Saturday, August 18, 2018
National Archives Explains What's Up with Kavanaugh's Records
The National Archives and Records Administration this week issued a backgrounder and update on the dispute over Judge Kavanaugh's records, with links to congressional requests and NARA responses. The statement comes at a time when Senate Democrats accuse Republicans of failing to seek and release most of Judge Kavanaugh's records, including, critically, documents related to his time as staff secretary to President Bush (which might shed light on his involvement, if any, in controversial Bush Administration policies).
In the usual course of things, the Chair of relevant congressional committees would request--and receive--all relevant docs from NARA on a nominee under the Presidential Records Act. That's what happened during other, most recent confirmation proceedings, including Justices Sotomayor's, Kagan's, and Gorsuch's. But not here.
NARA explained that it holds "several million pages of paper and email records related to Judge Kavanaugh." Still, Senator Grassley requested only about 900,000 of these (not related to Judge Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary). NARA says that expects to review and release about 300,000 pages by August 20, but can't release the remaining 600,000 pages until later, "by the end of October."
The Senate scheduled Judge Kavanaugh's hearings to begin on September 4.
At the same time, NARA explains that it can't respond to Democrats' requests for Judge Kavanaugh's records (including records relating to Judge Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary), because under the Presidential Records Act "consistent practice has been to respond only to requests from the Chair of Congressional Committees, regardless of which party is in power." Senate Democrats took the extraordinary step of filing a FOIA request, and Senator Schumer this week threatened to sue NARA to get the docs not requested by Senator Grassley, and to get them more quickly.
Finally, NARA explained that "a separate review . . . is also underway." In particular, a Bush Administration representative (William Burck) "requested and received from [NARA] a copy of the White House Counsel's Office and nomination records and has begun to provide copies of those records directly to the Senate Judiciary Committee." Burck is conducting his own review outside of the ordinary NARA process. NARA explained that this
is something that has never happened before. This effort by former President Bush does not represent the National Archives of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The Senate Judiciary Committee is publicly releasing some of these documents on its website, which also do not represent the National Archives.