WASHINGTON — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation tumbled into highly charged arguing Thursday over whether key documents were being withheld, and one Democrat risked Senate discipline by releasing confidential material.
A newly disclosed email revealed that President Donald Trump’s pick once suggested Roe v. Wade was not settled law
The finger-pointing over the unusual vetting process for Trump’s nominee made for a rough start for the final day of questioning of Kavanaugh who has so far avoided major missteps that could block his confirmation.
Republican John Cornyn of Texas said senators could be expelled from office for violating confidentially rules, while Democrats led by Cory Booker of New Jersey, responded, “Bring it on.”
RELATED: Confidential Kavanaugh emails
Meanwhile it was shown in an email that Kavanaugh had taken a different tone on a 2003 abortion case than he had during Wednesday’s hearing when he stressed how difficult it is to overturn precedents like Roe.
In the email, Kavanaugh was reviewing a potential op-ed article in support of two judicial nominees while he was working at the George W. Bush White House, according to the document. It had been held by the committee as confidential.
“I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” Kavanaugh wrote, referring to justices at the time, in an email to a Republican Senate aide.
The document is partially redacted.
Asked about it by the committee’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, Kavanaugh reiterated his previous testimony that “Roe v. Wade is an important precedent of the Supreme Court.”
The 15-year-old email underscored a dispute that has dominated part of the hearing over Kavanaugh’s unusually long paper trail stemming from his years in the Bush White House.
The panel’s process resulted in hundreds of thousands of pages of Kavanaugh’s documents being withheld as confidential or kept from release under presidential privilege by the Trump White House.
Booker called the process “a bit of a sham.” He was chastised by GOP colleagues for having discussed a confidential document about Kavanaugh’s legal views on race. Cornyn said it was “irresponsible and conduct unbecoming a senator.”
Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said more documents would be released Thursday and stood by his handling of Kavanaugh’s paper trail.
“My process was fair,” Grassley said as he opened the session.
So far, Kavanaugh appears on track toward confirmation in the Republican-held Senate, but after a marathon 12-hour session Wednesday, he also does not seem to have changed minds on the committee, which is split along partisan lines.
The judge left unanswered questions over how he would handle investigations of the executive branch and whether he would recuse himself if cases involving Trump under special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe end up at the court.
Trump says he’s pleased with his nominee’s performance, and Republicans are united behind him, eager to add a conservative judge to the court.AlertMe