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Senate Democrats call for halt in Kavanaugh hearing after Trump’s personal lawyer implicated him

Now that the president is implicated in a federal crime, senators are starting to think twice about having him hand-pick a SCOTUS judge.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill August 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo Credit: by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks to members of the media on Capitol Hill August 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo Credit: by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Several Senate Democrats are calling for the Senate to put a stop to any confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, after news on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts in federal court in New York, implicating the president as a co-conspirator in those crimes.

At least eight Senate Democrats have already called for a pause, including Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Kavanugh’s confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin September 4.

For many Democrats, their objection hinges whether Trump should have the power to nominate someone to the Supreme Court — especially if it seems likely that a legal matter involving the president would likely land before that court. There is legal debate, for example, on whether a sitting president could be indicted — a matter the Supreme Court could decide. Trump’s personal lawyer testified under oath that he committed crimes after Trump directed him to, meaning the Justice Department, because it accepted Cohen’s guilty plea, now believes the president is a co-conspirator in a federal crime.

“I will not take a meeting with Brett Kavanaugh,” Markey wrote on Twitter. “He has been nominated by someone implicated, and all but named as a co-conspirator, in federal crimes. His nomination is tainted and should be considered illegitimate.”

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Hirono, who is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said she would cancel her meeting with Kavanaugh and called on Republicans to halt consideration of his nomination to the Supreme Court.

Leahy, who is also on the judiciary committee, called it “difficult to reconcile” the committee’s “race to confirm” Kavanaugh, with its inaction to protect Mueller’s investigation. “The timeline that Republicans are pursuing to consider Judge Kavanaugh is so aggressive that it will sideline the nonpartisan review of the nominee’s record performed by the National Archives, which has occurred for every Supreme Court nominee since Watergate,” he added in a statement Wednesday.

“Trump’s personal lawyer has sworn under oath that POTUS directed him to commit a federal crime,” Booker wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “The Senate must reject any SCOTUS nominee from a president who is an alleged criminal co-conspirator — especially when that nominee may rule to protect Trump from any accountability.”

“Americans don’t want a president who is an unindicted co-conspirator in a crime to have the power to appoint someone to the Supreme Court,” Harris declared. “We should not proceed with Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.”

“Kavanaugh hearing must be immediately postponed so Judiciary Committee can continue vital investigation of Trump campaign criminality & obstruction of justice,” tweeted Blumenthal.

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“It seems at the very minimum we should be withholding this decision on this Supreme Court nominee until the air is cleared,” Durbin said, before asking on Twitter what Republicans are hiding in the rush to confirm Kavanaugh before the National Archives can complete a full review.

CNN spoke with a Democratic aide, who said that Democrats began considering calls for a halt in Kavanaugh’s confirmation just hours after the plea deal was announced Tuesday.

The calls come one day after Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said he violated campaign finance law “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office” — in other words, because Donald Trump told him to. Cohen arranged the payment of hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, so that they would not share stories about their affairs with Trump prior to the 2016 election. Also on Tuesday, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was convicted of tax and bank fraud in the first trial from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Senate Democrats’ effort to stop Kavanaugh will likely fail, unless they are joined by Republican lawmakers. The most likely to join are Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowki (R-AK), who voted against their fellow Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act last summer. Unfortunately, neither senator has issued a public statement on Kavanaugh since Tuesday’s news about Cohen and Manafort. On Tuesday afternoon, Collins reported that she spoke with Kavanaugh and he agreed that Roe v. Wade is settled law, making it seem like she (who largely favors abortion access) would vote to nominate him despite his clear anti-abortion record.