Senate Democrats claim that when they questioned Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday, he walked back earlier statements he had made in favor of granting presidents immunity from investigations while in office, The Hill reported.
Wait, what did Kavanaugh say?
In 2009, Kavanaugh was three years into his appointment by former President George W. Bush on the D.C. Circuit Court. In an article published in the Minnesota Law Review that year, Kavanaugh argued that “the nation certainly would have been better off if President Clinton could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and its criminal investigation offshoots.”
Kavanaugh worked for three years on the team of Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Clinton during regarding his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
Kavanaugh elaborated in the article and said that he believed that presidents should focus on issues that affect the nation, and “should be excused from some of the burdens of ordinary citizenship while serving in office.”
He said that Congress should consider passing legislation that would defer lawsuits until after a president left office, and extend the statute of limitations so that it couldn't run out before the end of a president's term. Impeachment, Kavanaugh argued, was always still an option if the crime was particularly bad.
What did Democrats say?
Minority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that during an interview Thursday, Kavanaugh seemed to walk back his arguments from the 2009 article.
“I did pursue statements that he made about whether incumbent presidents should be subpoenaed, indicted, investigated, prosecuted, and we had a long talk about that,” Durbin said, according to The Hill.
Durbin said Kavanaugh had "changed his position dramatically."
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) agreed with Durbin's assessment.
“We had a vigorous conversation about both his views while he was staff on the Starr investigation about whether the president should have to be amenable to a subpoena for documents or testimony and then his subsequent public statements,” Coons told The Hill.
Coons said that Kavanaugh insisted that the law review article was an example of “simply making policy proposals,” and was not an example of how he would interpret the Constitution.