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Grassley: A Moment of Honesty From Chuck Schumer

He admits his mind is made up on Kavanaugh. That means his document demands are in bad faith.

The Wall Street Journal | August 7, 2018
By Senator Chuck Grassley
Americans trust politicians about as much as they trust used-car salesmen, and it’s understandable that voters view what my colleagues and I say and do through a skeptical lens. But elected officials can also exhibit moments of exceeding honesty.
On July 10, the morning after President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he’d oppose the nomination “with everything I’ve got.” If the weeks since are any indicator, we should believe him.
Immediately after news broke that Justice Anthony Kennedy was retiring, Democrats demanded that the president wait until the next Congress to appoint a replacement. They cited the “Biden rule,” a precedent based on then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joe Biden’s 1992 pronouncement that his committee would wait until after the heated presidential election season to consider any Supreme Court nomination. This year is a midterm election year, not a presidential one. Most Democrats have abandoned the talking point, but they haven’t abandoned the goal of delaying the process.
Presumably, Mr. Schumer announced that he would oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination before he read the judge’s 307 written opinions and the many other opinions he joined. Certainly, it was before he reviewed the more than 17,000 pages Judge Kavanaugh provided to the committee in response to our bipartisan questionnaire and an estimated one million pages of documents the committee has requested from the Bush White House, where Judge Kavanaugh once worked.
It stands to reason that Senator Schumer wasn’t too concerned about Judge Kavanaugh’s record before he announced his opposition. Why is it so important to Senator Schumer now?
Democratic leaders are demanding access to every page from every email and every paper record from every one of the hundreds of White House aides who came and went during the entire eight years of President Bush’s time in office. This includes records that merely mention Judge Kavanaugh’s name and records he’s never seen. That is not reasonable. As I have made clear, I will not put taxpayers on the hook for a fishing expedition.
These documents include those from Judge Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary, a post that manages the paper flow into and out of the Oval Office. They are both the least relevant documents to the nomination and the most sensitive to the executive branch, two considerations that have guided previous review processes. They’re extremely sensitive because they contain policy advice that went directly to President Bush, and the policy directives that came directly from him, on the full range of presidential responsibilities, including national security.
The staff secretary is an important position, but it’s decidedly less revealing of Judge Kavanaugh’s legal thinking than his 12 years as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and his legal service in the White House Counsel’s Office and the Office of Independent Counsel—roles in which he acted as a lawyer. The staff secretary documents consist largely of materials Judge Kavanaugh didn’t write. They were prepared by policy advisers across the executive branch. The materials are also saturated with irrelevant documents—including miscellaneous news clippings, the daily schedule, and even the White House lunch menu.
The number of pages would range in the millions, an unprecedented document dump that would take well into next year to review. And that’s exactly what Democratic leaders want and have wanted all along. Within hours after Justice Kennedy announced his retirement, Democrats telegraphed their strategy to block Mr. Trump from appointing a replacement. Their objective is to delay the confirmation process until after the midterm elections, with the hope of taking control of the Senate. My Democratic counterpart on the Judiciary Committee’s hometown newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, put it quite succinctly: “Feinstein, other Senate Dems have plan on Brett Kavanaugh nomination: Stall.”
So recent complaints from Mr. Schumer and other Democrats about the scope of records requests ring hollow, especially coming from senators who have already declared their opposition to Judge Kavanaugh and initially refused even to meet with him.
Democrats’ arguments have changed, but their goal hasn’t. First, it was a misrepresentation of the Biden rule—whose existence they denied in 2016. Now, it’s a manufactured document fight. Both arguments have been made with the aim of stalling the confirmation process until after midterms.
The next time you hear complaints about the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vetting process—the most extensive and transparent in history—remember Mr. Schumer’s pledge to oppose Judge Kavanaugh with everything he’s got. How much more do Democratic leaders need to know when they’re already voting no?