During his opening statement at the start of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday, the longest-tenured U.S. senator compared the proceedings to scenes out of Alice in Wonderland and 1984.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who has served in the Senate since 1975, noted that he and other senators believe Kavanaugh appealed to President Trump, who is currently under criminal investigation, because he has argued that sitting presidents should be above the law.
“We have a president who has declared in the last 24 hours that the Department of Justice shouldn’t prosecute Republicans,” Leahy noted, alluding to tweets Trump posted on Labor Day. “It’s Alice in Wonderland.”
Later, Leahy — referencing the fact the Kavanaugh hearing is happening despite the White House withholding more than 100,000 pages of relevant documents from scrutiny, while tens of thousands of others were released almost literally at the last minute — blasted his colleagues for “not simply phoning in our vetting obligation, we’re discarding it.”
“It’s not only shameful, it is a sham,” Leahy said. “I’ve represented Vermont here for 44 years, I’ve served with pride here, believing that the Senate can and should be the conscience of the nation. Today, with this hearing, it is not being the conscience of this nation.”
Leahy went on to compare the hearing to a dystopia.
“Any claim this has been a thorough, transparent process is down right Orwellian,” Leahy said. “This is the most incomplete, most partisan, least transparent vetting for any Supreme Court nominee I have ever seen. And I’ve seen more of those than any person serving in the Senate today.”
Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) opening statement also cut through the surreality of the hearing’s seeming normalcy with a clear statement of why the nomination is so concerning for so many in the country.
“Why is this happening for the first time in the history of this committee?” Durbin asked, referring both to protests that repeatedly disrupted the hearing and Democrats’ repeated efforts to suspend it. “I think we need to be honest about why it’s happening. I think it is the same reason why when I go home to Illinois after being this public service job for over 30 years, I hear a question I’ve never, ever heard before, repeatedly. People pull me off to the side and say, senator, are we going to be all right? Is America going to be all right? They are genuinely concerned about the future of this country.”
Durbin explained the unique nature of this nomination to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy as “the most decisive vote on the Supreme Court on critical issues.” Durbin summarized Kavanaugh’s concerning statements and record, and the strange attempt by the Republican majority to “conceal” parts of Kavanaugh’s record.
“Over and above all of those things is this — you are the nominee of President Donald John Trump,” Durbin said. “This is a president who has shown us consistently that he is contemptuous of the rule of law.”
Durbin ticked through Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and harassment of Attorney General Sessions — “I didn’t vote for Jeff Sessions. But I have to tell you, there should be some respect at least for the office that he serves in,” he said — before coming to the reason why there is so much anxiety about Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“It’s that president who has decided you are his man, you are the person he wants on the Supreme Court, you are his personal choice. So are people nervous about this? Are they concerned about it? Of course there are.”