Day 2: Key Takeaways from Judge Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing

There were delays in day two of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Protesters caused them in the audience and an hour was taken up by Democrats once again demanding the hearing be halted until they receive a trove of documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s tenure as staff secretary for President George W. Bush.

Once the theatrics passed, we heard the answers to a variety of legal issues that are pressing concerns for the American people: the limits of executive powers, whether a sitting president — i.e. President Trump — can be forced to comply with a subpoena, abortion, and gun rights. Some of these he answered, but others he refused.

To understand the theme of Kavanaugh’s testimony today, it is important to understand his response to the very first question asked by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “What makes a good judge?”

In a room saturated with political pressure, he responded, “The first thing that makes a good judge is independence, not being swayed by political or public pressure.”

On Executive Power 

This played out as senators posed questions about President Trump and the use of executive power.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked whether the president has the constitutional authority to pardon himself.  However, Judge Kavanaugh responded that the question, “of self-pardons is something I’ve never analyzed. It’s a question I have not written about. It’s a hypothetical question that I can’t begin to answer in this context.”

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) pressed him on whether or not a president can be forced to respond to a subpoena. It is an issue that could appear on the Supreme Court’s docket as special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election proceeds. However, Kavanaugh responded, “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question.”

“No One Is Above The Law”

However, Judge Kavanaugh expounded on the accountability that all branches of government must be held to, stating that “no one is above the law in our constitutional system.” He referred to President Richard Nixon being forced to hand over damaging recordings to the special prosecutor as “one of the greatest moments in American judicial history,” crediting judicial independence in the face of a politically-fraught national atmosphere.

He also pointed to Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 case which saw the race-based segregation of schools declared unconstitutional, as the “single greatest moment in Supreme Court history,” and declared the 1896 case legalizing segregation, Plessy vs. Ferguson, which Brown overturned, as “wrong the day it was decided.”

Roe v. Wade

Kavanaugh repeated to lawmakers time and time again that he understands the “importance of precedents” in the decision of the landmark case.

He reaffirmed his view that the case is “settled precedent of the Supreme Court” and it has “been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years,” in response to the first question on the topic posed by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), “Do you believe it is correct law?”

On Assault Weapons

When asked to address his rulings on assault weapons and firearms, Kavanaugh cited the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s “common use” argument, acknowledging that semi-automatic rifles are dangerous, but are “widely possessed in the United States…and so that that seemed to fit “common use” and not being a dangerous and unusual weapon.”

In light of years of deadly school shootings, Judge Kavanaugh clarified that more must be done to make them safer.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)  quipped, “I just wish we could have a hearing where the nominee’s kids could show up,” in reference to a Parkland shooting victims father approaching Kavanaugh right when a recess was called on Day One.

Day three of the hearing starts Thursday at 9:30am EST, beginning with twenty-minute rounds for each committee member.