WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota joined fellow Democrats Wednesday in grilling Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, citing a 2009 article he wrote for the Minnesota Law Review to question his views on presidential power.
“He has a very broad view of the power of the president, so that’s another reason there’s such a focus on this right now — because President Trump picked him,” Klobuchar said in an interview before Wednesday’s hearing.
In his law review piece, Kavanaugh, a D.C. appeals court judge, had proposed that presidents not be subject to criminal investigation while in office, citing the distractions caused by probes into misconduct by former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. On Wednesday, under questioning from Klobuchar, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee that it would be up to Congress to consider what constitutes an impeachable offense, and that he had not intended to address it as a constitutional issue.
“The idea that I talked about was something for Congress to look at if it wanted to,” Kavanaugh said.
Critics say Kavanaugh’s Minnesota Law Review article could have a strong bearing on how he views special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
Klobuchar also asked Kavanaugh about a pending federal case challenging the constitutionality of protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and whether a president could choose to not implement that part of the Affordable Care Act even if it’s upheld in court.
“Senator, that’s a pending case so I cannot talk about it,” Kavanaugh said.
Klobuchar and other Democrats on the committee have been trying to slow the confirmation process for Kavanaugh, Trump’s second nominee to the nation’s high court. The hearings come as midterm elections are heating up; Klobuchar’s Republican opponent, state Rep. Jim Newberger, derided her as an obstructionist, especially for speaking over Chairman Chuck Grassley at the opening of hearings on Tuesday.
“Sen. Klobuchar has failed Minnesota in her duty to serve in the U.S. Senate especially in this committee,” Newberger said. “There’s been blatant disrespect of the committee chair ... these are U.S. senators. This is not junior high.”
But Klobuchar defended Democratic criticism of the confirmation process for Kavanaugh in the GOP-led Judiciary Committee. She noted that 42,000 documents on Kavanaugh’s career were released the night before the hearings began, not giving lawmakers enough time to review them. She said that the White House has another 100,000 documents it has yet to turn over.
Klobuchar said that didn’t happen during last year’s confirmation hearings for Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court pick — even though, she said, Kavanaugh has more of a record of legal decisions on key issues that may come before the Supreme Court.
Klobuchar also asked Kavanaugh questions about net neutrality, consumer regulation and other issues. She suggested that the public may be focused more on economic issues than the Supreme Court, but “it’s our case to make that it does matter.”