CBSN

National Archives may not finish reviewing Kavanaugh documents before end of October

The National Archives informed the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Thursday that his request for documents regarding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh can't be fulfilled until the end of October. Chairman Chuck Grassley had asked for Kavanaugh's emails and paper filings from his time as Bush's associate White House counsel, and more documents pertaining to his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

National Archives General Counsel Gary Stern pointed out that this request far exceeded past document requests for other Supreme Court Justice candidates.

"The total volume of your request could be more than 900,000 pages," wrote general counsel Gary Stern. "By way of contrast, the total volume of records that NARA reviewed for the nomination of Justice Roberts was approximately 70,000 pages, and the volume for Justice Kagan's nomination was 170,000 pages." 

Grassley had requested the documents to begin rolling production by August 1, to be completed by August 15. Democrats had also requested more documents from the National Archives from Kavanaugh's time as staff secretary to Bush. Stern said that the National Archives would complete its review of the first 300,000 pages by August 20, but the remaining 600,000 would not be completed until the end of October 2018.

Republicans are calling Democrats' request for more documents a delay tactic, but the letter from the National Archives shows that Kavanaugh's confirmation may be delayed even without Democratic action.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in July that he predicted confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh would begin in August, and that he believed Kavanaugh would be confirmed by October 1, which is when the Supreme Court's new session begins. But even before he received the letter from the National Archives, Grassley was already expressing doubt that the process would be a speedy one.

In an interview on "The Hugh Hewitt Show" Wednesday, Grassley said he thought "early September" would be the earliest the confirmation hearings could begin, "but I'd rather say at this point sometime in September."

Grassley reiterated that it would be ideal for Republicans to get Kavanaugh confirmed before the November midterm elections, so that his confirmation does not become an election issue that could mobilize Democratic voters. Currently, the Senate has the slimmest of GOP majorities -- 51-49, and one GOP senator, John McCain, has been battling brain cancer at home in Arizona since December

The confirmation hearing for Kavanaugh will take up a week, with another week for the judge to answer written questions, and then a committee vote two weeks after that, said Grassley. The full Senate vote will likely be extended by a Democratic filibuster. With hundreds of thousands of documents to review, as well as a lengthy hearing process, the vote to confirm Kavanaugh may be pushed closer to the November elections.

Alan Heath contributed to this article.

  • Grace Segers

    Grace Segers is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.