Brett Kavanaugh hearings day 3: Booker's "Spartacus moment"; same-sex marriage questions
President Trump's Supreme Court nomiee Brett Kavanaugh was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday on topics that included same-sex marriage, Roe v. Wade and special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Sen. Cory Booker released documents pertaining to Kavanaugh's record that had deemed "confidential."
Reporting by Emily Tillett, Grace Segers, Ed O'Keefe, Kathryn Watson and Caroline Linton
Follow along for live updates of the hearing:
The hearing headed into a closed session around 10:15 p.m., almost 13 hours after it started. They will recovene Friday for the fourth day of hearings.
"I hope a lot of people in this country have formed very positive views of you, as I have," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said as he adjourned the hearing.
Kavanaugh confirms friendship with Kasowitz firm attorney, says they never discussed Mueller probe
Sen. Richard Blumenthal floowed up on Sen. Kamala Harris' questions from Wednesday about if Kavanaugh had spoken to anyone at a the law firm of Mr. Trump's personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, Kavanaugh said he has learned his friend, Ed McNally, worked at Kasowitz's firm.
"I know Ed McNally used to work at the White House counsel's officeand I now -- I understand that he works at that law firm," Kavanaugh said.
Kavanaugh said he never discussed the Mueller probe with McNally and he is not acquainted with Kasowitz.
Session breaks before third round of questions
The committee took a five minute break at approximately 7:39 p.m.
Democrats are questioning Kavanaugh for a third round of questions after the break. They are each allotted eight minutes.
The committee will then go into closed session.
Kavanaugh deflects on same-sex marriage, family separations
When asked by California Sen. Kamala Harris, Kavanaugh declined to say whether he believed that Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, was correctly decided, employing the precedent of judicial nominee commenting on recent cases.
He also did not comment on family separations at the U.S.-Mexico border, or about the right of the president or Congress to exclude immigrants from entering the country based on race.
Sen. Thom Tillis thanks hearing police
Sen. Thom Tillis thanked all of the police present at the hearing who are required to work 16-hour shifts. The nod warranted bipartisan applause.
Tillis asked Kavanaugh why he hopes to become the next Supreme Court Justice.
"Public service as a judge is a great honor and it's a great responsibility," Kavanaugh said.
Sen. Booker asks Kavanaugh if he respects President Trump
Sen. Booker asked Kavanaugh if character matters for president of the United States and asked him if he respects President Trump.
The senator from New Jersey pointed out that of the original two lists of potential Supreme Court nominees Mr. Trump put out, Kavanaugh was on neither.
Hearing Returns from recess
At 6:17 p.m., the hearing returned from a 30-minute recess and Sen. Cory Booker began questioning Kavanaugh.
Hearing goes into brief recess
At 5:48 p.m., the hearing went into a 30-minute recess.
Kavanaugh says he doesn't vote
Kavanaugh -- after facing a slew of political questions that he declined to answer throughout the hearing proceedings -- said he doesn't vote.
"I do not vote in political elections," Kavanaugh told the senators.
"National security is not a blank check for the president," Kavanaugh says
Kavanaugh, taking questions from Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, clarified that he doesn't believe the president has unlimited powers in war and in matters of national security.
Kavanaugh's stance on executive power has come into question, particularly since he worked in the George W. Bush White House on Sept. 11, 2001.
"National security is not a blank check for the president," Kavanaugh said, adding that "civil liberties are not silent," even in war.
"The law applies even in war time and national security," he said.
Blumenthal presses Kavanaugh on any conversations about special counsel
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pressed Kavanaugh as to whether he has ever discussed the special counsel's investigation with anyone in the White House.
Kavanaugh suggested he had not had any substantive -- or certainly any inappropriate -- conversations about the special counsel's probe with anyone in the White House. But he didn't seem to be able to say he had never discussed the matter -- he said he has discussed questions about the special that might come up in preparation for his testimony.
White House counsel Don McGahn has been helping Kavanaugh prepare for the hearings.
Blumenthal eventually moved on, unsatisfied with the nominee's answers.
"There have to be some limits to executive power," Flake says
"There have to be some limits to executive power," retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, said.
Flake noted the "genius" of the United States' system of government is there are constraints -- and checks and balances -- on presidential power.
Still, the president has immense powers -- largely because Congress has given up too much, he said. Flake pressed Kavanaugh as to whether he uses Sept. 11, 2001, to justify the need for more authority.
Kavanaugh's girls basketball teams shows up
Kavanaugh's much-discussed basketball teams he has coached showed up to his confirmation hearing in the afternoon, taking seats in the front row. Kavanaugh's coaching of his daughters' basketball teams has been much discussed.
"It's awesome to have them all here," Kavanaugh said, introducing them to the room one by one.
"They are tough as nails," he added.
Senate breaks for recess
Shortly after 3:45 p.m. Grassley called for a brief 15 minute recess in the hearing.
Kavanaugh says U.S. v. Nixon rightly decided
Remarking on the landmark Supreme Court case that resulted in a unanimous decision against President Richard Nixon as it related to the Watergate scandal, Kavanaugh called the ruling "one of the four greatest decisions, and a correct decision."
The Supreme Court concluded that while presidents do enjoy a constitutionally protected executive privilege, that the privilege is not absolute. The Court decided that in this case, Nixon's interest in keeping his communications secret was outweighed by the interests of the judiciary.
The Court ordered Nixon to comply with a subpoena and turn over tape recordings he had made in the Oval Office.
How does Kavanaugh define precedent?
"Precendent is important for predictability and stability," Kavanaugh said when pressed on his persistent use of the term as grounds for upholding Supreme Court rulings.
Kavanaugh says he's ready to play ball at SCOTUS
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Kavanaugh if he intended to utilize the Supreme Court's basketball court, located above the chambers and known as the "Highest Court in the Land."
"I do, if fortunate enough to be confirmed...yes indeed," said an excited Kavanaugh. Besides his role in the courts, Kavanaugh currently serves as head coach to his daughter's basketball team where he's known as "Coach K."
Cruz noted the last time the court had been used was by a younger Justice Thomas but was injured during a game with clerks. Kavanaugh said he hoped not to follow the precedent set by Thomas.
Kavanaugh on indicting a president, recusals
Kavanaugh reiterated to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse that he has not taken a position on the constitutionality of indicting a sitting president.
Asked on Thursday if the president is immune from any and all legal action, civil or criminal, Kavanaugh said that the president has executive authority but is "not above the law, no one is above the law in the United States."
On the issue of recusal, Kavanaugh told Whitehouse that the question of recusal is "governed by precedent and governed by rules." He said that whenever he's encountered a question on the issue of recusal, he's consulted with colleagues on the DC Circuit Court. He later said that he didn't believe it was "appropriate to make decisions and a recusal is a decision on a case."
During Whitehouse's line of questioning, all vaguely pointing back to President Trump's actions in office, White House Counsel Don McGahn, seated behind Kavanuagh, appeared to be intently listening along and writing his own notes.
Senate comes back to order
Just before 2:00 p.m, Kavanaugh returned back to the witness chair for more questions.
Senate takes another recess
At 1:15 p.m. the hearing broke for another brief recess in the proceedings. Senators are expected to take a 30 minute break for lunch and votes.
Senate expulsion: Is Booker alone?
While it raised eyebrows, Booker's suggestion that he would be willing to be expelled from the Senate for his release of committee confidential documents isn't rare.
According to the U.S Senate, since 1789 the body has expelled 15 members. Of that 15, 14 were charged with supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War -- a vastly different charge than what Booker faces.
In other cases, the Senate merely considered expulsion proceedings but either found the given member not guilty or failed to act before that member left office. In those cases, the Senate notes, corruption was the main cause for the expulsion complaint.
The Senate could, however, move to impose a less severe form of punishment known as "censure." A censure doesn't remove a senator from office but the official statement of admonishment or disapproval can have equal lasting damage to an outright expulsion. The Senate has censured only nine members.
Promptly at 12:30 p.m., the Kavanaugh hearing resumed. Sen. Durbin takes a moment to thank the U.S. Capitol Police for their efforts to remove rampant protesters, while still commending their freedom of speech.
Hearing breaks for lunch
With a slew of more questions to come, the committee took a break for lunch shortly before 12:15 p.m.
Lindsey Graham defends the circus amid outrage over process
"Circuses are entertaining and you can take children to them, this hearing is neither entertaining nor appropriate for young people," Graham argued at the start of his round of questions, citing Democrats' grandstanding throughout the confirmation process.
"Most Americans after this process will have a dimmer view of the Senate," he added.
Asked what would possibly make the confirmation process any better, Kavanaugh thanked members of the committee for taking the time and care in meeting with him the past few weeks, saying they are committed to public service and public good.
"I'm in the sunrise side of the mountain and an optimist about the future," he added.
Kavanaugh won't answer question on 3D printed gun case
Asked by Sen. Pat Leahy if 3D-printed guns could be banned without a Second Amendment issue arising, Kavanaugh cited ongoing litigation over the release of blueprints to 3D printed guns as grounds for refusing to answer the question.
Kavanaugh on Russia investigation
On the Russia probe, Kavanaugh denied that he's had "any inappropriate conversations" about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation.
"I don't recall any conversations of that kind with any one at that law firm," said Kavanaugh on Thursday.
Orrin Hatch's question comes as a second shot to Sen. Kamala Harris' question last night during which she pressed the judge if had spoken about Mueller's probe with anyone in President Trump's lawyers' office.
Kavanaugh said on Wednesday "I didn't know everyone who might work at that law fir, but I haven't had, i don't recall any conversations of that kind."
Booker appeared to tweet on the matter: "What you do matters. What you say matters. No matter how big the fight. Or inevitable the conclusion seems Stand up. Speak up. Wrong, temporarily victorious Is never greater than Right, forever vigilant."
Kavanaugh talks Roe v. Wade letter
In a document obtained by CBS News from a person familiar with Kavanaugh's confirmation process, Kavanaugh is seen raising doubts about whether Roe v. Wade is indeed "settled law." He wrote the email, first obtained by the New York Times, in 2003 during his time as a White House lawyer.
CBS News' Ed O'Keefe reports that at the time, Kavanaugh was reviewing a draft of a potential op-ed written by supporters of one of George W. Bush's federal appeals court nominees that they hoped would be signed by prominent anti-abortion women activists.
The draft op-ed states that "it is widely accepted by legal scholars across the board that Roe v. Wade and its progeny are the settled law of the land."
After reviewing the draft, Kavanaugh replied in part, "I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so. The point there is in the inferior court point. -- It is hundreds not thousands, I believe, who have obtained bypasses. My 2 cents. Thanks." The document does not say, however, whether Kavanaugh personally believes that Roe v. Wade is settled law or should be overturned.
Kavanaugh in Thursday's hearing attempted to clarify his comments, saying the draft letter was "referring to views of legal scholars."
"My comment was overstating the position of legal scholars, it was not a technically accurate description in the letter," he explained.
Pressed on if he does indeed believe Roe to be considered settled law, Kavanaugh once again reiterated his previous claims that the landmark case is "important precedent of the Supreme Court, reaffirmed many times."
Grassley, in a moment of transparency, pressed Kavanaugh on the ability to bring cameras into the Supreme Court to document the proceedings.
Kavanaugh, not definitively saying where he stands on the issue, said he would "have an open mind on it" upon speaking with his colleagues if successfully confirmed.
Grassley begins formal round of question
After over an hour of Democrats' sidelining on documents, Grassley began his round of questioning of Judge Kavanaugh amid the backdrop of the morning's first protester shouting "SHAME!"
Booker: "Bring the charges"
Booker maintained that while he did willingly violate the chair's rule on the committee confidential process, he did so because he "sincerely believes the public deserves to know this nominee's record."
"Bring the charges, go through the Senate process to take on somebody you said is unbecoming to be a Senator, let's go through that process because I think the public should understand that at a moment someone is up for a lifetime appointment...I hope they'll follow through."
The Democrat, citing his colleagues support, called the moment his "I am Spartacus" moment in the Senate.
He added, "I'm ready to accept the full responsibility for what I have done, the consequences for what I've done and I stand by the public's right to have access to this document."
After an hour past gaveling in today's session, Kavanaugh has still not answered a single question.
After threatening to release "committee confidential" documents, risking his ouster from the Senate, Booker is admonished by Republican committee members including Cornyn for making such a suggestion.
"Running for president is not an excuse for violating the rules of the Senate," said Cornyn, calling his threat "irresponsible and outrageous."
The document pertains to an email from Kavanaugh kept confidential on the issue of racial profiling. Booker maintains the email has "nothing to do with national security" and should not have been marked confidential in the first place.
Democrats including Dick Durbin and Mazie Hirono joined in on Booker's plea, saying "count me in", decrying the hearing process as having "broken down" and accepting a similar fate of possible retribution for the release of documents.
Grassley retorted back at the Democrats: "You want to give up your emails right now? Make them public? I don't think you do!"
Day three began shortly after 9:30 a.m. as Grassley gaveled in Thursday's session. Grassley began the hearing by once again bringing up Democrats' concerns over access to individual documents.
"My staff was here until 3:00 a.m. trying to accommodate everyone who requested documents," Grassley bemoaned to Sen. Cory Booker over the Democrats' complaint that he was unable to ask specific questions without proper access to documents.
"We are holding back not only documents, but not even giving us the time to read those documents," said Booker. He called the release of one document the "tip of the iceberg of all documents that will continue to be released until we have a vote on the senate floor and beyond."
Booker added, "I'm sure you can understand, sir, how it puts us in a difficult position."
Judicial Crisis Network launches ad in support of Kavanaugh
In a $600,000 national cable ad buy, the conservative-leaning Judicial Crisis Network urged viewers to tell their Senators to confirm Kavanaugh as their next Supreme Court justice.
The 30-second spot features Kavanaugh "in his own words" and will air for two weeks across major cable networks including CNN, MSNBC and Fox News, all of which have been broadcasting portions of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing.
"If confirmed to the Supreme Court I will keep an open mind in every case. I will always strive to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the American rule of law," Kavanaugh is featured saying.
Judicial Crisis' Chief Counsel and Policy Adviser Carrie Severino said in a statement, "We're tired of the Democrat carnival. It is time for the American people to meet Judge Kavanaugh for themselves -- here he is in his own words."
Here's the ad:
What to expect for Thursday's hearing
Thursday's line of questioning will involve 20 minute rounds of questions for each committee member in what Chairman Grassley hopes to be the final day of probing of the Supreme Court pick. Members are also expected to get 15 minutes for a third round of questioning if needed.
Following the day-long session, a closed-door evening session will take place.
Protests ramp up
According to the U.S. Capitol Police, officers arrested 73 protesters and charged them with unlawful demonstration activities associate with Wednesday's hearing. Demonstrators spaced out their disruptions throughout the day, forcing committee members to add additional time to their questioning after significant delays. Throughout their shouts, Kavanaugh has remained unaffected and at times stone-faced as protesters demand the hearing to stop.