Originally published August 10, 2018 at 04:03a.m., updated August 10, 2018 at 04:03a.m.
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday released about 5,700 pages of documents involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's time as an associate White House counsel in the George W. Bush administration, as Democrats complained that the vast majority of such files remained hidden from public view.
It was not immediately clear whether the newly released files contained any significant revelations about Kavanaugh, whom President Donald Trump has nominated to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Journalists and outside advocates from both sides have begun scouring them.
The public release of the 5,700 pages was a first trickle from a larger trove of about 125,000 pages that a Republican lawyer working for Bush, William Burck, had turned over to the committee.
Democrats have complained that Burck should not be involved in providing any historical government documents to the committee, and that only the National Archives and Records Administration should be deciding which files make it to the committee.
The archives is separately working through Bush-era White House documents to decide what to turn over, but has said it would take months for it to complete the review. Bush, who as the former president has a right to access files from his administration that are not yet public, has voluntarily begun providing some to the Senate in a parallel process.
In a letter Wednesday, Burck said that the National Archives staff members were too busy working on the official committee request to consult on which pages from the files he had processed could be made public. So, he said, his team had determined that it was appropriate to make the 5,700 pages public, suggesting that they contain little sensitive information.
"In light of the constraints on [National Archives and Records Administration's] resources, and in the interest of expediting appropriate access to President Bush's presidential records in furtherance of education and research about the Bush administration, we are producing to the committee on a rolling basis commencing today publicly releasable versions of documents that, in our view, do not contain information covered by a Presidential Records Act exemption or applicable privilege," he wrote.
Under the Presidential Records Act, White House files are generally kept secret for the first 12 years after a president leaves office, meaning that Bush administration files are out of reach until January 2021. Former presidents also retain some authority to assert executive privilege to prevent Congress from seeing certain internal deliberative materials.
The Senate has been fighting over the speed of Kavanaugh's confirmation process, a struggle that for now is playing out as two debates over access to documents -- whether Burck should have any role in screening the files, as well as how many Bush-era documents from the National Archives will eventually be made available to the Senate.
A Section on 08/10/2018
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