Ka­vanaugh ques­tion­ers get per­sonal, get an­swers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

We now know Judge Brett M. Ka­vanaugh is bad luck for the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als, that he seemed ner­vous be­fore his first date with the woman who would be­come his wife, and that he has never been treated for a gam­bling ad­di­tion — in case any­one was cu­ri­ous.

And it turns out that some peo­ple were cu­ri­ous.

Among the more than 1,200 writ­ten ques­tions Democrats sub­mit­ted to Pres­i­dent Trump’s Supreme Court nom­i­nee were queries about his poker-play­ing habits, his affin­ity for at­tend­ing base­ball games and his less-than-flush per­sonal fi­nances, all tucked inside more tra­di­tional ques­tions about ju­di­cial prece­dent and his own lengthy record.

In writ­ten re­sponses, Judge Ka­vanaugh brushed aside many of the le­gal in­quiries, re­fused to crit­i­cize Mr. Trump and de­clined to say when he would re­cuse him­self from cases — just as he did in his in-per­son tes­ti­mony a week ear­lier.

What he did do though, and in some de­tail, was an­swer ques­tions about his per­sonal fi­nances and the house in Chevy Chase, Mary­land, that seems to be eat­ing up a lot of his money.

He went line by line through his home re­pairs, de­scrib­ing his money pit house that has forced him to re­place the air con­di­tion­ing and wa­ter heater, buy a new oven and re­frig­er­a­tor, stop base­ment flood­ing, re­paint inside and out­side, re­pair fences and re­move mold.

He also re­vealed that he bought sea­son tick­ets to the lo­cal base­ball team from 2005 to 2017 — in­clud­ing tick­ets for ev­ery post­sea­son home game — and that he seems to bring bad luck: “We are 3-8 in those games.”

“My wife and I spend money on our daugh­ters and sports,” he said, adding in Nixo­nian “Check­ers” speech fash­ion that they re­cently joined the tony Chevy Chase Coun­try Club “pri­mar­ily be­cause of the ice hockey pro­gram that my younger daugh­ter par­tic­i­pates in.”

The ques­tions — and the per­sonal de­tails they elicited — rep­re­sented an­other sign of how dif­fer­ent this par­tic­u­lar con­fir­ma­tion has been.

Sen­a­tors posed a to­tal of 1,287 writ­ten ques­tions, and all but nine of them were from Democrats.

Thomas Jip­ping, a for­mer Repub­li­can Party staffer who is now at The Her­itage Foun­da­tion and who has been in­volved in 11 con­fir­ma­tions, said Democrats were es­sen­tially at­tempt­ing to have a sec­ond hear­ing for the judge.

“It’s not only the sheer num­ber of ques­tions, but it’s the fo­cus on what the sen­a­tors know Ka­vanaugh can­not an­swer or pro­vide, and that no nom­i­nee can an­swer or pro­vide,” Mr. Jip­ping said. “They know that, and they’re in­ten­tion­ally ask­ing dozens or hun­dreds of ques­tions that no nom­i­nee can an­swer. There’s no way to de­scribe that other than reck­lessly ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

In most of those cases, Judge Ka­vanaugh replied with some ver­sion say­ing it would be “im­proper” to of­fer thoughts on a case that might come be­fore him, ei­ther as a jus­tice or even in his cur­rent job on the U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals for the District of Columbia.

A few of ques­tions did spur in­for­ma­tive an­swers, though.

In one sub­stan­tive ex­change with Sen. Shel­don White­house, Rhode Is­land Demo­crat, Judge Ka­vanaugh said he will not re­lease re­porters from their con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments with him dur­ing his time serv­ing on the in­de­pen­dent coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Clin­tons.

Dur­ing the hear­ing last week, he ac­knowl­edged hav­ing served as an anony­mous source for re­porters at the di­rec­tion of in­de­pen­dent coun­sel Ken­neth W. Starr. Prod­ded by sen­a­tors, he said he would have to think about whether he would re­lease those re­porters from their obli­ga­tion to pro­tect him as a con­fi­den­tial source.

But in his writ­ten an­swers this week, he said he would not re­lease them — for the re­porters’ own good.

“It would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate in this con­text to dis­re­gard that foun­da­tional priv­i­lege and pro­tec­tion for the press,” he wrote.

The 1,287 writ­ten ques­tions asked of Judge Ka­vanaugh are more than all pre­vi­ous high court nom­i­nees com­bined, Repub­li­cans said. They come on top of four days of hear­ings last week in which the judge sat for two full days of in-per­son ques­tions.

Carolyn Shapiro, co-di­rec­tor of the In­sti­tute on the Supreme Court of the United States at the Chicago-Kent Col­lege of Law, said Judge Ka­vanaugh was more open about ju­di­cial phi­los­o­phy ques­tions than some past nom­i­nees but still avoided is­sues he should have been will­ing to dis­cuss.

She said one of those was his past com­ments on abor­tion — and par­tic­u­larly praise for then-Jus­tice Wil­liam H. Rehn­quist’s dis­sent in the land­mark Roe v. Wade case that made abor­tion a con­sti­tu­tional right. She said she was trou­bled that Judge Ka­vanaugh wouldn’t de­fend or ex­plain those sen­ti­ments.

She also said she thought the judge mis­char­ac­ter­ized his own dis­sent in a case involving an il­le­gal im­mi­grant teen seek­ing an abor­tion while in govern­ment care.

“What he said about his opin­ion in that case, I don’t think was en­tirely ac­cu­rate,” she said.

She said nom­i­nees shouldn’t be re­quired to give as­sur­ances about fu­ture rul­ings but he ap­peared to be stretch­ing the lim­its of what has be­come known as the “Ginsburg stan­dard” of re­fus­ing to dis­cuss cases in any de­tail at all.

Judge Ka­vanaugh re­peat­edly de­clined to com­ment on ma­jor le­gal bat­tles, cit­ing Jus­tice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and oth­ers who he said had sim­i­larly de­murred. More than 70 times in his writ­ten an­swers this week, he cited “nom­i­nee prece­dent” for de­clin­ing to an­swer.

Ms. Shapiro said look­ing back at Jus­tice Ginsburg’s hear­ing, she was far more will­ing to talk about her past writ­ings than Judge Ka­vanaugh was about his.

“As a gen­eral mat­ter, I think that nom­i­nees should speak can­didly about things,” she said.

Ms. Shapiro did say the ques­tions from sen­a­tors about Judge Ka­vanaugh’s fi­nan­cial his­tory didn’t cross any lines.

Those ques­tions came chiefly from Mr. White­house, who prod­ded the judge about debts shown on fi­nan­cial dis­clo­sures.

“Have you ever gam­bled or ac­crued gam­bling debt in the state of New Jersey?” asked Mr. White­house.

The judge said he oc­ca­sion­ally vis­ited casi­nos there in col­lege or in his 20s and “played low-stakes black­jack” — and never ran up any debt.

Mr. White­house con­tin­ued: “Have you ever sought treat­ment for a gam­bling ad­dic­tion?” “No,” the judge wrote. Mr. White­house con­cluded his line


Supreme Court nom­i­nee Brett M. Ka­vanaugh re­ceived a to­tal of 1,287 writ­ten ques­tions from sen­a­tors. All but nine of them were from Democrats. The ques­tions — and the per­sonal de­tails they elicited — showed how dif­fer­ent this con­fir­ma­tion has been.

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