President Trump’s administration is holding back on releasing more than 100,000 pages of records from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s time as a lawyer in the George W. Bush White House. The documents, the White House insists, are covered by executive privilege, according to a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday ahead of the confirmation hearings. Lawyers have turned over around 415,000 pages of records to the committee, including 147,000 that were handed over to the committee but not released to the public.
“President Bush directed us to proceed expeditiously and to err as much as appropriate on the side of transparency and disclosure, and we believe we have done so,” attorney William Burck, who serves as Bush’s presidential records representative, wrote to the committee. In the letter, Burck writes that he has turned over “every reviewable” document except those that were duplicates, personal documents, and “presidential records protected by constitutional privilege.” Overall, 101,921 pages were not turned over to the committee because of that privilege.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin Tuesday and the withholding of records drew the ire of Senate Democrats, who characterized it as a way to ensure a quicker confirmation process. “We’re witnessing a Friday night document massacre,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “President Trump’s decision to step in at the last moment and hide 100k pages of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from the American public is not only unprecedented in the history of SCOTUS noms, it has all the makings of a cover up.” Schumer then went on to accuse Republicans and Trump of “colluding to keep Judge Kavanaugh’s records secret,” and wondered, “What are they trying so desperately to hide?”
Raj Shah, the White House principal deputy press secretary, replied to Schumer on Twitter, calling his “claim … entirely incorrect” because the committee “requested access to ‘any non-privileged Presidential record that is responsive to the Committee’s special access request.’” And “that has been satisfied to the tune of over 440,000 pages of Executive branch documents, more than what was produced for the past five #SCOTUS nominees combined,” Shah added.
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