Protests, arrests and repeated calls from Democratic senators to adjourn the proceedings. That’s how confirmation hearings began Tuesday for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. We begin our look at the hearings with Heidi Sieck, co-founder of the national organization VoteProChoice, who was the first member of the public to enter the Kavanaugh hearings on Tuesday and was removed after she protested, along with dozens of others who interrupted the proceedings.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Protests, arrests and repeated calls from Democratic senators to adjourn the proceedings. That’s how confirmation hearings began Tuesday for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s pick to fill Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. As the meeting got underway, demonstrators immediately stood up and interrupted Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley.
LINDA SARSOUR: This is a mockery and a travesty of justice! This is a travesty of justice! We will not go back! Cancel Brett Kavanaugh! Adjourn the hearing!”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Democratic senators on the committee also repeatedly interrupted Senator Grassley to ask him to halt the hearings and allow time to pore over information contained in a last-minute dump of 42,000 documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House Counsel’s Office. The Trump administration is also withholding more than another 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh’s records on the basis of presidential privilege. This is Democratic Senator Kamala Harris interrupting Grassley, followed by Senator Amy Klobuchar.
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SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: I welcome everyone to this confirmation hearing on the nomination of Judge—
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Mr. Chairman?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: —Brett Kavanaugh—
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Mr. Chairman?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: —to serve as associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, I’d like to be recognized for a question before we proceed.
UNIDENTIFIED: Regular order, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Mr. Chairman, I’d like to be recognized to ask a question before we proceed. The committee received just last night, less than 15 hours ago—
UNIDENTIFIED: Mr. Chairman, regular order.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: —42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to review or read or analyze.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: You are out–you are out of order. I’ll proceed.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: We cannot possibly move forward, Mr. Chairman, with this hearing.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: I extend a very warm welcome to Judge Kavanaugh—
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: —to his wife Ashley, their two daughters—
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Mr. Chairman, I agree with my colleague, Senator Harris.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: —their extended family and friends—
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Mr. Chairman, we received 42,000 documents that we haven’t been able—
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: —Judge Kavanaugh’s many law clerks and everyone else joining us today.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: —to review last night. And we believe this hearing should be postponed.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: When Democrat Richard Blumenthal also called for the hearing to be adjourned, activist Linda Sarsour, director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change, shouted in agreement.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Mr. Chairman, I move to adjourn. Mr. Chairman, we have been denied—we have been denied real access to the documents we need to advise and consent—
UNIDENTIFIED: Mr. Chairman, regular order is called for.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: —which turns this hearing into a charade and a mockery of our norms.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: Well—
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: And, Mr. Chairman, I therefore move to adjourn this hearing.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: OK.
LINDA SARSOUR: This is a mockery and a travesty of justice! This is a travesty of justice! We will not go back! Cancel Brett Kavanaugh! Adjourn the hearing!
AMY GOODMAN: Activist Linda Sarsour was dragged out of the hearing room and arrested. By the end of the morning session, Capitol Hill police had arrested and charged nearly two dozen demonstrators, the majority of whom were women. By the end of the day, the number of arrests had more than tripled.
As the hearing proceeded, Democratic senators questioned Kavanaugh’s record. This is California Senator Kamala Harris.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: If we look at his record on the D.C. Circuit and in his recent writings and statements, it is clear that the nominee has brought his political bias to the bench. He has carried out deeply conservative partisan agendas as part—as a judge, favoring big business over ordinary Americans, polluters over clean air and water, and the powerful over the vulnerable.
Just last year, Judge Kavanaugh praised the dissent in Roe v. Wade and ruled against a scared 17-year-old girl seeking to end her pregnancy. He has disregarded the Supreme Court precedent to argue that undocumented workers weren’t really employees under our labor laws. We have witnessed horrific mass shootings, from Parkland to Las Vegas to Jacksonville, Florida, yet Judge Kavanaugh has gone further than the Supreme Court and has written that because assault weapons are, quote, “in common use,” assault weapons and high-capacity magazines cannot be banned under the Second Amendment.
When he was part of an independent counsel investigation into the Democratic president, the nominee was dogged in demanding answers, and yet he has since changed his tune, arguing that presidents should not be investigated or held accountable—a position that I am sure is not lost on this president.
AMY GOODMAN: After the protests in the end of the hearing, Judge Kavanaugh gave his opening statement.
JUDGE BRETT KAVANAUGH: Judges make decisions because the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the results. Over the past 12 years, I’ve ruled sometimes for the prosecution and sometimes for criminal defendants, sometimes for workers and sometimes for businesses, sometimes for environmentalists and sometimes for coal miners. In each case, I have followed the law. I do not decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I’m not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.
AMY GOODMAN: The confirmation hearing for Judge Kavanaugh to become Supreme Court justice will continue throughout the week, before the Senate Judiciary Committee issues a recommendation. The full Senate would then vote. Last year, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the so-called nuclear option to confirm Trump’s other Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, with just 51 votes instead of 60.
For more, we’re joined by three guests. Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen. Last week the group issued “An Analysis of Judge Kavanaugh’s Opinions in Split-Decision Cases,” found during his 12 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh decided or wrote an opinion against the public interest 87 percent of the time in split-decision cases dealing with consumer, environmental and worker rights. We’ll get to him in our next segment.
But first, Heidi Sieck, co-founder of the national organization VoteProChoice. She was number one member of the public to enter the Kavanaugh hearings on Tuesday, and was removed after she protested.
And we’re joined by Fred Guttenberg, the father of Parkland shooting victim Jaime Guttenberg. He attended the hearings as a guest of Senator Dianne Feinstein. He says Judge Kavanaugh turned his back when he approached him to shake hands during the break.
I’m going to first start with Heidi Sieck, member of the public number one. Explain how the hearing took place yesterday. What did it mean to be number one? When did you get there?
HEIDI SIECK: Well, we started—hello. It’s nice to be here and to talk about what happened yesterday. We actually started standing in line around 9 p.m. the night before. We wanted to make sure that we were going to be able to get a seat in the hearing. The Capitol Police were using a bit of a different process, where we knew that they were going to be letting small groups of people in, in small time segments. So, we were only going to have about 15 minutes, we heard, in the hearing, so we wanted to make sure that we were able to get in and bear witness to this hearing. Now, obviously, we didn’t spend a lot of time in there, because we had some things to say. But we did—the staff was very respectful. The Capitol Police was very respectful. And there were groups of 23 members of the public that were allowed to enter into the hearing, and they were supposed to get about 15 to 20 minutes each time. So we were the first group of 23. So, as you said, those 23—the 23 of us were all women who were prepared to have our voices heard.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was your message when you stood up?
HEIDI SIECK: Well, my message, as the founder of VoteProChoice, is reproductive freedom. But our message collectively was, we demand that the senators vote no and do whatever they can to stop the hearings of Judge Kavanaugh. And I stood for the reproductive freedom of the people in America, the daughters that came—the daughters of America. And all of us had a collective—a collective message. We were absolutely a collective group. I want to make that clear, that none of us spoke alone or stood alone. We were really a continuation of the protests that you saw the minute after the inauguration of President Trump. These were women that marched in the Women’s March, that organized the Women’s March, that were partners of the Women’s March. It was a continuation of our voices.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in your organizing around this nomination, you are targeting specific senators. Could you explain the reasoning behind the particular senators you’re targeting?
HEIDI SIECK: Well, there is a group of us, so there’s many different folks that are having different conversations and organizing in different ways. As a collective of the groups that are present in the Capitol and in the Hart Building for the next 96 hours during the hearings, there is a collective strategy. One is that we know that the math is not necessarily on our side, that we actually have to talk to Republican senators into voting with us, and keeping the Democrats’ caucus together in voting against Kavanaugh. So, the focus is both on trying to persuade Republican senators, particularly Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, to vote no on Kavanaugh, and also to keep the Democratic Caucus together.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to this discussion. We’ll ask Fred Guttenberg what happened when he walked up to Judge Kavanaugh. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.