Washington – Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Monday joined other Democrats in assailing Supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh for suggesting, years ago, that justices were wrong in deciding former President Richard Nixon had to obey a subpoena to turn over the Watergate tapes.
Blumenthal said Kavanaugh’s views on that unanimous 1974 Supreme Court decision on United States v. Nixon by the Supreme Court could have ramifications for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which President Donald Trump on Monday once again called a “witch hunt.”
“No one is above the law, that’s why the decision was unanimous,” Blumenthal said. “Judge Kavanaugh is an outlier when it comes to the imperial presidency.”
Kavanaugh said in a published roundtable discussion in the January-February 1999 issue of Washington Lawyer, that United States v. Nixon “took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official.”
“If Kavanaugh would have let Nixon off the hook, what would he do for President Trump?” asked Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Democrats have also seized on Kavanaugh’s dislike of a federal law that set up the independent counsel’s office to investigate and prosecute government officials for violating federal criminal laws.
That law was challenged as a violation of the separation of powers, but it was upheld in the Supreme Court’s 1988 Morrison v. Olson 7-1 ruling.
In a video from 1988 unearthed by CNN, Kavanaugh, however, said “I’d put the final nail” in the law.
The independent counsel law expired in 1999 and the responsibility of appointing special counsels became regulated by the Department of Justice, which tasked Mueller to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
“Kavanaugh has argued the president has the right to fire the special counsel,” Blumenthal said.
Kavanaugh’s supporters, however, make the distinction between the independent counsel law, which failed to garner enough support in Congress to be renewed, and the current method of appointing special counsels.
Nevertheless, Democrats have vowed to make Kavanaugh’s views of Mueller a focus of the confirmation proceedings. Blumenthal, and other Democrats have also demanded that Kavanaugh — if confirmed — recuse himself from any matter involving the Mueller probe
Republicans reject that idea.