Kavanaugh stumbles when grilled on whether he discussed Mueller probe
Nearly 12 hours into Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearing, Kamala Harris opened with a tantalizing query: Has the Supreme Court nominee ever discussed Robert Mueller’s probe with a lawyer at Kasowitz Benson & Torres, President Donald Trump’s longtime law firm?
“Be sure about your answer, sir,” Harris asked Kavanaugh. Trump’s high court pick appeared nonplussed, responding that “I’m not sure I know everyone who works at that law firm,” but the California Democrat – a veteran prosecutor known for her tenacious questioning and high on her party’s 2020 presidential short lists — would not let up.
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“How can you not remember whether you’ve had a conversation about Robert Mueller or his investigation with anyone at that law firm?” Harris asked, suggesting that Kavanaugh was “thinking of someone and you don’t want to tell us.”
The moment was striking, one of the Democratic Party’s newest leading lights taking on a well-respected Trump nominee with roots in hard-knuckle GOP politics. But Harris moved on from the question within minutes, turning what seemed like a chance to get Kavanaugh on the ropes into a mystery — and one with a sizable downside risk.
Harris offered no further context for her line of questioning with Kavanaugh, which suggested that he may have discussed an investigation affecting Trump with Trump-connected lawyers but lacked any solid proof.
The only explanation for the back-and-forth came from a Democratic aide speaking on condition of anonymity, who said Wednesday night that some in the party “have reason to believe that a conversation happened and are continuing to pursue it.”
If tangible evidence of that conversation doesn’t emerge, Harris and fellow Democrats are likely to face serious questions of their own from the GOP about whether their attempt to pin down Kavanaugh was little more than a game of gotcha.
One such Republican senator, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, asked Kavanaugh on Thursday to clarify his conversations with anyone at Kasowitz concerning Mueller. Kavanaugh replied that he didn’t recall “any conversations of that kind with anyone at that law firm” and denied having “any inappropriate conversations” about the special counsel.
One Republican, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, leapt to the judge’s defense after Harris began her opaque but dogged questions, noting that the vast number of lawyers he’d normally be interacting with made the question difficult to answer.
Marc Kasowitz, founder of the Kasowitz firm, briefly represented Trump in the Mueller investigation last year before bowing out and has continued to represent the president in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos. The firm has represented Trump in multiple other cases over the past decade.
And it’s a vast firm, with more than 250 lawyers on staff whom Harris may have been referring to. More clues may emerge as soon as next week, with the California Democrat saying during the hearing that she would follow up on the matter in the form of written questions for Kavanaugh.
Those questions are due to the committee on Monday.