Democrats deliberately holding off meeting with Kavanaugh, aide says

It’s been more than a week since President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court and still, not a single Senate Democrat has sat down to meet with him.

According to a senior Democratic Senate aide, that isn’t a coincidence.

Senate Democrats are deliberately holding off meeting with Kavanaugh, the aide told CNN, until Democrats can strike an agreement with Republicans on how to move forward on document procurement for Kavanaugh’s nomination.

While the White House has been trying to set up meetings with Democratic senators — including leading Democrats in the Senate and on the Judiciary Committee — the aide tells CNN that the Democratic caucus remains united for now on holding off on the meetings until they get more assurances that progress is being made in gathering documents on Kavanaugh’s nomination, especially those that pertain to his time in the Bush White House.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told CNN “Judge Kavanaugh is ready and willing to meet with Senators that are willing to meet with him.”

The Senate aide stresses that they aren’t requiring the documents be completely turned over and in the hands of senators before the meetings take place, but that at the bare minimum, they must see more progress in their negotiations with Republicans as it relates to Kavanaugh’s documents. Democrats argue they want Kavanaugh to be subject to the same standard to which Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan was subjectedd, but Republican senators say Democrats are taking it beyond the precedent from Kagan’s nomination.

“I’ve always been willing to meet with judges. I think we need an orderly process with respect and dignity and that includes not announcing you’ll be opposed to someone before you’ve either met them or three days after they’re nominated. It makes me wonder why Democrats are asking for all these documents if they’ve already made up their mind,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee.

A White House official told CNN that they have reached out to offices on both sides of the aisle for meetings and that some offices have said they were waiting for leadership to meet with Kavanaugh while others have said they were working out their schedules. The official was surprised by the reaction and called it unprecedented to deny Kavanaugh a meeting while negotiations about documents were ongoing.

“That’s up to them. I’m not really worried about it. Most of them are all going to vote ‘no’ so it doesn’t matter if they meet with him or not,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Dianne Feinstein — who is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee — said that Feinstein is waiting for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to meet first with Kavanaugh.

“Senator Feinstein will meet with Brett Kavanaugh after Leader Schumer. She is focused on ensuring the committee gets all of the documents from Kavanaugh’s time as a political operative, in the White House and as a judge,” the spokeswoman said.

On the Senate floor, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, blasted Democrats from not meeting with Kavanaugh.

“I understand that, so far, no Senate Democrat has met with Judge Kavanaugh,” Grassley said. “They are apparently awaiting their marching orders from the minority leader. Well, the American people elected senators to represent them, not the minority leader. And when Senate Democrats have largely already made up their minds to vote against Judge Kavanaugh — and none of them have even met with him — their demands for an unprecedented paper chase sound more and more like a demand for a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.