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5 revealing responses from Kavanaugh’s written answers to senators

For one thing, he says he doesn’t have gambling debts.

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Brett Kavanaugh To Be Supreme Court Justice
 Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the third day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill September 6, 2018, in Washington, DC. 
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh wants lawmakers to know that he doesn’t have a gambling problem.

Inquiries about this issue, along with others regarding Kavanaugh’s stance on hot-button subjects like executive power and Roe v. Wade, were the focus of a lengthy list of written follow-up questions he received from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The panel published his responses to the more than 1,000 written questions on Wednesday evening; the committee is slated to consider voting on his nomination on Thursday. These questions for the record are an opportunity for lawmakers to pointedly ask about subjects they’d like more information about in the wake of Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation hearing last week.

In his responses, Kavanaugh remained steadfast in an unwillingness to answer questions about issues like the ability to subpoena a sitting president, while disclosing some revealing responses about how committed he really is to maintaining a broad scope of executive power.

Kavanaugh also offered additional insight into his seemingly murky financial situation, including those Nationals tickets purchases, and further denied any knowledge of retired federal Judge Alex Kozinski’s alleged history of sexual misconduct.

Here are five things we learned from Kavanaugh’s written answers to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

1) He says he doesn’t have gambling debts, and mentions those Nationals tickets ... again

Kavanaugh’s reported debt, which amounted to between $60,000 to $200,000 in a 2016 disclosure, raised questions from multiple lawmakers, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who pressed him to explain whether some of it stemmed from a gambling problem. Whitehouse also called on Kavanaugh to detail how he covered this debt, which was “paid off or fell below the reporting requirements” in 2017, according to the Washington Post.

Kavanaugh emphasized that he has no gambling debts, though his response regarding how the debts themselves were covered remains somewhat cryptic. He also details extensive home improvements that were tied to some of this debt.

We have not received financial gifts other than from our family which are excluded from disclosure in judicial financial disclosure reports. Nor have we received other kinds of gifts from anyone outside of our family, apart from ordinary non-reportable gifts related to, for example, birthdays, Christmas, or personal hospitality. On the 2018 financial disclosure report, I correctly listed “exempt” for gifts and reimbursements because those are the explicit instructions in the 2018 Filing Instructions for Judicial Officers and Employees.

At this time, we have no debts other than our home mortgage. Over the years, we carried some personal debt. ... Over the years, we have sunk a decent amount of money into our home for sometimes unanticipated repairs and improvements. As many homeowners probably appreciate, the list sometimes seems to never end, and for us it has included over the years: replacing the heating and air conditioning system and air conditioning units, replacing the water heater, painting and repairing the full exterior of the house, painting the interior of the house, replacing the porch flooring on the front and side porches with composite wood, gutter repairs, roof repairs, new refrigerator, new oven, ceiling leaks, ongoing flooding in the basement, waterproofing the basement, mold removal in the basement, drainage work because of excess water outside the house that was running into the neighbor’s property, fence repair, and so on.

Maintaining a house, especially an old house like ours, can be expensive. I have not had gambling debts or participated in “fantasy” leagues.

Additionally, Kavanaugh dubs himself a “huge sports fan” and expounds a bit more on the number of Nationals season tickets he has purchased on an annual basis. He says that friends ultimately repaid him for the ones they ended up claiming.

I am a huge sports fan. When the Nationals came to D.C. in 2005, I purchased four season tickets in my name every season from 2005 through 2017. I also purchased playoff packages for the four years that the Nationals made the playoffs (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.) I have attended all 11 Nationals’ home playoff games in their history. (We are 3-8 in those games.) I have attended a couple of hundred regular season games. As is typical with baseball season tickets, I had a group of old friends who would split games with me. We would usually divide the tickets in a “ticket draft” at my house. Everyone in the group paid me for their tickets based on the cost of the tickets, to the dollar. No one overpaid or underpaid me for tickets. No loans were given in either direction.

2) He goes into even more detail regarding an expansive approach to executive power

While Kavanaugh declined to offer more information about how he viewed the constitutionality of potential prosecution of a sitting president or an indictment of a sitting president, he did reiterate his support for the executive office’s ability to exercise “prosecutorial discretion,” a perspective he vocalized in Seven-Sky v. Holder, a 2011 case examining the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

In that opinion, Kavanaugh noted, “Under the Constitution, the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.” Kavanaugh stood firm in his belief that the executive office is ultimately endowed with this power.

As I said at the hearing, footnote 43 of my opinion in Seven-Sky v. Holder refers to the concept of prosecutorial discretion, which was recognized by the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon, which says the executive branch has the “exclusive authority and absolute discretion whether to prosecute a case.” And in Heckler v. Chaney, the Supreme Court said this principle applies to civil enforcement as well. The limits of prosecutorial discretion are uncertain.

3) He doesn’t outright deny discussing Trump’s position on loyalty with others ahead of his nomination

There are several questions to which Kavanaugh offers a simple “No,” in response, including one in which he’s asked about whether he talked about his candidacy with former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, ahead of his retirement.

In a marked contrast, he did not provide a direct response when asked if he’s ever discussed Trump’s position on loyalty.

QUESTION: You were added to President Trump’s second so-called “short list” of potential Supreme Court nominees on November 17, 2017.

a. Did you ever discuss with Justice Anthony Kennedy whether you might be an acceptable replacement on the Court if he were to retire? If so, when, who was present, and what was discussed?


QUESTION: At any point during the process that led to your nomination, did you have any discussions with anyone—including, but not limited to, individuals at the White House, at the Justice Department, or any outside groups—about President Trump’s position on loyalty? If so, please elaborate. Was there any communications about whether President Trump may pull your nomination if your answers displeased him?

RESPONSE: As I said at the hearing, I am an independent judge and am loyal to the Constitution. My answers to all questions posed by the Senators were my own

Kavanaugh also provided some more details about his direct communications with Trump in the course of this process, indicating that the president has not asked for any commitments regarding how he would rule in different cases.

I interviewed with President Trump on Monday, July 2. I spoke to President Trump by phone on the morning of Sunday, July 8. On the evening of Sunday, July 8, I met with President Trump and Mrs. Trump at the White House. I also met and talked with the President on July 9 when he announced his intent to nominate me to the Supreme Court. Since my nomination, he has called me two times to offer words of encouragement. At no time did he ask for any promise or representation as to how I would rule in any case, and at no time did I offer any commitments.

4) He emphasizes that he didn’t know anything about Judge Alex Kozinski’s alleged sexual misconduct

Kavanaugh has sought to distance himself from retired federal appeals Judge Alex Kozinski, someone he previously clerked for, who faces allegations of sexual harassment and assault from 15 women. Kozinski introduced Kavanaugh at his 2006 confirmation hearing and appeared to be someone the nominee considered an important professional influence.

During the hearing, when confronted with the allegations that have been levied against Kozinski, Kavanaugh very quickly downplayed their relationship. In his written answers, he further emphasized that he had not seen and was not informed of any alleged sexual misconduct Kozinski may have engaged in.

Judge Kozinski was known to be a tough boss, but I did not witness him engaging in inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature.

Over the course of my relationship with Judge Kozinski, I never saw him sexually harass a law clerk or law clerk candidate.

To the best of my memory, no one ever raised concerns with me regarding inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature on the part of Judge Kozinski. Judge Kozinski worked in a small courthouse in Pasadena with ten other judges, numerous law clerks, and court employees. Apparently, none of them knew of any misconduct, or they presumably would have reported it.

5) He denies any implications of perjury

One of the big questions looming over Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing is whether he knowingly misled lawmakers on a wide array of issues during his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings — including his involvement in the controversial confirmation of Judge William Pryor, as well as his work on detainee policy in the Bush White House.

Democrats have also argued that he obscured his role on Bush-era wiretapping practices and hid his awareness of a hack that exposed thousands of Senate Judiciary Democrat documents. Kavanaugh, once again, maintained that he did not.

While any perjury claims against Kavanaugh would be unlikely to stick, critics argue that a Supreme Court nominee with a potentially questionable ethical record would disrespect the position and the process.

During the hearing, I truthfully answered numerous questions regarding Mr. Miranda, and I refer you to those answers.

As I explained at the hearing last week, I testified accurately in 2006 that I did not learn about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, or TSP until I read about it in a New York Times article in December 2005. I was not read into that program.