WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh repeatedly stressed the importance of judicial independence on the second day of his confirmation hearing Wednesday as he faced questioning from senators, including Democrats who fear he would be President Donald Trump’s man on the high court. But he declined to address whether Trump could be subpoenaed or could pardon himself.
Pressed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican, on whether he would be independent from the president who nominated him, Kavanaugh responded, “No one is above the law.”
But asked later by the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, whether a president can be required to respond to a subpoena, Kavanaugh said, “I can’t give you an answer on that hypothetical question.” The Supreme Court has never answered that question, and it is among the most important at Kavanaugh’s hearing since Trump could face a subpoena in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Kavanaugh also refused to say whether he thinks a president can pardon himself -- or provide a pardon in exchange for a bribe or pardon someone on the understanding that the person wouldn’t testify against the president.
“I’m not going to answer hypothetical questions of that sort,” Kavanaugh said, responding to questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
Day two of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings began much as the first with protesters often interrupting proceedings. More than a dozen protesters hauled out of the hearing room shouting objections to Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Despite interruptions, senators plunged into their initial opportunity to publicly question Kavanaugh in what was expected to be a marathon day of examination.
The hearing has strong political overtones ahead of the November election, but Democrats lack the votes to block Kavanaugh’s confirmation. They fear Kavanaugh will push the court to the right on abortion, guns and other issues, and that he will side with Trump in cases stemming from Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Addressing some of those concerns, Kavanaugh said that “the first thing that makes a good judge is independence, not being swayed by political or public pressure,”