The Kavanaugh Hearing

By UM News

The Kavanaugh Hearing

By UM News
UM experts weigh in on what transpired during the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Disorder ruled on the first day of the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for Brett Kavanaugh, as Democratic senators, angered over the 11th-hour release of over 42,000 pages of documents from the Supreme Court nominee’s service in the Bush White House, called for a delay in the proceedings and U.S. Capitol Police arrested dozens of demonstrators, many of whom expressed concerns over the fate of Roe v. Wade

After an explosive three days of hearings, University of Miami law and political science professors weigh in on some of the big questions surrounding what transpired. 

From a historical perspective, what makes the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing different from past Supreme Court nominee hearings?

The Brett Kavanaugh hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee are the most contentious for a nominee to the Supreme Court that I have witnessed since the hearings for Robert Bork back in the 1980s. Bork failed to be confirmed by the Senate largely because of his history in connection to Watergate. After two senior members of the Justice Department refused to comply with President Richard Nixon’s command to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, it was Bork who did so. History is repeating itself with President Trump attempting to pull the same maneuver as Nixon. Anyone caring to open his or her eyes can see why Trump wants Kavanaugh. It’s shameful to watch Kavanaugh attempt to avoid answering legitimate questions pertaining to his judicial temperament and position on issues. The hearings have been marked by vociferous protests and demonstrations and the outrage and disgust Democratic members of the committee have expressed about the candidate. When Republicans have spoken, you heard the nonsense of Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had the audacity to evoke Bork’s name as one who was “mistreated by not being confirmed to the Supreme Court.” Times have certainly changed historically speaking, especially given the spineless nature of in-office Republicans. After all, back in the Nixon and Reagan eras even the Republicans expressed serious doubts about Bork. And they were among the leadership that finally urged President Nixon to resign. The nomination and likely confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is not the end. History tells us that it is likely the opening salvo of a war that must be fought and won. We would all do well to remember the inscription on the National Archives:  “What is past is prologue.”

—Donald Spivey, distinguished professor of history, College of Arts and Sciences

 

In response to a question by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh refused to say whether President Trump must respond to a subpoena by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. He also declined to say whether Trump could pardon himself or his associates, saying that he would not “answer hypothetical questions of that sort.” What’s your takeaway of Kavanaugh’s response? 

Trump’s former lawyer has not only pleaded guilty to campaign finance allegations, but has also implicated Trump in his alleged scheme. In itself this creates a crisis of confidence in the 45th President who may now be subpoenaed by Mueller as he completes his investigation. In the midst of this gathering storm, Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh. As a professor of constitutional law, I was disappointed by Kavanaugh’s majestic non-answer to Feinstein’s question about whether a sitting president can be subpoenaed. I think given the unique circumstance that Trump nominated Kavanaugh while he [Trump] is under investigation means Kavanaugh had an obligation to recuse himself from considering this issue. It is not simply a question of whether Kavanaugh can actually be impartial. The question is whether the American politic can survive the crisis of confidence that will ensue if Kavanaugh dares to claim that he can be.

—Donald M. Jones, professor of constitutional law at the School of Law

  

Does Kavanaugh’s refusal to answer questions on presidential power tarnish his nomination?

By ducking the question, the cloud that is now hovering over Trump’s presidency becomes a cloud over Kavanaugh’s nomination. Perhaps the best thing that can happen now—and I echo the comments of many legal scholars—is to postpone the nomination process until the investigation of Trump can be resolved.

—Donald M. Jones, professor of constitutional law at the School of Law

 

What tactics will Democrats use to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation?

Democrats will attempt to delay the process, particularly because of the last-hour release of documents related to Kavanaugh’s service under President George Bush. This said, by all accounts the Kavanaugh confirmation is inevitable, due to Republican control of the Senate.

—Casey A. Klofstad, associate professor of political science in the College of Arts and Sciences

 

How will the confirmation hearings impact the midterm elections?

The confirmation will not change the minds of voters in November, but it could spur more turnout by progressive Democrats this fall. We’ve already seen this foreshadowed during the primaries in cases such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in her bid for the

U.S. House and here in Florida with the unexpected victory of Andrew Gillum in his race for governor.

—Casey A. Klofstad, associate professor of political science in the College of Arts and Sciences