Hatch helps Supreme Court nominee cast himself as loyal to the Constitution, not the president

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, right, meets with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, July 11, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington • Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh portrayed himself Wednesday as a devotee to the law and not swayed by politics in judicial decisions.

And Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was happy to help the nominee paint the picture.

“What loyalty will you owe the president if confirmed?” Hatch asked Kavanaugh, referring to President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh.

“I owe my loyalty to the Constitution,” the nominee replied.

To underscore that point, Hatch noted that President George W. Bush picked Kavanaugh to sit on the federal appeals court of the District of Columbia and asked how many times the judge ruled against Bush.

Several times, Kavanaugh said, noting one case that dealt a blow to the administration's prosecution of an alleged Sept. 11 terrorist, reversing the conviction and sending it back to a lower court.

Hatch, who is seen as a strong cheerleader for Kavanaugh, lobbed softball questions to the judge during his allotted 30 minutes, noting how he had not been involved in finding a legal justification for the Bush administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques — considered torture by many — and giving him time to explain away concerns raised by Democrats.

Hatch also queried the nominee on why he hired so many women as law clerks while on the bench, to which the judge pointed out how important it is to close the gender gap in the judiciary.

The Utah Republican zeroed in allegations of misconduct against now-retired 9th Circuit Court Judge Alex Kozinski, for whom Kavanaugh clerked.

Kavanaugh said he wasn't aware of any harassment of women in the office and said the revelations was a “gut punch for me; a gut punch for the judiciary.”

“No woman should be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace,” Kavanaugh said.

Wednesday's hearing continued to show the sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats over Kavanaugh's appointment to replace retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Republicans, who hold a majority in the Senate and can confirm Kavanaugh with a simple majority vote, say that hundreds of thousands of documents have been released from the nominee’s time on the bench and serving in the Bush administration while Democrats say it’s only a tenth of the millions of papers they’re seeking.

As with the first day of hearings, protesters continued to interrupt the proceedings.

Hatch told Fox News on Monday night that he’s frustrated with the outbursts.

You know, there’s a — there’s a place to protest,” Hatch said. “And inside a major hearing like that is not the place to protest. But we’re kind of used to it. The liberal Democrat students and I think college students, and maybe even law students just can’t seem to control themselves in some of these situations, and it was stupid.”

The partisanship over the nomination also played out on the Senate floor Wednesday, when Republican leaders made a routine motion to allow the hearing to last longer than two hours while the Senate was in session.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., objected, so the Senate adjourned for the day and the hearing proceeded.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, took part of his time for questioning Kavanaugh to note that most cases decided by the Supreme Court do not come down to one vote and are often unanimous.

He also quizzed Kavanaugh on how the checks and balances of the three branches of government work and raised concerns about unelected bureaucrats making rules that affect Americans.

Toward the end of his time, Lee turned to his love of the Federalist Papers, a series of articles written by some of the country’s Founding Fathers to rally support for ratifying the Constitution.

“Do you have a favorite among the Federalist Papers?” Lee asked, eliciting laughter.

“I have a lot of favorite Federalist Papers,” the nominee responded.

He then listed eight of them he especially loved.