Kavanaugh’s role in Bush WH emerges

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first documents from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s time in George W. Bush’s White House were released Thursday as the Senate begins to review the judge’s unusually lengthy public record for confirmation hearings this fall.

The 5,700 pages from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House counsel’s office, a slim fraction of those available, were posted on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s website after being compiled by a lawyer representing the former president as part of the GOP’s expedited review process.

But Democrats and others scrutinizing President Donald Trump’s nominee quickly cried foul, saying Republicans are “cherry-picking” from the initial cache of 125,000 Bush documents and skirting traditional procedures.

Kavanaugh’s five years working for Bush, as a White House counsel and the staff secretary, are the subject of a fierce dispute between Senate Republicans and Democrats about the scope of documents being made available. The battle over the paper trail has come to dominate the debate over confirming the 53-year-old appellate judge to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

The first download of thousands of papers Thursday is being pored over by activists and media organizations for insight into Kavanaugh’s legal thinking.

The records cast light on Kavanaugh’s role when he served in the White House counsel’s office. Documents regarding the selection of judicial nominees show he took an interest in news and editorial coverage of Democratic resistance to some of Bush’s early nominees to appellate judgeships.

“This was great,” Kavanaugh wrote in a July 8, 2001, email that included a copy of a Washington Post column by Benjamin Wittes, then a member of the editorial board, making the case that “the ideological stakes in the appointment of lower court judges should not be overstated.” Wittes has emerged as a prominent Trump critic.

One topic Democrats have been particularly interested in reviewing has been the Bush-era detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. Kavanaugh testified at his appeals court confirmation hearing in 2006 that he “was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants.”

Among the emails released Thursday was one from Nov. 19, 2001, in which he said he would be “happy to help” in preparing then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to respond to questions about a Justice Department policy that allowed investigators to monitor phone calls and mail between some terrorist suspects and their defense lawyers without a court order.

A week later, the Justice Department provided Kavanaugh information about the monitoring in which it said that 13 inmates — none related to the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks — were having their conversations with lawyers listened to.