Bolstering accusations that they are actively working to suppress elements of Trump Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh's record that could put his confirmation in jeopardy, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday teamed up to block a coordinated effort by Democrats to subpoena Kavanaugh documents that have been withheld by the White House under so-called "constitutional privilege."
"This nomination is going to be tainted," declared Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) before Republicans squashed his motion to subpoena documents from Kavanaugh's tenure as staff secretary under former President George W. Bush. "It will be stained by a badly broken process that has shattered the norms and broken the traditions of this committee. It has been rushed through to judgement in a highly partisan and unfortunately failed way."
"We all deserve to know what they're hiding."
—Vanita Gupta, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
In a series party-line votes, the GOP defeated a total of six motions by Senate Democrats to subpoena Kavanaugh documents from his time working in the Bush White House.
"What is it worth for these witnesses to stand before our committee, raise their hand, and take an oath if they then turn around and say things that are not true to us and are not held accountable?" asked Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who on Wednesday released documents that suggest Kavanaugh lied to the Senate under oath. "Is there any credibility in this committee?"
.@SenDurbin: “What is it worth for these witnesses to stand before our committee, raise their hand and take an oath if they then turn around and say things that are not true to us and are not held accountable?”
Republicans still stopped an effort to subpoena Kavanaugh's records. pic.twitter.com/lC5pHalqJH
— Senate Democrats (@SenateDems) September 13, 2018
"We think it's outrageous we're not even given the reason why they were withheld," Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said of the White House's move last month to withhold 100,000 pages of documents from senators ahead of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings.
"They don't even call it executive privilege. They call it something called constitutional privilege. Who the hell knows what that is? That's never been litigated before."
—Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Klobuchar introduced a motion to subpoena the documents the Trump administration decided to hide from senators and the public.
Before his motion was shot down by Republicans, Whitehouse noted that the Trump administration is entering "foggy and dangerous territory" by invoking "constitutional privilege" to justify mass suppression of crucial documents.
"They don't even call it executive privilege. They call it something called constitutional privilege," Whitehouse said. "Who the hell knows what that is? That's never been litigated before."
In a series of tweets responding to the GOP's successful effort to stonewall moves toward greater transparency, Vanita Gupta—president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—asked on Twitter, "What are Republicans hiding from the American people?"
"We deserve better than this," Gupta added. "Vote after vote, Republicans just blocked motions from the Judiciary Democrats to subpoena individuals and records that would help shed more light on Brett Kavanaugh's controversial record. We deserve to know why. And we all deserve to know what they're hiding."
Another party-line vote. Judiciary Committee Republicans defeated a motion to subpoena 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh's records withheld as privileged and/or the privilege log. What are Republicans hiding from the American people? We deserve better than this. #WhatAreTheyHiding
— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) September 13, 2018
The organized effort by Senate Democrats to force the disclosure of more Kavanaugh documents comes as they are facing pressure to pull out all the stops to defeat the right-wing judge's nomination.
While some Democratic senators have unilaterally released dozens of documents marked "committee confidential," political analysts and progressive groups are urging Democrats to dump all of the documents ahead of the final vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation, which was delayed until next Thursday.