Shaheen Concerned About SCOTUS Pick's Views On Whether A Sitting President Can Be Investigated

Jul 10, 2018

President Donald Trump announced judge Brett Kavanaugh on Monday as his pick to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Credit U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

President Donald Trump has chosen Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Kavanaugh currently serves as a U.S. Circuit Judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals. He’s described as a conservative.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with New Hampshire's Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen about her thoughts on the president's pick.


(Editor's note: this transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.)

What's your initial reaction to the announcement?

Well I think it was not totally surprising because we had seen the list of people that were being considered by the president. We know that they were all people who have been picked by the Federalist Society, which has certain views on things like women's reproductive health and their health care. They're far right and [so is] their views about the role of the Supreme Court and judges. So it was not surprising to me to see who the choice was. I think what's important is the independence of the Supreme Court. It's critical to our democracy, and we need to find out where Judge Kavanaugh's stands on precedent, on his focus on defending the Constitution. He talked about that in his remarks last night. There are a number of questions about his very long record. He's been 12 years on the D.C. Circuit. So I have questions about some of his views. I hope to have a chance to be with him and ask him.

Well as you said, he does have a long record. There's a lot to look at there. Kavanaugh has already received backlash from several Congressional Democrats. Do you have any reservations about his ability to serve on the highest court?

One of the biggest reservations I have is how much his views on whether a sitting president could be investigated, and whether they could be subject to indictments or whether they could be sued. I think there are real questions about his views in that area. Obviously they had changed from the time that he worked for Ken Starr when he thought it was perfectly fine to subpoena President Clinton. So I want to know why those views changed, and I'm very concerned about how much of a role that played in President Trump's decision to decide on Brett Kavanaugh as opposed to some of the other people on the list.

So what questions would you have specifically for him?

Well, why he changed his view, why he feels like even an investigation of a sitting president if there is suggestion or evidence that there has been wrongdoing -- why he feels like that's not appropriate, and how he would view that as a sitting justice on the Supreme Court. I think there are very real questions about how he would view this investigation by Robert Mueller. And so I want to ask him about that.

Looking ahead realistically, do you feel like there's a possibility that you could support him? 

I think it would be difficult because I have serious concerns about the views that he has. But I don't want to prejudge. I want to have a chance to look at his decisions to hopefully, as I said, to have a chance to meet with him and hear him answer some of those questions. I want to see him in his hearing and how he responds to questions that he hears from the committee. You know, we have landmark decisions that set precedent in a number of areas that I'm concerned about: protections for women's reproductive rights, LGBTQ civil liberties, health care coverage. So I want to have a chance to take a look at his decisions and hear what he has to say about that. You know, one of the things that we know is that people don't always on the court make the decisions that you think they might make. So exploring some of those issues in greater detail I think is important for us to do.

Are Senate Democrats preparing for the possibility of blocking this nomination? Some have said outright, look we just can't support him.

And I think everybody has to make their decision. The fact is we don't have the votes at this point to block him, unless there are some Republicans who decide to vote against him. So this analysis is going to take place on the part of a lot of people over the coming weeks and months.