by Kevin Daley
Senate Republicans are increasingly of the mind that documents Judge Brett Kavanaugh produced as White House staff secretary should not be reviewed in connection with his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Instead, GOP lawmakers believe the Senate is best served by confining its review of Kavanaugh’s writings to his judicial opinions and memos he generated as a lawyer for former President George W. Bush.
Kavanaugh produced or processed approximately 1 million pages of records as an aide to Bush. Senate Democrats have asked to review that entire body of work, in hopes of slowing the confirmation process, or finding information damaging to his confirmation prospects.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that White House counsel Don McGahn met privately with Senate Republicans to discuss which of Kavanaugh’s Bush administration records should be released from their current sequestration in the National Archives. According to the Post, the developing consensus among Trump aides and GOP lawmakers is that work product the judge generated as a White House lawyer should be released, while any records relating to his service as staff secretary should remain private.
GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, took this position Tuesday in remarks on the Senate floor. Grassley argued records generated as staff secretary are the least relevant to the committee, since most of that work does not relate to his legal views.
“I’ve heard that some of my Democratic colleagues would like to request all of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from his time as White House staff secretary. But these documents are both the least relevant to Judge Kavanaugh’s legal thinking and the most sensitive to the executive branch. The staff secretary is the inbox and outbox to the Oval Office.”
Grassley added that a sweeping range of communications passes through the staff secretary’s office, “from requests for flying the flag at half-mast to the daily lunch menu to draft speeches to sensitive national security papers.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Grassley urged senators to direct their closest attention to the 300 opinions Kavanaugh has written for the D.C. Circuit.
Grassley is prepared to formally request all records from Kavanaugh’s White House counsel service from the National Archives, but claimed during his Tuesday remarks that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member of the judiciary committee, declined to sign a letter to that effect.
Like Kavanaugh, Justice Elena Kagan served in the White House counsel’s office before graduating to a senior position in the Clinton administration. When Kagan was nominated to the high court in 2010, the Senate reviewed some 180,000 pages of her White House work product.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has threatened to schedule Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote in immediate proximity to the November elections if Democrats demand access to all the judge’s White House records. McConnell believes this scheduling move would maximize pressure on embattled red state Democrats to support Kavanaugh, while keeping them out of their home states in the final stretch of the campaign.
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Kevin Daley is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Kevin on Twitter.