WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gave the first opening statement in the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to be the next justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.
“This is my fifteenth Supreme Court confirmation hearing since I joined the Committee in 1981,” Grassley began, stating that the committee was assembled to hear about Kavanaugh’s “exceptional qualifications, his record of dedication to the rule of law, and his demonstrated independence and his appreciation of the importance of the separation of powers.”
The long-serving senator began with broad constitutional principles, saying:
Indeed, to protect individual liberty, the Framers designed a government of three co-equal branches, strictly separating the legislative, executive and judicial powers. The Framers intended for the Judiciary to be immune from the political pressures the other two branches face. That is so that judges would decide cases according to the law and not according to popular opinion.
“Our legal system’s success is built on judges accepting that their role is limited to deciding cases and controversies,” the 84-year-old chairman continued. “A good judge exercises humility and makes decisions according to the specific facts of the case and according to the law.”
He referenced the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s saying, “if a judge always likes the outcomes of cases he decides, he is probably doing something wrong.”
“Now, some have a very different view of what a judge’s role should be,” Grassley added, a view that “judges should decide cases based on a particular outcome in order to advance their politics. But the American people don’t want their judges to pick sides before they hear a case.”
“Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most qualified nominees – if not the most qualified nominee – I have seen,” the chairman said, pivoting from broad constitutional issues to this particular nominee. “The American Bar Association, whose assessment Democratic leaders have called the ‘gold standard’ of judicial evaluations, rated Judge Kavanaugh unanimously well-qualified.”
“A review of Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive record demonstrates a deep commitment to the rule of law. He has written eloquently that both judges and federal agencies are bound by the laws Congress enacts,” Grassley opined. “And he has criticized those who substitute their own judgments about what a statute should say for what the statute actually says.”
“After the president nominated Judge Kavanaugh, I said this would be the most thorough and transparent confirmation process in history,” said Grassley. “It has proven to be.”
In addition to the 10,000-plus pages of Kavanaugh’s 307 opinions and those of his colleagues, Grassley praised the 120 pages of written responses Kavanaugh provided in response to senators’ questions, and that he had “submitted more than 17,000 pages of speeches, articles, and other material to the committee.”
“And we received just shy of half a million pages of emails and other documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s service as an executive branch lawyer – which is more than we received for the last five Supreme Court nominees combined,” Grassley continued. “Every one of these more than 483,000 pages of Executive Branch records are available to any senator, anytime.”
“Despite this unprecedented transparency, some of my colleagues on the other side have come up with every excuse for resisting this hearing,” the chairman added as he pivoted to the Democrats.
“Indeed, some pledged to oppose Judge Kavanaugh from the moment of announcement,” he said, noting that shortly after President Trump announced his selection, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “said that he would fight Judge Kavanaugh with everything he’s got.”
Grassley called out Senate Democrats for trying “tactic after tactic to delay and obstruct this process,” including trying “to bury this committee in millions of pages of irrelevant paperwork.
Almost all those pages were from Kavanaugh’s time as the White House staff secretary, which are “both the least revealing of Judge Kavanaugh’s legal thinking” because they contain mainly the thoughts and advice of departments and advisers, “and the most sensitive to the Executive Branch,” because “they contain advice transmitted directly to the president [by other people] and are at the heart of executive privilege.”
He added that Democrats’ numbers are fake because they were based on initial staff estimates that vastly overestimated the number of pages involving Kavanaugh by hundreds of thousands of pages.
Grassley added that the committee “requested 100 percent of the non-privileged documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s time as an Executive Branch lawyer,” but excluded privileged documents because they “it’s critical that [privileged] deliberations remain confidential to guarantee that the current and all future presidents continue to receive candid advice.”
He noted that the committee never requested documents from Justice Elena Kagan’s internal deliberations when she was U.S. solicitor general “because both sides agreed the documents were too sensitive for disclosure.”
“If solicitor general documents were too sensitive to request, then by the same logic, White House staff secretary documents are even more sensitive,” Grassley reasoned, “because they contain candid advice sent directly to the president.”
Recalling how Democrats evaluated Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the most recent nominee who served as a judge from a Democrat president:
then-Chairman Leahy explained that Justice Sotomayor’s judicial record “is the best indication of her judicial philosophy. We do not have to imagine what kind of a judge she will be because we see what kind of a judge she has been.”
“Similarly,” reasoned Grassley, “we know what kind of judge Kavanaugh will be, because we know what kind of judge he has been for the last twelve years on the most influential circuit court.”
“Based on Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive record, he is the kind of judge Americans want on the Supreme Court – committed to the rule of law, protective of our constitutional rights, and unfailingly independent,” Grassley concluded.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.