During his confirmation hearings in 2004, 2006, and 2018 Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was repeatedly asked about stolen documents and repeatedly denied knowing about them, despite evidence to the contrary. We speak to investigative reporter Lisa Graves
MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network, I’m Marc Steiner. Good to have you with us once again.
Much of the mainstream media, even those on the liberal end of the spectrum, have declined to cover the push, the possibility that Brent Kavanaugh should face an impeachment inquiry at the very least. What’s the basis for these allegations of possible perjury against Kavanaugh? Well, according to our guest, there are substantial. Our guest is not a pundit writing an opinion piece or a column. She’s the former chief counsel of nominations on the United States Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked under Senator Patrick Leahy. And while the things going on that involved Kavanaugh in the early 2000s and he worked in the White House staff, he allegedly stole documents or received stolen documents.
Lisa Graves, who was recently the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, wrote an article in Slate this week, writing that Kavanaugh lied under oath about receiving stolen documents from the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee is a major, major step. Lisa Graves is now codirector of Documented Investigations. Welcome, Lisa Graves, to The Real News Network. Good to have you with us.
LISA GRAVES: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me on.
MARC STEINER: It’s good to have you with us. And to me, these are really kind of stunning allegations that were made in your article in Slate. Interesting to me that many of the places, some of which I worked for before, NPR and other media outlets have not really pushed this idea. But now it’s coming to the fore because of your article in Slate. So let’s take a step backwards here and talk about why you made these allegations now. Then we’ll listen to some clips that kind of back up what you’re saying and get under those. So, why now? What brought this out?
LISA GRAVES: Well, quite frankly, I was shocked by hearing testimony last week in response to questions from members, by Senator Leahy and others, I was watching them at home. I was watching the hearings and I couldn’t believe the documents that were being described to Judge Kavanaugh and his responses to them, in part because I knew his responses from 2004 immediately after the Senate Sergeant at Arms had issued its report on the theft of those files from me and from other Democratic counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee in which the Sergeant at Arms, a Republican appointed by Republican, named quite clearly that Manny Miranda had been seizing and taking those files, sending those files for more than eighteen months on the most controversial nominees, that key information from those memos had been shared with The Wall Street Journal and other outlets, and that Manny Miranda declined to provide to the Senate investigators the names of his White House contacts.
And so, Brett Kavanaugh was asked more than a hundred questions, either orally or in writing, in connection with his 2004 and 2006 nominations and in which he declined, denied expressly that he had received any information, that he had ever been given any email by Mr. Miranda, ever shared or referenced or provided any documents that appeared to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff. And in the hearing last week, he was questioned precisely about that; talking points, letters, confidential letters, information provided by Miranda to Judge Kavanaugh.
MARC STEINER: So, I want to play these clips for our viewers here for a moment and then go and talk about what they mean. These are clips that came from the hearings that Kavanaugh had to sit through when he was being nominated for the Court of Appeals. They took plae in 2004, was the first, second one was 2006 when he was questioned by Senator Ted Kennedy, and the most recent one happened last week where he was being questioned by Senator Leahy of Vermont, who our guest worked for on the Judiciary Committee in the early 2000s. Let’s watch these and then we’ll come back and kind of break them apart a bit and see what the reality is here.
ORRIN HATCH: Did Mr. Miranda ever share, reference or provide you with any documents that appeared to you to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee?
BRETT KAVANAUGH: No. I was not aware of that matter ever until I learned of it in the media.
CHUCK SCHUMER: I just want to clear up the questions that Orrin asked. You had said that Mr. Miranda never provided these documents that were from this.
BRETT KAVANAUGH: Right.
CHUCK SCHUMER: Had you seen them in any way? Did you ever come across memos from internal files of any Democratic members given to you or provided to you in any way?
BRETT KAVANAUGH: No.
PATRICK LEAHY: Have you ever gone back, now that you are aware of it, and seen what decisions you may or might not have taken on the basis of documents that were illegally taken?
BRETT KAVANAUGH: Senator, there’s a very important premise in your question that I think is incorrect, which is, I didn’t know about the memos or see the memos that I think you’re describing. So, I think-.
PATRICK LEAHY: Oh, you never saw any of those.
BRETT KAVANAUGH: No, Senator, that’s correct. I don’t know. I’m not aware of the memos. I never saw such memos that I think you’re referring to.
EDWARD KENNEDY: Did Mr. Miranda send you an e-mail asking you on July 19, 2002, asking you and another Bush official why the Leahy people were looking into financial ties between two special interest groups and Priscilla Owen, a particular controversial nominee to the 5th Circuit.
BRETT KAVANAUGH: If he said, “Why are the Leahy people looking into this,” from Manny Miranda- I don’t really have a specific recollection of any of this, Senator, but it would have been- it would not have been at all unusual for- and this happens all the time, I think-
EDWARD KENNEDY: Really?
BRETT KAVANAUGH: Which is, the Leahy people are looking into this and the Hatch people are looking at that, I think.
EDWARD KENNEDY: Were you aware that you were getting, from Mr. Maranda, stolen emails?
BRETT KAVANAUGH: Not at all, Senator. It was part of what appeared to be a standard discussion about- it’s common.
MARC STEINER: Okay, Lisa. And I’ve read commentary by people, especially in the conservative media, about this. So, what do we know? How do we know that he knew that the documents, as far back in 2004, were stolen from your committee, from the work you did, and that he was not just made aware this in some other way? How do we know they were stolen, how do we know he knew that they were stolen?
LISA GRAVES: Well, first of all, there are two parts there. One is, he was clearly in regular contact with Miranda throughout 2003 during the heated nomination battles over those very nominees that the document he was questioned about relate to. And so, even if he didn’t know at the time that he was receiving stolen information, which I think is implausible given the content of some of the information that he was given; a confidential letter that was circulated Senator Leahy’s staff only to Democratic counsel, other documents in there that are clearly cut and pasted from Democratic copying points, Democratic research and more.
Even if he didn’t know that at the time, somehow, that that was stolen, purloined, what happened after that was that the Senate investigated this and found that in fact, Manny Miranda had taken those documents and had been using those documents. And so, in hindsight, looking back on just the previous few months, the previous year of his interchanges, exchanges with Miranda, the knowledge that he’d been given, the information that he’d been given, for him to say that he had- that no, that he was never aware that he received any shared information, referenced documents, he was clearly provided documents that were shared and referenced that were from documents from the Democrats.
And in fact, his statement this past week was astonishing, that this was normal. These Democratic staffers, my colleagues, were not sharing information with the Republican staffers, with Manny Miranda or others about these nominees, about Priscilla Owen, about Miguel Estrada. It was political war. They were attacking these members, the senators, as anti-Hispanic, anti-Catholic, anti-woman, anti-white southern male. There were outside groups running ads against these senators. They were trying to break the filibusters on the floor through every possible mechanism that they could.
And there was not this sharing. And that I think actually underscores how false Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony has been relating to these matters. That is an utterly false depiction of the relationships between the Republican staff and the Democratic staff over these nominees that these e-mails, the few that we’ve obtained from this confirmation process, not the hundreds of thousands of pages that have been blocked, but from the few that have been obtained, it’s clear he was being given inside information from Democratic staff at a time in which these Democratic counsels were not conveying our secret strategies, research and more to any of the Republicans.
MARC STEINER: Specifically, I want to come back to an earlier point just because I want our viewers to really understand this, because I think it’s really important, it gets to the crux of this, before my final question here. I mean, the question is, how do we know that he knew they were stolen? That’s what I think we have to get to, because if in fact it can be shown that he knew it was stolen, that these were stolen documents, you even wrote some of these documents, then that is a case for perjury and that is a case for us to kind of hold a hearing in the U.S. Senate about the future of Kavanaugh. So, can you be more specific about how he should know that he knew that these were stolen?
LISA GRAVES: Well there’s documents, talking points that are pasted into an e-mail, for example, pasted from my research into an e-mail that was given to Kavanaugh that includes research that was never published until this past week. Some of those materials were strategic research about the precedent for memoranda from the Justice Department, some of which had been discussed on the floor, but never in that form, never in that detail. And so, that’s an example of information that he had, but there’s more than that.
He was told that Senator Leahy’s staff had circulated a confidential letter only to other Democratic counsel. Now, while Miranda claims that he didn’t have that letter at the time, he then goes on to describe the contents of that letter. Even at the time, he thought that was normal, which it was not. Once the theft was revealed, he went on to tell the Senate over and over that even in hindsight, he didn’t believe that he had ever received anything that had appeared to be drafted or prepared by the Democratic staff. That’s simply false.
MARC STEINER: So, taking it one step further again. You served time on the Judiciary Committee in a major position. Do you know many of the players are still around, on the Democratic side especially? And I’m curious why you think that the other Democrats, whether it is Senator Leahy or the others on the committee, Schumer and others, are not pushing this idea and pushing this harder? What’s the political dynamic here that’s kind of allowing, in some ways, at least from some perspectives, for Kavanaugh’s nomination to slide through without blocked, without being stopped, without having a major political push? What do you think is going on?
LISA GRAVES: Well, I don’t think it’s I don’t think that’s an accurate description of what’s happening.
MARC STEINER: Please, make it accurate then.
LISA GRAVES: I appreciate that. This hearing process for Kavanaugh has been rushed in an extraordinary fashion by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. They held that hearing last week, the week after Labor Day. Some of the documents were not available to be talked about in that hearing until that hearing was under way. Some of the staffers, as the members, said only saw those documents the night before. And so, in fact what’s happening is a substantial set of materials have not been provided to the Senate Judicial Committee. Some have been provided on a committee-confidential basis. The senators have been reviewing those documents, comparing them with the historical record, comparing them with the transcript of Judge Kavanaugh.
And in fact, as Senator Durbin Tweeted last night, more and more evidence is coming forward, through that review, showing that he lied directly to senators not just about this matter, in terms of the stolen files, the files that were stolen from the Senate servers, but also about other substantial matters of his record and his employment, his role on these judicial nominees. And so, I think that there’s actually- my perception is, I should say, that there’s actually active work on behalf of the Senators and their staffs to examine this, because it’s a very serious matter to lie to the Senate under oath in order to obtain, secure your own judgeship. And I think quite frankly, really, just even last week to suggest that it was normal for Senate Democratic staff to be providing these sorts of strategic pieces of information to Manny Miranda or to the Republicans to get to Kavanaugh is so false. It would be laughable if it were not so serious.
LISA GRAVES: So, what does it take for an impeachable offense to actually become an impreachment hearing, or inquiry at the very least?
LISA GRAVES: Well, I think part of the question is having a full investigation and having the records before whatever body is investigating. There is an incomplete record. The records provided so far show that his statements under oath were contradicted by the records that are available. But there are, obviously, under the Constitution, an impeachment proceeding does not begin in the Senate. It would begin in the House, it requires the House to take up such a matter, to begin a thorough investigation of it. So, that would be in the future, it’s not something that would happen instantly by any means.
What I’m saying is, this is such a serious matter that the type of testimony, the type of deceptive, I think, deceitful testimony that Brett Kavanaugh has given throughout his nomination confirmation process, both in 2004, 2006 and this past week, really requires the Senate to take the full measure of this man, to have the full record before him, and for the American people to have that full record before them before this person is given a lifetime position on the court. He’s fifty-two years old, he could be there for decades, issuing rulings in the decades ahead. And we do not have a complete record of his activities at the Bush White House that pertain to the very questions that he was asked about repeatedly by the members of the United States Senate, the Senate Judiciary Committee. And I think the American people are entitled to that information.
MARC STEINER: Lisa Graves, this has been a fascinating discussion. I really appreciate your taking the time here on The Real News Network today. I look forward to talking to you again. We’re going to be following with this and keeping this going for our viewers. Thank you so much.
LISA GRAVES: Thank you so much.
And I’m Marc Steiner for The Real News Network, we’ll stay on top of this for all of us. Take care.