Given Brett Kavanaugh's judicial record and political activism, there are plenty of questions surrounding his fitness to be a fair and impartial member of the U.S. Supreme Court.

But perhaps more troubling than what is known about Kavanaugh, is what the public and lawmakers don't know about him. The Trump administration withheld 100,000 pages of records from Kavanaugh's time as a lawyer in George W. Bush's White House, claiming executive privilege.

Then, just hours before the start of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings for a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court, a lawyer for Bush turned over 42,000 pages of documents from the judge's time in the White House. Democrats were rightly angered by the last-second document dump, which left little time to review the records.

Compounding the charade surrounding the hearings, a spokesman for Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, claimed his staff reviewed all of the thousands of pages of documents that were released hours before the hearing, and the senator was prepped and ready to question Judge Kavanaugh. Puh-leeze.

If confirmed, Kavanaugh, 53, could shape the law for decades to come. Lawmakers — and the taxpayers they represent — are entitled to scrutinize Kavanaugh's complete public record as a judge and as an attorney in the White House.

The withholding of documents smells as if there is something to hide. Indeed, many of the documents that have been released from Kavanaugh's time in the White House are heavily redacted or pertain to trivial matters.

There are legitimate concerns about Kavanaugh's extreme views on many major issues, including gun safety, reproductive rights, the environment, labor, immigration and LGBTQ discrimination.

Research by two professors found a number of Kavanaugh's decisions as a federal judge have been far more partisan than his peers, raising questions about his impartiality.

Before being nominated to the federal appeals court at age 38, Judge Kavanaugh made his bones as a politically-active Republican lawyer.

He was part of the team, led by independent counsel Ken Starr, that investigated the suicide of Vince Foster, the deputy White House counsel in the Clinton administration. Kavanaugh drafted parts of the report that led to former President Bill Clinton's impeachment by the House.

Kavanaugh also played a role in the 2000 Florida recount that led to the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to award George W. Bush the presidency. Kavanaugh later joined the White House as a lawyer and staff secretary to President Bush, where he authored memos and wielded influence over internal deliberations and policymaking.

In a 2015 speech, Kavanaugh said the nearly six years he spent in the Bush White House were "among the most interesting and most formative" in his development as a judge. Many questionable legal decisions were made during that time, including the use of torture and warrantless wiretaps.

That is all the more reason why lawmakers and the public deserve to know more about Kavanaugh's time in the White House. Given the gap in the public record surrounding Kavanaugh's legal work, his confirmation should not proceed.

 

The Philadelphia Inquirer