Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Protests disrupt start of hearing on Kavanaugh

The Guardian

Protesters hold up signs at a rally against the confirmation hearing of US Supreme Court associate justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

US Democrats and activists on Tuesday staged a dramatic act of defiance against a US Senate confirmation hearing for US President Donald Trump’s nominee for the US Supreme Court after accusing the White House of withholding key documents on his record.

The unified show of opposition against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh came as he made his first public testimony on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers in the Senate Committee on the Judiciary are considering him for a seat on the highest court in the US.

More than 30 women were arrested for protesting at the hearing over concerns about Kavanaugh’s stances on issues from abortion to LGBT rights, said the Women’s March, which claimed credit for the protests.

Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, was in June named by Trump as the president’s nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

If confirmed, Kavanaugh is poised to tip the balance of the court in a decisively conservative direction for decades to come.

At the hearing, Kavanaugh vowed to “keep an open mind in every case” if confirmed.

“A good judge must be an umpire — a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh said in opening remarks before the committee, which came at the conclusion of an acrimonious day.

“I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge,” Kavanaugh said. “I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”

The confirmation hearings are expected to continue through the week.

Democrats have a minority of seats in the Senate and few tools at their disposal to block the nomination.

However, they used the first day of the confirmation hearings to sound the alarm over what they have said is a lack of public accounting over Kavanaugh’s tenure in the administration of former US president George W. Bush.

Last week, the White House said it would withhold about 100,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush administration, citing executive privilege.

Democrats further expressed outrage that 42,000 pages were released on Monday night, leaving them with no time to review the documents prior to the hearing.

The protests began mere moments after US Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the committee, attempted to open the hearing.

“We cannot possibly move forward,” Democratic Senator Kamala Harris said. “We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee.”

Grassley pressed on, speaking over Harris as other Democrats on the committee took turns interrupting to demand the hearing be adjourned.

“What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy asked.

Tensions rose swiftly, as Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn decried Democrats for hijacking the hearing through “mob rule.”

The atmosphere underscored the significance of Trump’s second pick for the Supreme Court, after Kennedy’s retirement deprived the bench of what had been a critical swing vote.

As the drama unfolded on Capitol Hill, Trump denounced the Democrats’ tactics.

“The Brett Kavanaugh hearings for the future Justice of the Supreme Court are truly a display of how mean, angry, and despicable the other side is,” Trump said on Twitter. “They will say anything, and are only ... looking to inflict pain and embarrassment to one of the most highly renowned jurists to ever appear before Congress. So sad to see!”

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