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Schumer Floor Remarks On Republicans’ Refusal To Request Judge Kavanaugh’s Full Record And Judicial Nominee Judge Britt Grant’s Extreme Legal Positions

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx. 3:30 p.m.] regarding Republicans’ refusal to request key Kavanaugh documents and judicial nominee Judge Britt Grant’s extreme legal positions. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, on Friday, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, sent a letter to the George W. Bush Library requesting only a small portion of Judge Kavanaugh’s records. Traditionally, letters from the Senate Judiciary Committee requesting the records for a Supreme Court nominee have been bipartisan and complete. When Democrats were in the majority, we joined with the Republican minority to request all, not some, all of Elena Kagan’s White House documents. When Democrats were in the majority, we joined with the Republican minority to request all, not some, of Judge Sotomayor’s documents.  At Republicans’ insistence, that included documents from 30 years ago when she served as a board member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund because they had questions on her views on certain issues. It was a request that we thought stretched a little far, but we went along for the sake of transparency and openness. So this idea that it should only be the legal records is totally undone and gainsaid by what they requested of Judge Sotomayor.

Now Republicans are in the majority, the shoe is on the other foot, and Chairman Grassley, unfortunately, has broken with all precedent and refused Democratic requests for Judge Kavanaugh’s full record. He sent a letter to the archivist at 5:00 p.m. Friday, that’s usually a time when people do things they don’t want people to catch wind of, making such a request.

My Republican colleagues know that this was wrong, that’s why they sent it so late on a Friday, hoping to bury it. This letter makes it clear that Republicans intend to block the Senate – and the American people – access to the bulk of Judge Kavanaugh’s White House records.

So the question looms: What are they hiding? What are they afraid of? Why wouldn’t they normally grant the kind of openness to records that America prides itself on? Why wouldn’t they grant a request for openness of records when we are going to vote on someone who will have huge power over the lives of average Americans for a whole generation? Why shouldn’t we see what that record is about before we vote?

In this letter, Senate Republicans are only requesting documents from two of the five years that Judge Kavanaugh was in White House; only documents from his time in the White House Counsel’s office, not as staff secretary.  But Staff Secretary was the most senior job in the White House the nominee held.  In Judge Kavanaugh’s own words, the position of staff secretary was hugely influential in his career. He worked there during a time of great controversy. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that, as staff secretary, Brett Kavanaugh likely oversaw President Bush’s controversial signing statements on torture. By his own account, he was involved in President Bush’s decision to select a Supreme Court justice. Why the heck that’s not relevant to choosing him as a Supreme Court justice is beyond explanation. They can’t give an explanation, they just want to rush it through. 

There is just no good reason to argue that Judge Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary isn’t relevant to understanding what kind of justice he might be. And yet, Senate Republicans requested none, absolutely none of the records from this period in Kavanaugh’s career.

What are they hiding?

Worse yet, here’s what we learned Friday. Amazing. The documents we are going to receive are being screened by a partisan lawyer with ties to President Trump and Steve Bannon. That’s right, the lawyer who is going over these documents, who’s screening them, not only has ties to President Trump but Steve Bannon, one of the most partisan people that this administration has ever seen.

My Republican friends are checking all the boxes on the obstruction list – hiding documents and collaborating with political operative lawyers, and then causing the process to slow down so there is as little time for the American people to review the documents as possible. A bipartisan letter should have been sent two weeks ago. When Democrats were in charge, that’s what we did. We didn’t tell the Republican minority ‘you can have this request and not that.’ Senator Grassley says, ‘well there was never a White House Council, White House Secretary.’ What’s the difference? As a Republican he requested, they requested Justice Sotomayor’s records for the Puerto Rican Defense Fund 30 years earlier. We didn’t say ‘that’s a difference,’ every request was granted. Why are they not being granted now? They’re hiding something is what many people would say. 

I hope my colleagues will bring these political games to an end for the sake of our country, for the sake of comity, for the sake of bipartisanship. Our Republican friends talk a game of bipartisanship but never seem to act it out. And they invoke a double standard: what was good for them when they were in the minority is not good for us now that we’re in the minority. The Senate and the American people deserve access to the full records from the man who has been nominated to a lifetime appointment in such a powerful position as a justice on the Supreme Court. I hope my colleagues on the Republican side will bring these games to an end.

Now on Britt Grant, the nominee for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Britt Grant, throughout her career, has expressed views far outside of the mainstream. When you read this list you’ll say ‘how did they come up with someone so on the fringe?’ Not someone in mainstream conservative, but someone way out there.

As Solicitor General of Georgia, she defended a law that made it illegal for doctors to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and assisted on an amicus brief arguing that defining marriage as between a man and a woman does not violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. She worked on a brief to the Supreme Court that defended a Georgia prosecutor’s decision to strike black jurors based on their race, she led Georgia’s challenge to DACA, even though 85%, 90% of Americans are for DACA. Before becoming Georgia’s Solicitor General, she argued against the Affordable Care Act, assisted on an amicus brief defending Indiana’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, urged the Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act, and argued to strike down the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate.

So from reproductive rights to civil rights to gun safety, name a partisan legal case from the past five years, and there’s a good chance Britt Grant has been involved, taking up a fringe legal argument way out of the American mainstream to weaken well-established rights and overturn precedent in pursuit of an ideological objective.

I’d also like to bring to my colleague's attention that, in speeches and handwritten notes, even with this extreme record, Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly praised Britt Grant’s record. In fact, Judge Brett Kavanaugh called Britt Grant, “a superb Solicitor General of Georgia.” That’s someone of these extreme views.

Judge Kavanaugh’s ringing endorsement of Britt Grant’s record may serve as a window into his own judicial philosophy. It makes you wonder: what, exactly, does Judge Kavanaugh agree with her on so that he’d call her so many laudatory things?

Does he agree with Britt Grant that a woman’s constitutionally guaranteed freedom to make her own reproductive choices should be curtailed even though an overwhelming majority of American support Roe?

Does he believe, like Britt Grant, that states should be able to define marriage as only between a man and a woman even though the Supreme Court has declared things the other way?

Does he believe, like Britt Grant, that insurers shouldn’t have to provide contraceptive coverage?

Britt Grant is the kind of lawyer that Judge Kavanaugh, in his own words, considers “superb.” Maybe that’s why they both ended up on the same short list of 25 potential out of the mainstream court nominees. Out of the mainstream because they were vetted by the Heritage Foundation which believes the government should not be involved in health care, and by the Federalist Society whose leader’s goal is to repeal Roe v. Wade even though 71% of Americans are against that repeal.

Whether you’re Democrat or Republican or Independent, you should want a better process for choosing judges. The American people deserve judges from the legal mainstream; who will interpret the law rather than make it; who will respect and defer to precedent unless there’s a darn good reason not to. Not just folks picked off of some list pre-vetted by extreme conservative groups that don’t represent what a majority of Americans think and probably don’t even represent what a majority of Republicans think. But the Republican majority has been advancing an assembly line of nakedly partisan, ideological judges like Britt Grant.

That Judge Kavanaugh praised her record is so roundly concerning.