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WASHINGTON (CNN) – A Democratic-aligned outside group has already deployed staffers to the George W. Bush Presidential Library to dig into documents related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, part of an effort to try and short-circuit President Donald Trump’s pick for the nation’s highest court.
American Bridge, an opposition research and communications operation that works to support Democratic candidates and find damaging information on their opponents, has launched a team of more than a dozen staffers in Washington and dozens more outside to dive into Kavanaugh’s record — his personal record.
“In particular, we plan to focus on the personal vetting of Kavanaugh, rather than career or legal vetting,” a two-page memo obtained by CNN outlining the firm’s plan in the weeks and months ahead says.
American Bridge’s work represents another piece in a growing umbrella of groups on both sides of the Kavanaugh nomination — operations that combined plan to spend millions of dollars on television and digital advertising, rallying grassroots to support or oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination and defending — or in the case of American Bridge, attempting to sink — his nomination.
Whether it will amount to anything substantive is an open question — Republicans involved in Kavanaugh’s nomination say they are confident they don’t expect any surprises, despite the sizable paper trail the appellate judge has left during a career in public service. Similar Democratic efforts failed to stymie Trump’s first Supreme Court selection, Neil Gorsuch, who was confirmed with all Republicans and three Democrats supporting his nomination.
“There will be the usual attempts to sully his reputation not only in the Senate but outside the Senate but he’ll be able to handle it,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, told reporters before a closed-door meeting with Kavanaugh Wednesday. “I have every confidence this man should be confirmed.”
Without the votes to block Kavanaugh’s nomination, Democrats inside and outside the Senate are searching for ways to throw roadblocks in front of the process — and potentially raise enough concern that at least one Republican senator will defect to oppose the selection.
For the group, that includes also sending staff to Kavanaugh’s alma mater, Yale, and the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas due to Kavanaugh’s work on the independent counsel’s office investigating President Bill Clinton.
“We’re leaving no stone unturned and are searching for all publicly available information that can properly highlight the dangers of giving Kavanaugh a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court,” Harrell Kirstein, the group’s communications director, said in a statement.
The group’s research, tracking and communications plan goes through several areas it will target in the weeks ahead — from Freedom of Information Act requests and scouring property records to an anonymous tipline. But high on the group’s list is an area of growing interest to Democratic senators: documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush administration.
The goal, at least according to the strategy memo, is clear: find something that can damage– or help damage — Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“Previously unknown controversial writing can sink nominations,” the memo says.
Kavanaugh served as staff secretary — a role that put him in contact with practically every piece of paper that would cross the President’s desk. Republicans argue that it’s hardly relevant to his judicial philosophy or temperament, and most of the paper would constitute Kavanaugh had little or no input on.
But Senate Democrats have indicated they may ask for the full array of Kavanaugh-related documents in the Bush Library.
“We need to look at his record, and his record isn’t only as a judge,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
While no decisions have been made by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley on the scope of the document requests the panel will make, the sheer volume of Kavanaugh’s paper trail was a concern of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s prior to the nomination. McConnell was wary of Democratic attempts to use that as a tactic to string out or delay the confirmation process — one Republicans want completed in September, aides say.
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