Americans United recently joined forces with more than 100 of our coalition allies asking for a full release of emails and other materials generated by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his time in the White House of President George W. Bush.
It’s a completely reasonable request. In fact, it’s standard operating procedure. If a high court nominee has a background in some other type of government service, that material is made available. It can provide a window into the candidate’s thinking and possibly his or her judicial philosophy.
As we noted last week, reams of material like this was released after President Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Kagan had worked in the White House during the tenure of President Bill Clinton, and more than 170,000 pages of material from that period was made available with less than 1 percent of the requested records withheld.
Normally, this is a bipartisan process. The chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the ranking member from the minority party jointly request the material. This time, something a little unusual is going on. U.S. Sen. Charles M. Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee chair, submitted a request for some of the material on his own. He did not work in concert with the ranking member, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Grassley’s request falls far short of the material Americans need to see – and his actions are raising suspicions.
“What is so disqualifying in his record from the White House that they would accede to the administration’s wishes and ignore the precedent Republicans set in demanding exhaustive document productions by Obama nominees?” U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, asked in a statement.
It’s a good question. Kavanaugh held two positions in the White House from 2001-06. It’s quite possible that in those jobs he offered opinions on issues that might come before the high court. And given his demonstrated hostility toward church-state separation, it would be illustrative to know if he was involved in controversial Bush-era programs like the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Charitable Choice. That’s why senators – and the American people – deserve to see this material.
Yesterday, Feinstein, Whitehouse and eight other senators who sit on the Judiciary Committee wrote to officials at the National Archives to request release of all of Kavanaugh’s documents.
As AU has noted, much is at stake in this confirmation battle. Officials at the archives should do the right thing and produce this material at once.