Scenes from a sham

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Scenes from a sham

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opened the proceedings at the hearing to consider Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.

"I welcome everyone…"

Three words in, things got interesting.

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) interjected. Grassley attempted to ignore her and speak over her, but Harris persisted.

"The committee received just last night -- less than 15 hours ago -- 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to review or read or analyze," Harris began. Grassley declared Harris "out of order" and continued his speech.

"I extend a very warm welcome…"

Harris was not having it. "We cannot possibly proceed. We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing for this nominee."

Grassley eventually gave up trying to speak over people, and the Democrats on the committee took over the first 90 minutes of the hearing. They offered a series of motions and speeches, focusing their attention on the hundreds of thousands of documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure at the Bush White House that Republicans are keeping under wraps.

The first-day fireworks reflect the stark reality: Kavanaugh could dramatically alter American life for decades. Unlike other recent nominees, his confirmation would shift the ideological balance of the court. If Kavanaugh becomes the next Supreme Court Justice, the right-wing will have a  stranglehold on the highest court in the land for the foreseeable future.

Democrats are searching for a way to stop his nomination. They'll need the help of at least two Republicans to do it. But even if they are unsuccessful, they want to be on record as putting up a fight.

The Kagan comparison

Senator Grassley claimed that Kavanaugh exhibited the same level of transparency as Justice Elena Kagan, who also had a history at the White House.

But Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), who was chairman of the committee when Obama nominated Kagan, made short work of that argument. Leahy noted that, in the case of Kagan, 99% of her record from the White House was made public 12 days before the hearing began.

In Kavanaugh's case, the hearings have already started and only 7% of the documents from his time at the White House have been released.

"I have been in the Senate for 19 Supreme Court nominations," Leahy said, "What is being done here is unprecedented."

What, exactly, are they hiding?

The documents at issue include:

  • About a million records from 2003-2006 when Kavanaugh was Bush's staff secretary. Grassley did not even request these records.

  • Over 100,000 documents from 2001-2003 when Kavanaugh worked in the White House counsel's office. These are being withheld by the committee by Bill Burck, a "close friend" of Kavanaugh, who is reviewing the documents because Republicans decided the National Archives are too slow. Burck says these records are protected by "executive privilege," which the Trump administration has not formally asserted.

  • 42,000 documents that were released by Burck to the committee on Monday evening, effectively giving the Senators no chance to review them.

Kavanaugh caught lying to Congress

Why are documents important? They prevent a nominee from changing or obscuring his views to secure approval of the Senate.

Republicans on the committee countered that Kavanaugh could simply be asked about his work in the White House. But Kavanaugh’s answers, we learned from his previous nomination to a federal appeals court in 2006, may not be accurate.

During that hearing, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked Kavanaugh about his role in the nomination of William Haynes to be a federal judge. Haynes was “the architect of the administration's discredited detention and interrogation policies,” which included torture.

Kavanaugh definitively responded that he was not involved in Haynes’ nomination or the administration’s interrogation policies.

DURBIN: What was your role in the original Haynes nomination and decision to renominate him? And at the time of the nomination, what did you know about Mr. Haynes's role in crafting the administration's detention and interrogation policies?

KAVANAUGH: Senator, I did not--I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants or--and so I do not have the involvement with that.

But shortly after the hearing, the Washington Post and NPR reported that Kavanaugh had advised the Bush administration on whether its interrogation policies would be upheld by the Supreme Court.

Leahy, citing the reports, referred Kavanaugh’s conduct to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. “False testimony by any witness is troubling and undermines the Senate’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duties on behalf of the American people,” Leahy wrote.

Durbin revealed that “a week or so ago” Kavanaugh finally acknowledged that he was involved with questions around the detention and interrogation of “enemy combatants.”

“For 12 years you could have apologized and corrected this record, but you never did,” Durbin lamented on Tuesday.

Durbin also brought up a 2005 bill, sponsored by John McCain, stating that torture would be illegal in America. Bush signed the bill but issued a “signing statement” saying the president also had the right to ignore it. Durbin asked Kavanaugh this summer if he had any role in crafting the signing statement and Kavanaugh offered that he couldn’t “rule it out.”

Among the documents being withheld from the committee are all records from Kavanaugh's tenure as White House Staff Secretary, which would reveal his true role in providing legal justification for the Bush administration’s torture program.

Kavanaugh leaves Parkland dad hanging

One issue where Kavanaugh would have a major impact on the Supreme Court: gun policy. UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, an expert on gun law, said that Kavanaugh’s rulings reveal “he thinks there is little room for constitutionally permissible gun control.”

There are huge gaps in Supreme Court jurisprudence that Kavanaugh could help fill. The court has not yet ruled on laws that ban or restrict assault weapons, large ammunition magazines or armor-piercing bullets. Also up in the air is “whether it is constitutional to require gun registration or whether significant waiting periods for gun purchases are constitutional.”

Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland school shooting, came to Washington for Kavanaugh’s hearing. During a break in the proceedings, Guttenberg approached Kavanaugh, said his daughter was murdered in Parkland and attempted to shake his hand. Kavanaugh turned his back on Guttenberg and walked away.

Fred Guttenberg@fred_guttenberg

Just walked up to Judge Kavanaugh as morning session ended. 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.

September 4, 2018

An AP photographer captured the remarkable moment.

Appearing on CNN Tuesday evening, Guttenberg said that Kavanaugh not only turned away from him but personally asked security to remove him from the hearing room. Kavanaugh allegedly identified Guttenberg by the bracelets he wears on his wrist to commemorate his slain daughter.

The “loudmouth”

The proceedings were repeatedly interrupted by protesters urging the Senate to reject Kavanaugh’s nomination. At one point, a woman stood up while Senator Hatch (R-UT) was speaking and said she would die without care for her preexisting condition.

Protection for preexisting conditions is at risk with Kavanaugh’s nomination. Texas has sued the federal government, arguing that since the individual mandate of Obamacare has been repealed, the Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare under Congress’ power to tax is no longer valid. The Justice Department has sided with Texas, arguing in a brief that “protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be invalidated.” Kavanaugh has written a position arguing that Obamacare exceeded the federal government’s authority that is largely in line with that of Texas and the Trump administration.

Hatch responded by demanding that “this loudmouth [be] removed.”

Murkowski and Collins in the hot seat

Despite the fireworks in the Senate hearing room, Kavanaugh's fate will be determined by two Senators who weren't there: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

The two Senators have not announced how they intend to vote on Kavanaugh, although Collins has had favorable things to say about his nomination.

Both Senators are now being targeted by ads from a liberal veterans group, VoteVets. The ad features Iraq War Veteran Kate Logan.

"A Senator who votes for Brett Kavanaugh is voting to end Roe v. Wade, criminalize abortion and punish women. I fought for your freedom Senator Collins. Now it's your turn to fight for mine," Logan says.

The organization is spending $330,000 to air versions of the ad in Maine and Alaska.

Trump on Nike: Money talks

Trump has spent nearly his entire presidency railing against NFL players who protest racism by kneeling during the national anthem. So you’d expect him to be very critical of Nike’s decision to feature Colin Kaepernick, who started the protests, in a new ad.

But Trump, for the first time in recent memory, bit his lip. Why? Because Nike rents space in one of his office buildings.

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. Trump actually admitted it.

“Nike is a tenant of mine. They pay a lot of rent,” Trump told the Daily Caller in an interview on Tuesday when asked about Kaepernick's endorsement deal. While offering some muted criticism, Trump at one point praised the endorsement as "what this country is all about."

...I think it’s a terrible message that they’re sending and the purpose of them doing it, maybe there’s a reason for them doing it… As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it… In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it.

Nike is Trump's largest tenant at his building at 6 East 57th Street, occupying 65,000 square feet. (Trump didn't mention it, but the company is moving out soon.)

Upon taking office, Trump maintained full ownership of his companies but promised to have no involvement. The companies were to be run by his sons – Eric and Donald Jr. His continued revenue stream from his business interests, including from foreign governments, has been the subject of numerous lawsuits – including one that is progressing in federal court.

Trump’s comments to the Daily Caller make clear that he still views himself as the CEO of the Trump Organization.

It also sends a clear message to prospective tenants: Rent space from the Trump Organization, and you can expect to receive favorable treatment from the President of the United States.

Before and after: Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward has a new book about Donald Trump that comes out next week. In a conversation with Woodward in August, Trump expressed regret that Woodward's request for an interview didn't make it to him and praised the fabled reporter as "fair."

I’m sorry we missed the opportunity to talk for the book...It’s really too bad, because nobody told me about it, and I would’ve loved to have spoken to you. You know I’m very open to you. I think you’ve always been fair.

Then excerpts of the book came out in the Washington Post. The book describes "Trump’s anger and paranoia about the Russia inquiry" and "his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs." White House staff allegedly removed documents from Trump's desk in an effort to avoid disaster.

"He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown," White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said, according to Woodward's account.

All of a sudden, Trump's views about Woodward changed dramatically.

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?

September 4, 2018

The White House issued a statement calling the book a collection of "fabricated stories," without disputing anything specific.

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