Kavanaugh whether he believes a president should be able to use his authority to pressure agencies for political purposes, citing President Donald Trump’s suggestion that the Department of Justice ought to lay off prosecuting Republicans ahead of the November midterm elections.

Kavanaugh declined to weigh in, maintaining that it wouldn’t be appropriate for a Supreme Court nominee to comment on current events or “political controversies.”

― Igor Bobic

6:04 p.m. ET

Pressed by Blumenthal, Kavanaugh once again said he followed Supreme Court precedent on parental consent provisions in the Texas case involving an undocumented teenager who sought an abortion last fall. The teen followed state law in the case, obtaining permission from a judge in lieu of parental consent. Kavanaugh’s opponents say his suggestion that the teen first consult an immigration sponsor before deciding on the abortion was unfair and harmful.

― Sara Boboltz

6:01 p.m. ET

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked Kavanaugh if he would commit to never overturning Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh did not answer, citing previous justices who did not answer the question at their hearings.

― Doha Madani

5:53 p.m. ET

Kavanaugh would not say whether he would recuse himself from any Supreme Court cases involving President Donald Trump’s “criminal or civil liability,” citing judicial independence.

― Sara Boboltz

5:28 p.m. ET

Grassley has called a 10-minute break. Kavanaugh is asked to return after five minutes to speak with Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

― Sara Boboltz

5:04 p.m. ET

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) posed a hypothetical scenario in which a president from “the Purple Party” was driving a vehicle that struck and killed another person, asking whether the president would be “immune” from prosecution.

“No one has ever said a president is immune from civil or criminal process,” Kavanaugh replied, saying the key was all about timing.

“The Justice Department for 45 years has taken the position that the timing of the criminal process should be after the president leaves office,” he said, adding: “Now, that doesn’t include accumulation of evidence.”

― Sara Boboltz

5:02 p.m. ET

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Democrats have only begun to grill Kavanaugh about his views on health care and abortion.

“It’s just gotten started,” Wyden told reporters on Wednesday. “I can tell you for certain before these hearings are done, Democrats will have dug into in great length the issue of turning back the clock on women’s privacy.”

― Igor Bobic

4:21 p.m. ET

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) asked whether the president could “fire at will” a prosecutor who is criminally prosecuting him, citing a past opinion of Kavanaugh’s.

“I think all I can say, Senator, is that was my view in 1998,” the nominee said.

― Sara Boboltz

4:02 p.m. ET

Progressive groups leading the fight against Kavanaugh ― Demand Justice, MoveOn and NARAL Pro-Choice America ― are urging Senate Democrats to release all “committee confidential” records that could potentially show that he lied under oath.

During his questioning, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) suggested that Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has deemed some documents “committee confidential” that show that Kavanaugh received copies of emails stolen from Leahy in 2002 relating to Democrats’ strategy for processing then-President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. Kavanaugh testified in 2004 and 2006 that he didn’t know those emails had been stolen, so evidence suggesting otherwise would mean he committed perjury. But since Grassley has restricted access to those documents to committee members, Leahy wasn’t able to ask Kavanaugh specifically about them in his hearing.

“Chairman Grassley must not shield Judge Kavanaugh from evidence that Kavanaugh perjured himself in previous confirmation hearings” reads a joint statement by the three groups. “Democratic senators must put an end to this secretive sham. They know that nothing in the Senate Standing Rules or Judiciary Committee Rules grants Grassley sole authority to designate documents ‘Committee Confidential’ or prohibit their public release.”

― Jennifer Bendery

3:58 p.m. ET

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Kavanaugh and Merrick Garland — former President Barack Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee who never advanced to hearings — were on the same page in the vast majority of decisions both judges participated in on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

“He’s a judge who’s not trying to impose any personal preferences onto his decision but take the law as written,” Kavanaugh said of Garland.

― Sara Boboltz

3:39 p.m. ET

Klobuchar also asked for the nominee’s thoughts on limits to campaign finance contributions by individuals, citing a past Kavanaugh quote: “I, for one, tend to think those limits have some constitutional problems.”

The judge cited two cases in which he upheld campaign contribution limits while serving on the D.C. circuit court and said the Supreme Court generally upholds the limits “unless they are too low.”

― Sara Boboltz

3:34 p.m. ET

Klobuchar questioned a past dissent of Kavanaugh’s by seeming to suggest it could threaten vital government agencies, repeatedly naming the Social Security Administration as an example. In his dissent, Kavanaugh wrote that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is an unconstitutional body because it’s led by just one member. Klobuchar said other agencies are structured similarly, but Kavanaugh did not explain what the difference was.

― Sara Boboltz

3:21 p.m. ET

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) again brought up executive power, reminding Kavanaugh that he once said a president could be prosecuted for a “dastardly” act.

Kavanaugh waffled, saying that he would come to any case with an “open mind” if it involved a constitutional question. He would not define an “impeachable offense.”

― Sara Boboltz

3:05 p.m. ET

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who wrote a book about the Constitution, had a lengthy exchange about Kavanaugh’s views on the Constitution and the Federalist Papers. Lee asked which of the Federalist Papers is the nominee’s favorite. When Kavanaugh named several, Lee suggested that Spotify should put them into a playlist of “greatest hits.”

Senators just adjourned for a break. Back in 10 minutes.

— Marina Fang

2:30 p.m. ET

Kavanaugh, asked about The Federalist Society, which has essentially handpicked conservative justices for the Supreme Court, claimed that “I am not familiar.”

Here’s more on the group’s role in helping Trump reshape federal courts, from HuffPost’s Jen Bendery. 

— Marina Fang

2:21 p.m. ET

Continuing the theme of his opening statement Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) pressed Kavanaugh on the network of conservative special interests and its heavy influence on the Supreme Court in recent years.

Read more on this from HuffPost’s Paul Blumenthal. 

— Marina Fang

2:07 p.m. ET

Kavanaugh said Wednesday that he couldn’t give assurances that he would uphold pre-existing condition requirements under Obamacare as constitutional if the issue arose before him on the Supreme Court in the future.

“I can’t give assurances on a specific hypothetical,” he said, arguing that his declining to speak on the matter is consistent with how other nominees have discussed issues they may rule on.

― Igor Bobic

1:36 p.m. ET

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) used a procedural rule to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to adjourn the Senate for the day in protest of Republicans withholding more than 100,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s records.

On the Senate floor, McConnell asked for consent to waive a rule that prevents committees from meeting for more than two hours after the Senate convenes. The Senate met at noon on Wednesday, which would mean that no committees could meet after 2 p.m. unless McConnell got consent. Schumer objected to granting that consent.

“Over 90 percent of Judge Kavanaugh’s record has not been received by the Senate and may never be,” Schumer said. “The Republican majority is deliberately obstructing the Senate’s constitutional duty to fairly and thoroughly conduct our advise and consent powers. ... So I object.”

To get around that rule, McConnell opted to simply end all Senate floor business and adjourn. So Kavanaugh’s hearing will continue, even as Senate floor business will not.

― Jennifer Bendery

1:22 p.m. ET

Durbin questioned a harsh 2017 dissent Kavanaugh authored that criticized the D.C. circuit court’s decision to quickly allow a pregnant, undocumented teenager in Texas access to an abortion. Kavanaugh defended his opinion because a minor was involved and it was “proper” for her to first consult with an “immigration sponsor,” which can be a family member or friend.

Durbin said Kavanaugh was adding to the requirements of Texas law.

― Sara Boboltz

1:09 p.m. ET

Durbin’s line of questioning began with an issue that he has long promised to bring up, stemming from Kavanaugh’s 2006 confirmation hearing for his post on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

At the time, Kavanaugh said he was not involved in the Bush administration’s torture program when he worked in the White House. Later reports suggested otherwise, and Durbin argued today that Kavanaugh provided “inaccurate and misleading testimony.”

Kavanaugh just said he stands by his answer.

— Marina Fang

12:59 p.m. ET

Back from the break. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) again brought up the records issue with Grassley.

— Marina Fang

12:24 p.m. ET

After questioning from five senators, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, as promised, announced a lunch break until around 12:45 p.m. ET.

— Marina Fang

12:21 p.m. ET

Addressing Roe v. Wade, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked how Kavanaugh would overturn the notion of judicial precedent in a case, given the judge’s previous comments on his commitment to the practice.

The senator emphasized that “there is a process in place” to overturn a precedent. The nominee agreed.

“You listen to all arguments,” Kavanaugh said.

― Sara Boboltz

12:04 p.m. ET

Asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) whether presidents have the “absolute right” to pardon themselves, likely referencing Trump, Kavanaugh called it a “hypothetical question that I can’t begin to answer.”

He similarly said earlier that Feinstein’s question about whether a sitting president can be required to respond to a subpoena was “a hypothetical question.”

—Marina Fang

11:58 a.m. ET

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) appeared to give Kavanaugh a chance to respond to critics who say he snubbed Fred Guttenberg, the father of a Parkland shooting victim, on Tuesday. Kavanaugh instead spent several minutes on his charitable habits, including his experience helping the homeless through Catholic organizations.

― Sara Boboltz

11:50 a.m. ET

Asked explicitly by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) whether he knew about the computer hack or whether any information provided to him in the Bush White House was done so inappropriately, Kavanaugh replied, “No.”

― Sara Boboltz

11:40 a.m. ET

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) grilled Kavanaugh on what he knew about the Republican staff members who hacked into Democrats’ computers to monitor strategy memos in 2002 and 2003. The hack became public in 2004, and included Leahy’s files. Implicated in the scandal was Manny Miranda, an aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Miranda resigned under pressure from Democrats.

Leahy surfaced emails involving Kavanaugh and Miranda, asking why Kavanaugh did not question how Miranda was able to send him “very private” emails from Democrats. The senator suggested the emails may contradict a prior statement from Kavanaugh in which he denied any prior knowledge of the hack, and argued that more documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House should be released to the committee.

― Sara Boboltz

11:08 a.m. ET

When Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Kavanaugh for his views on diversity in legal circles, he noted that most of the nominee’s clerks have been women. Kavanaugh said he believes in equality and has been “very aggressive about hiring the best, and understanding that the best include women.”

― Sara Boboltz

11:01 a.m. ET

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked Kavanaugh about his former boss, Judge Alex Kozinski, who was accused of sexual harassment by at least 15 women, including former law clerks and staffers. Kavanaugh said he had no prior knowledge of the allegations, calling them “a gut punch.” 

“I was shocked and disappointed and angry,” he said. “No women should be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.”

Expect this topic to come up again later, as Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) plans to ask Kavanaugh about sexual harassment, a topic she has brought up with many other Trump administration nominees. 

— Marina Fang

10:59 a.m. ET

The hearing room was a bit quieter this morning as members of the public were kept out for over 30 minutes. It’s not clear what happened, but seats for the public were left open, and people were unable to get in. But around 10:45 a.m., tickets were given to people standing in line once again and they were allowed in 23 people at a time. So the block was just temporary.

― Amanda Terkel

10:52 a.m. ET

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) voiced her concern over Kavanaugh’s stance on gun rights, citing a dissent in which he argued that a ban on semi-automatic rifles violated the Second Amendment, according to the argument laid out in a 2008 Supreme Court decision, because those weapons are not so different from semi-automatic handguns, which the opinion said were generally protected. At the hearing, Kavanaugh defended his opinion and disagreed with Feinstein’s assessment that the weapons are not in “common use.”

Asked how he “reconcile[s]” his words with “the hundreds of school shootings that have taken place with assault weapons in recent years,” Kavanaugh acknowledged that “violence in schools is something we all detest.” But he added, “My job, as I saw it, was to follow the Second Amendment opinion of the Supreme Court whether or not I agreed with it.”

― Sara Boboltz

10:49 a.m. ET

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) tried to find out more about the nominee’s feelings on executive powers.

― Igor Bobic

10:42 a.m. ET

His “stunt double” would be Don McGahn, President Donald Trump’s outgoing White House counsel. McGahn has played a key role in helping cement Trump’s judicial legacy, leading White House efforts for the nominations of both Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, as well as scores of other lower-court judges.

― Marina Fang

10:41 a.m. ET

PBS’s Lisa Desjardins said seats available to the public for Kavanaugh’s hearing were empty early in the day on Wednesday, despite there being a line outside the hearing for people waiting to get in.

― Paige Lavender

10:40 a.m. ET

Kavanaugh called Roe v. Wade, the landmark reproductive rights Supreme Court opinion, an “important” precedent that has been reaffirmed “many times,” including in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case.

“Casey reaffirmed it and became a precedent on precedent,” Kavanaugh said.

Responding to a comment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about not wanting to go back to a time when abortion is outlawed, Kavanaugh said, “I don’t live in a bubble. I live in the real world.”

When Feinstein asked whether he believed a woman had a right to choose an abortion, Kavanaugh reiterated again that Roe is “an important precedent of the Supreme Court.”

― Igor Bobic

10:05 a.m. ET

Kavanaugh repeatedly stressed Wednesday that he views U.S. v. Nixon, the landmark Supreme Court opinion that ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over White House recordings toward the end of the Watergate investigation, as one of the best examples of judicial independence.

On the second day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate, Kavanaugh called the opinion “one of the greatest moments in judicial history.”

During a roundtable discussion with other lawyers in 1999, however, Kavanaugh said, “maybe Nixon was wrongly decided ― heresy though it is to say so.” At the time, Kavanaugh said the opinion “took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official.”

― Igor Bobic

10 a.m. ET

It’s going to be a long day. Here’s the schedule for Day Two of Kavanaugh’s hearing, via CNN.

9:30 a.m.-noon: Questioning
12 p.m.-12:15 p.m.: Break
12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.: Questioning
1:15 p.m.-1:45 p.m.: Lunch
1:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: Questioning
3:45 p.m.-4 p.m.: Break
4 p.m.-6:15 p.m.: Questioning
6:15 p.m.-6:45 p.m.: Dinner
6:45 p.m.-9 p.m.: Questioning

― Jennifer Bendery

9:57 a.m. ET

Grassley asked whether Kavanaugh would have a problem ruling against the president who nominated him, a common concern among Democrats.

“No one is above the law in our constitutional system,” Kavanaugh said. “No matter where you come from, no matter how rich you are, how poor you are, no matter your race, gender, your position in life … it’s all equal justice under law.”

He praised a 1952 decision by the court to rule against then-President Harry Truman for seizing steel mills and emphasized the importance of “resisting public pressure.”

― Sara Boboltz

9:50 a.m. ET

“I want the losing party in every case to come out and say, ‘Kavanaugh gave me a fair shake,’” the nominee replied when asked what makes a good Supreme Court justice.

― Sara Boboltz

9:44 a.m. ET

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted her opposition to Kavanaugh on Wednesday morning, arguing he would “of course” work to “gut or overturn” Roe v. Wade.

She previously warned of Kavanaugh’s potential impact on health care access. 

― Paige Lavender & Sara Boboltz

9:43 a.m. ET

Grassley explained today’s format: 30 minutes of questioning from each senator, with a 30-minute lunch break around 12:15. After five senators have completed their rounds of questioning. Kavanaugh can request other breaks, if needed.

— Marina Fang

9:40 a.m. ET

Kavanaugh’s two daughters, Margaret, 13, and Liza, 10, did not join their parents for the start of the second day of the confirmation hearing. The girls left early in the first day of the hearing amid continued protests.

― Sara Boboltz

9:39 a.m. ET

And we’re off to the races. Protesters just interrupted the opening minutes of Day Two, just as Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) brought up the arrests from Tuesday.

― Marina Fang

8:16 a.m. ET

HuffPost’s Jen Bendery noted on Twitter that the two senators who could decide Kavanaugh’s fate ― Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) ― have both voted to confirm all of President Donald Trump’s other anti-abortion judges.

― Paige Lavender

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