When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called Donald Trump to weigh in on his Supreme Court nomination, he didn’t urge Trump to pick Brett Kavanaugh. In fact, he reportedly advised against it, warning the “sheer volume” of Kavanaugh’s paper trail from a lengthy political and legal career could complicate the GOP’s speedy confirmation timeline. Right on cue Tuesday morning, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stressed the need for enough time to properly review the massive amount of materials in a series of tweets.
“The Senate must be able to access & adequately review all docs, emails, & paperwork associated w/ Kavanaugh before the process moves fwd,” Schumer urged in a tweet.
Asked Monday about the idea that archivists could review a million pages of records within the next month, former National Archives official Sharon Fawcett said: “Not possible.” Fawcett, a former director of the presidential libraries division, said the only way to handle that kind of volume would be for someone to “prioritize” some subset of the records.
By Tuesday afternoon, even GOP Judiciary Committee chair Chuck Grassley was starting to concede that reviewing all of Kavanaugh’s documents would be too arduous a process to hold hearings by Labor Day.
So @ChuckGrassley tells few of us he's worried about "massive amount" of Kavanaugh material. "I don’t see how you could be ready by Labor Day," he said of hearings.
Then, slight backtrack: "Ask me in a couple weeks, I’ll have a better feel of it.”
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) July 10, 2018
That means the GOP’s goal of seating Kavanaugh by the outset of the high court’s next term in early October just got a lot harder. The later Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing takes place and the closer the final vote moves to the midterms, the better the argument for delaying the vote until after the midterms. That would be gold for Democrats because it would relieve red-state Democratic Senators from the pressure of re-election concerns.
In 2010, it took three months to confirm Elena Kagan, from the announcement on May 10 to the vote on August 5, a process that also involved releasing documents from Kagan’s time at the Clinton White House. But her paper trail only involved some 160,000 documents. At the time, the Obama White House bent over backwards to expedite the release of materials from the National Archives.
In stark contrast, the Trump administration has actually been stalling the release of thousands of Kavanaugh’s documents since September of last year, when the judicial watchdog group Fix the Court made a Freedom of Information Act request for the materials (which should be a matter of public record). The group filed suit Tuesday to sue the Trump administration for blocking release of the Kavanaugh documents.
The other wild card is what’s actually in all those documents. The Trump administration clearly hasn’t been keen on making the materials public in the first place. If Democrats unearth some bombshell among Kavanaugh’s writings, that could also throw a wrench in the confirmation process. And now that the clock has started ticking, every delay is a win for Democrats.