WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that he will meet Tuesday with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — to urge him to approve the release of his White House records now being withheld.
But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Thursday she will not meet with Kavanaugh because she "strongly opposes" his nomination and "his record is clearly disqualifying."
Schumer disclosed his upcoming meeting as Senate Democrats escalated their fight for Kavanaugh’s records by filing a Freedom of Information Act request for them to the National Archives — and threatened to sue if the agency doesn’t respond quickly.
“I am going to meet with him next week,” Schumer said of Kavanaugh. “And I’ll ask him all about these documents and what he intends to do it about it. He can’t duck it.”
Schumer added, “He should have said already he wants them released if he’s an open, fair, wonderful-man Supreme Court justice that he’s trying to portray himself to be.”
Previously Schumer held off meeting with Kavanaugh, currently a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, until Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) approved the release of all of Kavanaugh’s records as a White House lawyer and a top assistant.
But Grassley has refused the request for hundreds of thousands of emails and documents created during Kavanaugh’s nearly three years as President George W. Bush’s staff secretary, putting him in the inner circle on all the major issues and controversies during that period.
“We are not asking for Judge Kavanaugh’s documents from his time as staff secretary,” Grassley said Thursday in a Judiciary Committee meeting. “These documents are even more sensitive, because they contain advice sent directly to the president and are at the heart of executive privilege.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who filed the information request for Democrats on the committee, said he expects the National Archive to respond quickly and will negotiate to obtain the most important documents Democrats are seeking. “This FOIA request is a last resort,” he said.
But the FOIA process may run out of time: The National Archives by law has 20 days to respond, and Grassley said the Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings will begin in 18 days, on Sept. 4.
Already, the National Archives has said it will not be able to produce two-thirds of the 900,000 White House documents Grassley requested on behalf of the committee until the end of October.
Asked if the legitimacy of Kavanaugh as a justice would be undermined if he is confirmed before the requested documents are made public, Schumer said that already is happening.
He cited a CNN poll released Thursday that found 41 percent said the White House should provide more Kavanaugh documents, while 27 percent said Democrats already have enough information. Another 31 percent said they had no opinion.
“I think his legitimacy is being undermined already by the fact that they have refused to release documents,” Schumer said, “because the American people — as you saw in just this CNN poll — are wondering why.”