WASHINGTON — The Latest on the Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (all times local):
Kavanaugh Has Not Taken a Position
3:50 p.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he has not taken a position on the constitutionality of investigating a sitting president. Yet his past writings cast doubt on the idea.
Asked by Sen. Amy Klobuchar Wednesday whether he believes such investigations are only acceptable in impeachment proceedings, Kavanaugh replied: “I did not take a position on the constitutionality. Period.”
In a footnote to a 2009 law review article, Kavanaugh wrote that “a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.”
A decade earlier, Kavanaugh wrote that the Constitution seems to dictate that “congressional investigation must take place in lieu of criminal investigation when the President is the subject of investigation, and that criminal prosecution can occur only after the President has left office.”
Trump Watching the Senate Confirmation Hearings
2:25 p.m. — President Donald Trump says he’s been watching the Senate confirmation hearings of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He says the judge has “an outstanding intellect.”
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office as he welcomes the emir of Kuwait to the White House, Trump says he’s “happy” with the way the proceedings are going.
Trump says he “saw some incredible answers to very complex questions,” when he tuned in to the proceedings. Trump called Kavanaugh “an outstanding judge” who was “born for the position.”
Kavanaugh was questioned before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday.
Trump says Democrats are “grasping at straws” in their questioning of Kavanaugh.
Senate Republicans Forced to Adjourn
2:05 p.m. — Senate Republicans have been forced to adjourn the Senate to continue the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer objected to a request from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow Kavanaugh’s hearing to continue past 2 p.m. Wednesday. Under Senate rules, the minority leader must agree before a hearing can extend two hours past the opening of the Senate. The chamber opened at noon on Wednesday.
Schumer objected, protesting that Republicans are holding back records from Kavanaugh’s time in government.
Rather than allowing Kavanaugh’s hearing to end at 2 p.m., McConnell adjourned the Senate. The confirmation hearing is expected to last into the late evening.
Earlier in the day, liberal groups blasted Schumer’s handling of the Supreme Court fight, declaring, “you are failing us.”
Denying He Misled Senators in Testimony
12:25 p.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is denying that he misled senators in testimony when he was nominated to be an appellate judge in 2006. He says the testimony was “100 percent accurate.”
The response does not appear to have satisfied Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Leahy is suggesting that confidential documents not available to the public may contradict Kavanaugh’s assertions that he knew nothing about a Bush administration warrantless surveillance program or efforts by a Republican Judiciary Committee aide to steal material from Democrats in advance of judicial nomination hearings.
Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said he would consider making the documents public in time for Leahy’s next round of questions Thursday.
Kavanaugh’s response came after an unusual moment where Democrats played a video clip of Kavanaugh’s 2006 testimony.
Questions About President’s Pardon Power
12:15 p.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is declining to answer questions about the extent of the president’s pardon power.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked Kavanaugh: “President Trump claims he has an absolute right to pardon himself. Does he?”
Kavanaugh responded that the question was a hypothetical one he “can’t begin to answer in this context as a sitting judge and as a nominee to the Supreme Court.”
Leahy followed by asking whether the president has the ability to pardon someone in exchange for a promise not to testify against him. Kavanaugh declined to answer.
Leahy concluded by saying: “I hope for the sake of the country that remains a hypothetical question.”
President Donald Trump has declined to rule out pardons for people convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Knows Nothing About Sexual Misconduct Allegations
11:35 a.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he knew nothing about the sexual misconduct allegations against a judge who was a friend and mentor.
Kavanaugh said Wednesday that when the allegations against former federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski became public, they were a “gut punch” for him and for the federal judiciary. Asked whether he knew about the allegations before they became public, Kavanaugh responded: “nothing.” He said he was “shocked and disappointed.”
Asked whether he was on an email list that Kozinski used to send offensive material, Kavanaugh responded: “I don’t remember anything like that.”
Kozinski retired in December after several female former law clerks and colleagues accused him of sexual misconduct.
Kavanaugh clerked for Kozinski, and Kozinski introduced him during his 2006 confirmation hearing to be a judge.
President Trump and Potential Subpoena
11:20 a.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is refusing to say whether a president can be forced to testify in a criminal case, calling it a hypothetical.
The topic is front-and-center at Kavanaugh’s hearing because the man who nominated him, President Donald Trump, could face a subpoena in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, asked Kavanaugh whether he thinks a sitting president can “be required to respond to a subpoena.”
Kavanaugh responded: “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question.”
The Supreme Court has never ruled on a presidential subpoena.
President Bill Clinton was subpoenaed by independent counsel Kenneth Starr in 1998. Clinton eventually agreed to testify voluntarily and the subpoena was withdrawn.
Kavanaugh worked for Starr.
The Constitutional Right to an Abortion
11 a.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says a 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion is an “important precedent” that has “been reaffirmed many times.”
Kavanaugh was asked about the Roe v. Wade ruling by Democrat Dianne Feinstein of California. He said the decision has “been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years.” And he noted that a 1992 decision of the court called Planned Parenthood v. Casey didn’t just reaffirm Roe v. Wade in passing. He said that decision becomes “precedent on precedent.”
Kavanaugh compared the Roe decision to another case, Miranda v. Arizona, which requires law enforcement to tell suspects their rights. Kavanaugh noted that former Chief Justice William Rehnquist had been a critic of the Miranda decision but later upheld it as precedent.
Invoking Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
10:30 a.m. — Republicans are invoking Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to make the case that Brett Kavanaugh should decline to say how he might vote on any particular case.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley referred to the so-called “Ginsburg standard” Wednesday during the second day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.
Ginsburg said during her 1993 confirmation hearing that it would be wrong for her to “preview in this legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide.”
As Kavanaugh put it, quoting Ginsburg, that means “no hints, no forecasts, no previews.”
Despite her statement, Ginsburg was questioned extensively about abortion during her hearing. She told lawmakers, “It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decision maker.”
Kavanaugh Points to a Previous Decision
10:20 a.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is pointing to a decision where he ruled for an associate of Osama bin Laden as evidence of his independence as judge.
Asked by Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley to discuss what judicial independence means to him, Kavanaugh pointed to his opinion in a case involving Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was bin Laden’s former chauffeur. Hamdan challenged his detention at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Kavanaugh told senators that “you’ll never have a nominee who’s ruled for a more unpopular defendant.” Kavanaugh says judges don’t make decisions based on who people are, but “whether they have the law on their side.”
Hamdan was released from Guantanamo before the appeals court ruling that vacated his conviction.
His First Day Answering Questions
9:55 a.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh says he believes the first thing that makes a good judge is “independence.”
Kavanaugh is answering questions Wednesday in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s his first day answering questions from lawmakers.
Committee chairman Chuck Grassley began the day by asking Kavanaugh to explain what he thinks makes a good judge.
Kavanaugh responded that he thinks “the first quality of a good judge in our constitutional system is independence.” He said being a good judge also requires paying attention to the words of the Constitution and the words of laws, “not doing what I want to do.”
The judge said he wants parties to leave oral arguments in his cases believing he had an “open mind, he gave me a fair shake.”
Disrupting the Hearings
9:50 a.m. — Demonstrators are again disrupting the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley attempted to gavel in the second day of hearings on Wednesday when shouting protesters began disrupting the hearings. Grassley said 70 people were arrested during the first day of hearings the day before.
Kavanaugh will be answering questions from senators all day. Democratic senators are expected to press for his views on issues like abortion, guns and executive power.
President Donald Trump nominated the 53-year-old appellate judge in July to fill the seat of retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Unifying Democrats Against Kavanaugh
9:20 a.m. — Liberal and progressive groups are pressuring Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to unify Democrats against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
A letter sent to Schumer on the second day of hearings for President Donald Trump’s court pick says bluntly: “You are failing us.”
Democrats face a difficult climb trying to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. If nearly all Republicans back Kavanaugh, as is expected, several Democrats facing tough re-election races may vote to confirm him.
But the groups say Democrats in states like West Virginia, North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and Alabama have nothing to fear from voting against Kavanaugh. They say voters in those states “care deeply” about the issues before the court and “will reward a principled vote.”
The Senate’s questioning of Kavanaugh is set to begin Wednesday morning.
The Importance of an Independent Judiciary
4:20 a.m. — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh touted the importance of an independent judiciary as his confirmation hearings began with strident Democratic criticism that he would be President Donald Trump’s man on the high court.
On Wednesday, Kavanaugh can expect to spend most of the day in the hot seat, sparring with Democratic senators over abortion, guns, executive power, and other high-profile issues.
A long day of questioning awaits the 53-year-old appellate judge, whom Trump nominated in July to fill the seat of retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. The change could make the court more conservative on a range of issues.
Barring a surprise, Republicans appear on track to confirm Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, perhaps in time for the first day of the new term Oct. 1.