Kavanaugh grilled about presidential power

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh frustrated Democrats trying to thwart Donald Trump's generational restocking of the high court, refusing to engage on the controversial questions of presidential power and abortion. CNN's Phil Mattingly reports.

Posted: Sep 6, 2018 3:14 PM
Updated: Sep 6, 2018 3:52 PM

Brett Kavanaugh spent much of 12 hours in a packed and raucous Senate hearing room Wednesday trying not to talk about politics -- or how he would act in cases involving the man who nominated him to the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump.

Should the Senate confirm Kavanaugh, it would likely ensure a conservative majority for a generation and bolster Trump's legacy in reshaping the judiciary. But special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and other legal controversies surrounding the White House mean a Trump-specific case could hit the Supreme Court sooner rather than later.

"No one is above the law in our constitutional system," Kavanaugh said, adding that the presidency is not a monarchy.

But he refused to be drawn by Democrats into treacherous political areas. He declined to say if a sitting president must respond to a subpoena, and would not budge when asked whether a president could pardon himself.

"The question of self pardons is something I have never analyzed, it is a question I have not written about, it's a question therefore that is a hypothetical question that I cannot begin to answer in this context as a sitting judge and as a nominee to Supreme Court," Kavanaugh said.

Trump earlier this year claimed he had an "absolute" right to pardon himself should he choose to.

Senate Democrats have suggested that Kavanaugh could be biased in favor of the President and worry that his views on the primacy of executive power could help Trump evade legal scrutiny.

When asked whether a sitting President should be forced to respond to a subpoena, Kavanaugh said, "My understanding is that you're asking me to give my view on a potential hypothetical, and that is something that each of the eight justices currently sitting on the Supreme Court, when they were sitting in my seat, declined to decide potential hypothetical cases."

On whether he would recuse himself if an issue involving the President's criminal or civil liability came before the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh said: "I should not and may not make a commitment."

Kavanaugh also avoided a chance to discuss "political controversy" when GOP Sen. Jeff Flake asked about Trump's recent tweet on the Justice Department prosecuting two Republican congressmen -- both early Trump allies.

"I don't think we want judges commenting on the latest political controversy, because that would ultimately lead the people to doubt whether we're independent or whether we're politicians in robes, and so maintaining that strict independence of the judiciary requires me, I think, to avoid commenting on any current events," Kavanaugh said.

He repeated that sentiment just before 10 p.m. Wednesday night, when Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris asked about Trump's claim that "both sides" were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville last year.

"I am not here to assess comments made in the political arena, because the risk is I'll be drawn into the political arena," Kavanaugh said.

Abortion and gun control

Over and over Wednesday, Kavanaugh, who was calm and disciplined during a long day of scrutiny from Democrats under pressure from grassroots activists to show vigorous resistance to Trump's nominee, argued that judges must be independent and must confine their rulings to precedent.

On abortion, Kavanaugh said that he viewed the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision upholding a woman's right to an abortion as settled precedent of the Supreme Court under the doctrine of stare decisis.

Roe v. Wade is "entitled to respect" he said, adding that he understands the passion around the decision.

"I don't live in a bubble. I understand. I live in the real world. I understand the importance of the issue," he said.

But Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein raised doubts that a nominee's position would hold when it comes to ruling on abortion from the bench.

"When the subject comes up, the person says we will follow stare decisis, and then they get confirmed and they don't," she said of previous nominees.

Feinstein also chose to drill down on gun control and school shootings, asking Kavanaugh to explain his dissent in a 2011 DC Circuit case upholding the District of Columbia's ban on the possession of most semi-automatic rifles.

Kavanaugh argued that his reasoning was based on the Supreme Court's majority decision in the Heller case, a 2008 ruling authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, that held that semi-automatic rifles were constitutionally protected.

While decrying gun violence and sympathizing with Feinstein's horror over school shootings, Kavanaugh said, "I understand the issue, but as a judge, my job was to follow the Second Amendment opinion of the Supreme Court whether I agree with it or disagree with it."

Wednesday's testimony was frequently interrupted by protestors who were led screaming out of the hearing room. But the proceedings lacked the bitterness and partisan sniping that characterized the opening day of the hearing on Tuesday.

Democrats are under pressure to show their voters that they have the backbone to challenge the administration and also want to make clear to their voters the huge stakes of getting out to vote -- since the GOP victory in 2016 gave Trump the chance to significantly tug the Supreme Court to the right, possibly for decades.

The President himself said that he was pleased with Kavanaugh's performance so far, saying he was "born for the position."

"I watched today for a little while. I saw some incredible answers to some very complex questions," Trump told reporters.

Has support from Manchin, GOP senators

In order to stop Kavanaugh from being confirmed, Democrats must keep their entire coalition together in the Senate and hope to pick off two Republicans, with the most likely options being Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins of Maine.

But there is also the chance that some Democrats, facing tough re-election races in states that Trump won handsomely in 2016, will be forced by their own hopes of political survival to vote for Kavanaugh.

One potential Democratic defector, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, told CNN that he has so far seen nothing disqualifying in the nominee's testimony.

"He's handled himself very professionally. ... His dialogue is more specific in his approach to being a jurist," Manchin said, adding that he felt the behavior of Republican and Democratic senators in the hearing had been deplorable. "That's what makes people sick," he said.

Republicans, meanwhile, remain confident. Kavanaugh has not only testified twice before, he worked on judicial nominations while serving in the George W. Bush White House. He understands the process better than most. He's been participating in "murder boards" -- practice sessions -- with clerks and Justice Department lawyers taking on the roles of senators, according to a participant.

The hearing will resume at 9:30 a.m. Thursday with another round of questions from senators.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51079

Reported Deaths: 2756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12019693
Lake5588248
Elkhart353959
Allen2939134
St. Joseph210669
Hamilton1691101
Cass16449
Hendricks1454100
Johnson1340118
Porter82638
Tippecanoe7709
Vanderburgh7276
Clark69544
Madison67464
LaPorte61628
Howard59858
Bartholomew59745
Kosciusko5754
Marshall5449
Noble51328
LaGrange4849
Boone48244
Jackson4783
Delaware47152
Hancock46736
Shelby45425
Floyd40644
Morgan34231
Monroe34028
Grant31826
Dubois3046
Henry30018
Montgomery29720
Clinton2903
White27410
Dearborn25823
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Vigo2528
Warrick25029
Harrison21722
Greene19432
Miami1932
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1649
Wayne1546
Daviess15017
Perry14710
Orange13723
Steuben1362
Jasper1352
Ripley1307
Franklin1278
Gibson1202
Wabash1162
Carroll1142
Fayette1067
Whitley1066
Starke1043
Newton10010
Huntington942
Jefferson862
Wells821
Randolph794
Fulton731
Knox710
Jay700
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush613
Posey570
Spencer541
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain352
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 64214

Reported Deaths: 3036
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11724445
Cuyahoga8979393
Hamilton6781207
Lucas2952305
Marion274539
Montgomery244035
Summit2327209
Pickaway222241
Mahoning1928239
Butler182147
Columbiana137860
Stark1214114
Lorain112069
Trumbull104578
Warren97725
Clark80010
Delaware69815
Fairfield66717
Tuscarawas60410
Lake58923
Medina58232
Belmont56922
Licking56812
Miami50631
Portage49259
Wood48851
Clermont4737
Ashtabula44744
Geauga42543
Wayne37253
Richland3715
Allen35641
Greene3439
Mercer29910
Erie27122
Holmes2595
Darke25626
Huron2402
Madison2169
Ottawa17324
Sandusky16015
Washington14620
Ross1443
Coshocton1423
Athens1391
Crawford1385
Putnam13715
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson1092
Muskingum1001
Union931
Preble901
Monroe8917
Hancock861
Lawrence830
Guernsey823
Clinton811
Hocking809
Williams762
Shelby744
Logan711
Ashland672
Carroll673
Fulton670
Scioto670
Wyandot635
Brown611
Fayette550
Defiance533
Knox531
Champaign511
Highland501
Van Wert471
Perry441
Seneca412
Henry330
Paulding300
Jackson280
Pike280
Adams261
Vinton232
Gallia201
Noble140
Harrison131
Meigs130
Morgan110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 63°
Angola
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 63°
Huntington
Few Clouds
62° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 62°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 63°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 63°
Dry start to the work week
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events