Drama marked day three of Senate Judiciary hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill, complete with protests, dire warnings from African American leaders, and even confidential documents being made public.
On Thursday, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) held a morning press conference in which the lawmakers urged the Senate to reject Kavanaugh’s nomination to be an associate justice on the high court. After “a thorough and thoughtful review of his record,” the body said the nominee’s views on voter suppression, police brutality, and unreasonable searches and seizures would be a threat to African Americans and the long struggle for equality and justice.
“Plain and simple, courts matter, especially the Supreme Court – the highest court in the land. But for the Supreme Court, African Americans wouldn’t be able to attend integrated schools, buy a home previously owned by a white person, or sleep at certain hotels,” said CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA). “This is what is at stake for our community every time a president gets to nominate a Supreme Court justice.”
CBC members were flanked by leaders of organizations such as the NAACP, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, among others. All strongly voiced their opposition.
President Donald Trump announced his latest pick for the highest court in the land on July 9. Since that time, controversy has roiled about everything from Kavanaugh’s views on Roe v. Wade and the contentious issue of abortion, to whether he believes sitting presidents should be able to avoid criminal prosecution—noteworthy as special counsel Robert Mueller continues an ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump election campaign. Two Trump associates have already been criminally ensnared.
Resistance to Kavanaugh continued on Thursday as Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) was among Democrats
who boldly decided to publicly release several documents
previously marked `Committee Confidential’ dating back to the nominees’ tenure as White House Counsel under former President George W. Bush.
Booker apparently did so under the threat of violating rules, an act that reportedly could lead to potential expulsion from the Senate. Booker’s move for transparency received support from Minority Leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (-D-NY).
“As I’ve been saying from the beginning, this process has been a sham,” said Booker in a statement provided to Essence. “The fact that tens of thousands of documents revealing a Supreme Court nominee’s views on key issues were deemed Committee Confidential and not available to the public reflects the absurdity of this process.
“The public has a right to access documents about a Supreme Court nominee’s views on issues that are profoundly important, such as race and the law,” he added. “This process has demonstrated an unprecedented level of secrecy and opaqueness that undermines the Senate’s Constitutional duty to advice and consent.”
Last month, Booker—who along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) are the only African Americans on the Judiciary Committee— joined fellow Senate Democrats in pushing Republicans to fully release publicly some 141,000 documents related to Kavanaugh’s record. Democrats have charged that the process has been rushed, without ample time to thoroughly vet the nominee.
The documents that Booker made the decision to release on Thursday contained several emails regarding Kavanaugh’s views on topics such as affirmative action and racial profiling.
In one email with the subject line “racial profiling,” Judge Kavanaugh remarked that he “generally” favored race-neutral security measures, but thought there was an “interim question” of whether the government should use racial profiling before a supposedly race-neutral system could be developed sometime in the future.
Booker asked Kavanaugh to further explain his views on these subjects during questioning yesterday, but the nominee did not answer.
Senator Kamala Harris has also pressed the nominee on a wide range of topics.
On Wednesday, Harris began her questioning by asking Kavanaugh if he had ever discussed Mueller or his investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson & Torres –a law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, reportedly one of Trump’s lawyers. Kavanaugh did not give a definitive answer.
Harris also delved into Roe v. Wade from the standpoint of women’s equality. The onetime California Attorney General asked Kavanaugh if he could think of “any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?”
Kavanaugh replied: “I’m not thinking of any right now, Senator.”
Later, Harris further probed him on the state of voter suppression in the country following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strip key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“For 50 years, the `Voting Rights Act’ protected against racial discrimination in voting. I know you had this conversation prior with my colleague Senator Booker,” said Harris, who explained that under the landmark legislation, a state with a record of discriminatory voting practices had to obtain federal permission to change their voting laws.
“But then came the court’s decision in Shelby and by a 5-4 vote the court gutted the Act, effectively ending federal approval requirement,” said Harris. “Are you aware that within weeks of this Supreme Court’s ruling Republican legislators in North Carolina rushed through a laundry list of new voting restrictions, restrictions that disproportionately disenfranchised racial minorities?”
Following a series of queries about specific instances of voter suppression, Harris asked Kavanaugh whether or not he believed Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was constitutional. The nominee didn’t answer the question.
Activists have been making sure their voices are being heard.
Inside the Dirksen Senate office building where the hearing is open to the public, there’ve been protests and sit-ins since the proceedings began on Tuesday. Activists such as Linda Sarsour of the Women’s March are among those who’ve been shown in video being dragged away by Capitol Police.
Outside, women held up their hands with the words “We dissent” and protestors waved signs. Various hashtags have appeared on social media including #Cancel Kavanaugh and #BrettBye.
Kavanaugh does have support, however, beyond the White House. Various polls show the public is divided; a recent ABC/Washington Post survey revealed 39 percent said Kavanaugh should not be confirmed, while 38 percent said he should.
Some of his female colleagues in the legal profession have praised his treatment of women, and former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who worked with the nominee during the Bush presidency, called Kavanaugh “a joy and a blessing” to know.
Rice, the highest ranking Black woman in the Bush administration, testified on Kavanaugh’s behalf earlier this week. Describing him as “smart” and “hardworking” she told the committee that the judge “seeks truth in fact.”
A simple majority –51 of 100 votes– is needed to confirm a Supreme Court nominee by members of the Senate.
One Hill insider told ESSENCE that questioning of Kavanaugh could end sometime on Thursday evening (on Wednesday the proceedings went past 10 p.m.) and there would be other witnesses on Friday. No word yet, however, as to when the Republican majority will call for the vote.