WASHINGTON (CN) – Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is again coming under congressional scrutiny as House Democrats on Tuesday renewed a search for records connected to his time serving in the White House under former President George W. Bush.
In a three-page letter, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-.N.Y., asked the National Archives to complete its review of documents initially requested by the Senate last year. Nadler noted that the House will soon weigh legislation that would codify conduct rules for Supreme Court justices.
Last July, the former Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, requested the National Archives produce documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s tenure in the White House Counsel’s Office from 2001 to 2003.
Grassley’s request did not include the period in which Kavanaugh served as White House staff secretary from 2003 to 2006. Ultimately, the senator withdrew the request altogether because some records were provided in the run-up to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing last fall.
But according to Nadler, tens of thousands of documents still remain in the possession of William Burck, a private attorney hired to process Kavanaugh’s records for the Senate.
Democrats bristled at the arrangement, arguing Burck’s proximity to Kavanaugh made it impossible for the attorney to be impartial. Burck served under Kavanaugh when they worked at the White House together under former President Bush.
Burck served an integral role for members of the Trump administration: he provided counsel to former White House lawyer Don McGahn during McGahn’s cooperation with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice committed by President Donald Trump.
The attorney also provided counsel to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and onetime chief of staff Reince Priebus during the Mueller investigation.
Tradition has long dictated that the National Archives conduct review for Supreme Court nominees. However, because the timeline initially proposed by the agency was too long for Republican lawmakers’ liking, the Bush White House library allowed Burck’s team to dig through the administration’s archives.
The Trump White House initially claimed executive privilege over 100,000 Kavanaugh documents after Burck was hired, but Democrats pushed back Tuesday.
“The Committee’s jurisdiction encompasses the laws governing judicial ethics and the judicial oath of office, judicial disqualification and misconduct and the organization of the Supreme Court,” Nadler wrote in the letter “As it has in the past the committee is considering legislative proposals to create a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices. It has also reviewed proposals in recent years regarding transparency in the Supreme Court’s proceedings, the adequacy of the justices’ financial disclosures and the circumstances in which justices or judges must disqualify themselves from the cases.”
With the Supreme Court poised to address critical arguments related to immigration, abortion, criminal justice reform, separation of powers and more in its upcoming term, Nadler also stressed the need for the National Archives office to comply quickly.
The National Archives are expected to release Kavanaugh’s full records in 2021. But Nadler offered the agency a helping hand – including assistance directly from the committee – to speed up the remaining production.
In addition to emails Kavanaugh received or wrote during his time as staff secretary, the committee also wants “textual records contained in Justice Kavanaugh’s office files” from the same period, on a rolling basis.
Whether the records will be made available for public review is unclear.
A representative for the House Judiciary Committee did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.
The committee’s ranking Republican, Doug Collins of Georgia, called Nadler’s request “harassment” and “outside the scope of judicial ethics.”
“Senate Democrats spent months launching false accusations in an attempt to smear Justice Kavanaugh’s reputation and block his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now House Democrats want to follow suit with yet another fishing expedition to tarnish his good name,” Collins said in a statement Tuesday.