– The National Archives and
Records Administration (NARA) concurred with President George W. Bush
representatives’ assessment that confidential records leaked by several
Democrats are legally restricted from public release. In a letter
dispelling misrepresentations about the handling of records
to Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Bush’s Presidential Records Act
representative noted that several Democratic senators ignored established
processes for responsibly releasing sensitive material.
“By leaking sensitive material that the National Archives has
agreed should not have been released under the law, I fear that my colleagues
have damaged the faith in this committee’s ability to responsibly handle
delicate information. This could have been avoided if Senators worked with me
to ensure the records were properly reviewed and prepared for public
release. Every request I received to use
confidential records in the public hearing was honored. Breaking the rules for the sake of breaking
the rules is no way to govern, especially when doing so tarnishes the trust in
our ability to take seriously sensitive matters,” Grassley said.
nominations, NARA produced similar material to the committee on a confidential
basis if it was restricted from public access under the Presidential Records
Act (PRA) or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Grassley offered to help his
colleagues seek waivers for confidential material that they wished to discuss
in the public portion of last week’s Supreme Court nomination hearing. Alternatively,
any committee member could have questioned the nominee in the closed session on
Friday about any committee confidential document. Only one Senator
took Grassley up on his offer to help obtain public
disclosure of documents prior to the hearings.
Several senators unilaterally leaked some confidential records during
and after the hearing.
“We understand that, despite our willingness
to accommodate, one Member has unilaterally “released” over 40 “Committee
Confidential” documents without seeking consent from you, the Bush team, or the
current Administration. We have the benefit of NARA’s assessment of 18 of these
documents (we do not yet know NARA’s assessment of the others), and consistent
with our review team, NARA determined 17 of them should be restricted from
public release. The one NARA would have released publicly is attached to this
letter,” William Burck said in the letter
to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley.
also outlined the process for reviewing and sharing records with the Committee
in a timely, transparent and responsible manner after having consulted with
either NARA, the Justice Department or both.
“We gave to the Committee every page of every
document given to us by the National Archives and Records Administration
(NARA), except personal documents—which the Committee did not request and which
NARA agreed should not be produced—and constitutionally privileged documents
identified by the Department of Justice—which the current Administration
directed that we not provide,” the letter
with the precedent
established by then-Chairman Leahy
, records containing material
restricted from public release under the PRA or FOIA were provided to the
committee on a confidential basis. Given
the large volume of records from Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive public service,
Bush’s records team provided the material to the committee on an expedited
basis while NARA conducted the same review of the same material. Bush’s team also applied the same criteria as
NARA when identifying material that should be held confidential.
“This means that the Committee has received—months
earlier than it otherwise would have—the same records, either for public
release or on a “Committee Confidential” basis, that it would have received
through NARA’s own review process. NARA would have withheld the same personal
documents and would have been required to follow the direction of the current
Administration with respect to constitutionally protected documents,” the letter said.
Burck provided an updated
of the records his team had received from NARA. Burck’s latest letter is available HERE