Ex-Senate Aide: Kavanaugh Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath About Stolen Democratic Memos

StorySeptember 10, 2018
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Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is facing accusations of perjury following his confirmation hearing last week. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has suggested Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his 2004 and 2006 hearings to become a federal judge. During those hearings Kavanaugh denied seeing private Democratic files that detailed strategies for opposing Republican judicial nominees while he was associate counsel in the George W. Bush White House. We speak with Lisa Graves, former top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, whose new piece is headlined “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.” Graves is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. She is now co-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh is facing accusations of perjury following his confirmation hearing last week. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has suggested Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his 2004 and 2006 hearings to become a federal judge. During those hearings, Kavanaugh was asked if he had seen private Democratic files that detailed strategies for opposing Republican judicial nominees while he was associate counsel in the George W. Bush White House. The documents had been prepared by Democratic staff members and were improperly obtained by a Republican Senate aide named Manuel Miranda. This is a clip from Kavanaugh’s 2004 confirmation hearing when he was questioned by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Did Mr. Miranda ever share—share, reference or provide you with any documents that appeared to you to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No, I was not aware of that matter, ever, until I learned of it in the media late last year.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Did Mr. Miranda ever share, reference or provide you with information that you believe or were led to believe was obtained or derived from Democratic files?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No. Again, I was not aware of that matter in any way whatsoever until I learned it in the media.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Do you know if any other associate White House counsels had access to these type of materials that were improperly taken?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I don’t know of anyone who was aware of this matter, again, until the media reports late last year.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH: But you were not?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I was not aware of it.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was 2004, when Brett Kavanaugh was asked if he had seen the stolen Democratic files. Last week, Senator Leahy again questioned Kavanaugh about these documents.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: On June 5th, 2003, you received an email from a Republican Senate staffer with the subject line “spying.” That is not overly subtle. This staffer appears in over 1,000 documents we received together with both you and Mr. Miranda. She says she has a mole for us, and so forth. None of this raised a red flag with you?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: It did not, Senator. Again, people have friends across the aisle who they talk to—at least this was my experience back then. Maybe it’s changed. And would—there was a lot of bipartisanship on the committee. There was a lot of bipartisanship among the staffs. There were a lot of friendships and relationships where people would talk to, “Oh, I’ve got a friend on Senator Kennedy’s, Ted Kennedy’s, staff,” or “I have a friend on Senator Hatch’s staff,” or “I have a friend on Senator Specter’s staff.” That kind of conversation and information sharing was common, so it did not raise the flags.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Judge, I was born at night, but not last night. And if I had found—if I had something that somebody said, “We’ve stolen this,” or “This is high—don’t tell anybody we have this,” I think it would raise some red flags.

AMY GOODMAN: While Kavanaugh may not see a red flag, others definitely do. On Friday, Demand Justice, MoveOn and NARAL Pro-Choice America called for Democrats to seek a formal perjury investigation of Kavanaugh based on his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

For more, we go to Madison, Wisconsin, where we’re joined by former top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, Lisa Graves. Her new piece in Slate is headlined “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.” Lisa Graves is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice, now co-director of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy.

Lisa, welcome back to Democracy Now! So, explain exactly why you’re saying, no, you don’t want Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court; you want him impeached from his federal judgeship.

LISA GRAVES: That’s right. I think the question really before the Senate should not be whether he should be elevated to a lifetime position, for the next several decades, deciding cases that affect everyone, but whether he should even be on the federal bench. I think his testimony before the Senate has been proven false by the emails that have been released so far. And again, the emails that have come out in this confirmation were not before the Senate back in 2004 and 2006. And even still, the Trump administration and the Bush lawyers are trying to limit access to those emails. The ones that have been provided so far reveal that, in fact, Manny Maranda told Brett Kavanaugh that he had received, for example, a confidential letter that was provided by Democratic staff to Democratic counsel, by Senator Leahy’s staff to other Democratic counsel, and then recited the contents of that letter, told Brett Kavanaugh to hold that in strict confidence. That’s just one of several examples from the small sample of emails that have been released.

And so, I think what is warranted here is not a confirmation vote, but an investigation into perjury for Brett Kavanaugh, who, by the way, as many people may recall, actually cut his teeth working for Ken Starr, working to try to remove President Clinton for perjury, for lying under oath about sex. And here we have this man who came before the Senate in 2004 and 2006 and was not forthcoming. I think the questions that he was asked were very, very direct about receiving any sort of content that might have indicated that there was information being taken from Democratic staffers. And also, I would say, Amy, that the suggestion that there was sharing of information, such confidential information, by Democratic staff to the Republican staff is outlandish. We were united. The Democrats were united in the Judiciary Committee against the most controversial, extreme Bush nominees, that Brett Kavanaugh was working on. They were united on the floor to try to protect the courts, fair courts, from those judges. And the idea that this was normal for him to receive secret Democratic talking points and the like is simply false.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Brett Kavanaugh—

LISA GRAVES: Unless it was normal because he was receiving those documents.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Kavanaugh’s 2006 confirmation hearing for the D.C. Circuit. This is the late Senator Ted Kennedy asking Kavanaugh about the Democratic memos stolen by a Republican staffer.

SEN. TED KENNEDY: You never saw any of those. You—

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: No, Senator, that’s correct. I don’t know—I’m not aware of the memos. I never saw such memos that I think you’re referring to. I mean, I don’t know what the universe of memos might be, but I do know that I never received any memos, was not aware of any such memo. So I just want to correct that premise that I think was in your question.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Ted Kennedy questioning Brett Kavanaugh. Lisa, take us back to that time, to exactly the position that Kavanaugh held within the George W. Bush White House, why he was so pivotal around these judicial nominations, what the climate was and what you understood as a top aide to Senator Leahy at the time of Kavanaugh’s role.

LISA GRAVES: Well, Brett Kavanaugh was associate White House counsel for Alberto Gonzales at the time. And he played a central role in those nomination fights. At the time, we actually didn’t hear from Brett Kavanaugh. It wasn’t as though he was contacting us on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the staff. But what was happening within the Senate was that Republicans had taken over control of the Senate, and they were trying to push through these very controversial nominees to the floor in 2003. In 2002, the fights were similar. Although the Democrats controlled the Senate, the Republicans were pushing very hard, attacking the Democrats for not moving on the nominees that they wanted so badly.

And so, we knew that Brett Kavanaugh was involved in nominations. We knew that Manny Miranda was involved in nominations. We didn’t know, until November of 2003, that Manny Miranda had been taking—had been stealing thousands of emails and messages, content, talking points, letters, memos and the like, from Democratic staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee. And we didn’t know until this past week the full extent of the communications, or even part of the extent, I should say, of the contacts between Manuel Miranda and Brett Kavanaugh, in the sense of how they were working together. And we certainly didn’t know, before now, until Senator Leahy’s questioning and the questioning this past week, that in fact there were talking points, letters, excerpts from memos, that were provided to Brett Kavanaugh, along with other information that would have certainly led him—any reasonable person to believe that they were receiving secret inside information from Democrats. I mean, he testified in 2004, just one month after the Senate sergeant-at-arms issued a damning report about Manny Miranda’s involvement in this matter. And Manny Miranda, at the time—it was a voluntary—sort of voluntary cooperation investigation—refused to tell the Senate sergeant-at-arms who his White House contacts were. I think now we know why.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Senator Patrick Leahy questioning Judge Kavanaugh last week.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Why would you ever be asked to keep secret Democratic talking points, if they were legitimately obtained?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I am looking at these, Senator, and it says, for example, it looks like—it looks like Biden’s staff is asking him not to attend the hearing. I don’t know why that—

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: But look how you received it.

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: I know. Highly—I don’t know why that’s even confidential, because it—

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Whether it is or not, would you consider that somewhat unusual to be receiving from a Republican staff member something marked “highly confidential,” telling him what he’s found out that a Democrat is going to do?

JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Well, as I explained yesterday, Senator, my understanding of this process is that the staffs do talk with one another, that they’re not camps with no communication.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Senator Leahy questioning Kavanaugh. Do you believe, Lisa Graves, that Senator Grassley, who heads up this confirmation hearing, withheld the documents because he knew that the emails show that Kavanaugh had these stolen documents?

LISA GRAVES: I don’t think that Senator Grassley himself knew, but I think that what’s happening here is an extreme rush to try to install Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court before the midterm elections and to try to deny the American people and the Senate the information it needs to evaluate this nominee. I know that from the record, the procedural record, we’ve seen over the past month, the past week, that Senator Grassley has—is trying to ram him through without those documents before the Senate.

And, in fact, we know from the National Archives that the Senate Judiciary Committee majority has bypassed the traditional process for the release of National Archives materials involving Brett Kavanaugh’s emails. We know that the person who’s screening those emails has been chosen by the former Bush White House and worked closely with Brett Kavanaugh. And we know that numerous materials that involve these matters were not provided to the committee until just last week. And that’s just a sliver of the documents that the National Archives reports are available or would be available under a proper procedural review later this fall, that would reveal more information about this matter.

And so I think it’s imperative that this investigation proceed to look into not just this issue of the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, but what he knew, when he knew it, and the full record about his communications with Manny Miranda and others about secret Democratic files, materials, talking points and the like. It’s a very serious matter to lie to the Senate. It’s a very serious matter to lie to the Senate repeatedly.

AMY GOODMAN: Lisa Graves, we have—

LISA GRAVES: I think this needs to be investigated.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, Lisa Graves, former top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy. Her new piece in Slate, we’ll link to, “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About.”

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