What the Kavanaugh Fight Was All About

Before credible allegations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh were made public, the strongest argument against his confirmation was the conflict of interest posed by a Supreme Court Justice being nominated by a president who is the subject of a criminal investigation. Here is Cory Booker making that argument:

On Thursday, during an interview with Karen Tumulty, Newt Gingrich basically affirmed that this is what the fight over Kavanaugh’s confirmation was all about. Take a look at how the former speaker responded when asked what would happen if a Democrat-controlled House subpoenaed Trump’s tax returns. He assumes that the president wouldn’t comply and the question would make its way to the Supreme Court—where “we’ll see whether or not the Kavanaugh fight was worth it.”

It is worth remembering that, from the list of candidates approved by the Federalist Society, Trump chose the candidate with the most extremist views on executive privilege.

“I believe that the president should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office,” Judge Kavanaugh wrote in 2009 in The Minnesota Law Review. Among those burdens, he said, were responding to civil lawsuits and criminal charges.

“Even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation — including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators — are time-consuming and distracting,” Judge Kavanaugh wrote. “Like civil suits, criminal investigations take the president’s focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people. And a president who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as president.”

What Gingrich just affirmed publicly is that the fight to get Kavanaugh confirmed was in preparation for the day that these extremist views about executive privilege would come into play to protect the president from investigation. On some level, we all knew that. But Gingrich doesn’t seem to have a problem with saying that the president and his congressional enablers just pushed through a Supreme Court nominee in yet another attempt to obstruct justice.

But things get even more disturbing with this report in the Guardian:

Brett Kavanaugh, the new supreme court justice, counts the Trump administration’s solicitor general, who will be arguing cases before the high court on behalf of the president, as a close professional friend, according to emails that offer new insights into an all-male dinner club that Kavanaugh used to attend.

Emails obtained by the Guardian show that Kavanaugh, who was narrowly confirmed to the supreme court earlier this month, participated in monthly evening cocktails and dinners from 2001 to 2003 with a group of men that included Noel Francisco, who now serves as the Trump administration’s solicitor general.

While it’s true that a friendship with the solicitor general poses another conflict of interest for Kavanaugh, it is critical to keep in mind that Noel Francisco is also the next in line to oversee the Mueller investigation if the president fires Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Given all of that, it is not difficult to envision a series of cascading constitutional crises that would engulf both the presidency and the Supreme Court as the various investigations into Trump’s campaign and finances proceed. Newt Gingrich just said the quiet parts out loud when he admitted that this is what the fight over Kavanaugh’s confirmation was all about.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.