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New Mexico senators speak out on Kavanaugh nomination

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New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall has signed onto a letter with several other Democratic senators and one independent requesting that the White House release all documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s time as a White House lawyer.

The letter addressed to White House Counsel Don McGann dated Sept. 6 coincided with the third and final day of nomination hearings of Kavanaugh by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After the hearings the committee composed of 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats will vote on the nomination before it is eventually taken up by the full Senate.

The letter was signed by Udall, 17 other Democratic senators and Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

“We owe it to the American people to evaluate Supreme Court nominees in an open, transparent and fair process. Unfortunately, the process so far has been anything but. We urge you to make the Judge Kavanaugh’s full record available immediately before we proceed with his confirmation,” the letter states.

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The letter also said only 7 percent of the records from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House were made available before his nomination hearings compared with 99 percent of those of Elena Kagan — who also worked in the White House before she was confirmed to the court.

Kavanaugh — a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and former White House attorney during the George W. Bush administration — was selected by President Donald Trump in July to fill the seat that had been held by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy announced in late June he would retire after nearly three decades on the bench.

The letter said a White House attorney from the George W. Bush administration directed 100,000 pages from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House not be released. Another 42,000 pages of documents were released hours before the hearings began Tuesday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is leading the hearings, defended the confirmation process in a release on his Senate website. Kavanaugh submitted more than 17,000 pages of speeches, articles and other materials to the committee. Another 483,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time working in the White House have also been released and are available to the public, according to the release.

Grassley added in the release he pushed for federal officials to expedite the public disclosure process so all Americans have access to more than 290,000 pages of Kavanaugh’s records from his time in the executive branch, now posted on the Judiciary Committee’s website.

“In short, the American people have unprecedented access and more materials to review for Judge Kavanaugh than they ever had before,” Grassley said in the release.

In a press conference Tuesday Udall also criticized Kavanaugh’s broad views of presidential power, something he said is relevant as special counsel Robert Mueller conducts his probe of Trump on possible obstruction of justice charges over the 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and members of Trump’s 2016 campaign team for possibly colluding with Russia to affect the 2016 elections.

“A president with possible felonies hanging over his head should should not be permitted to select the next Supreme Court Justice, not when that nominee has the record of Judge Kavanaugh who has shown a clear and troubling belief that the president is above the law,” he said.

Udall, during the press conference, urged Senate Republicans to halt the nomination at least until after November’s elections, but said he does not know of any Republican on the committee who would be willing to do so.

Fellow New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, also a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday that Republicans are trying to rush the nomination through and he opposes the nomination based both on Kavanaugh’s views and because of the process used to move his nomination through the Senate.

“The Trump administration and its allies are either hiding or disregarding Judge Kavanaugh’s record and the dangerous consequences of his extreme views on so many important issues,” Heinrich said in the statement.

Neither Udall or Heinrich sit on the Judiciary Committee, but Mick Rich — Heinrich’s Republican opponent in November’s U.S. Senate election — said if he was on the committee he would ask Kavanaugh if Kavanaugh would legislate from the bench when making his decisions.

“From all I have heard from Judge Kavanaugh, he is an exceptionally qualified candidate, and he would receive my confirmation vote,” Rich said in a statement from his campaign.

In a statement Thursday Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson called the hearings “largely partisan theater” and said that he believes Kavanaugh should and will be confirmed.

“It is essential that a Supreme Court Justice be guided by the Constitution and the fundamental protections it provides for our rights and liberties,” Johnson said in a statement. “I believe Judge Kavanaugh will be that kind of Justice.”

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.