As Donald Trump makes his first ever official visit to the UK as president, his administration is being sued by a watchdog group for failing to produce thousands of documents about recently announced Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
According to Law and Crime, non-partisan watchdog group Fix the Court filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice last September, asking them to produce all correspondence directly involving Brett Kavanaugh while he worked as an adviser for former president George W. Bush between 2001 and 2006. Although Kavanaugh was nominated for the D.C. court of appeals back in 2003, he wasn’t confirmed until three years later after Democrats mounted a steep battle on account of Kavanaugh being “overly partisan.”
But despite more than 10 months having passed since that original September request, the Department of Justice has still not furnished Fix the Court with any Kavanaugh documents. Instead, as noted by Law and Crime, the DOJ has repeatedly responded to the FOIA request by claiming that the documents are “in the queue.”
Then, in April of this year, the watchdog group filed another FOIA requesting the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to furnish all the documents during the time that Brett Kavanaugh worked with Kenneth Starr, the lawyer who led the investigation against Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Kavanaugh helped Starr prepare the Starr Report, which, as The Guardian notes, laid out the case for Bill Clinton’s impeachment and eventual removal from office.
But similar to Fix the Court’s requests with the DOJ, NARA failed to produce the documents. In its response, however, NARA noted that it had in its possession as many as 20,000 documents which related to the time when Kavanaugh worked for Starr, claiming that furnishing all those documents could take as long as five years.
Under current FOIA laws, U.S. agencies are required to process FOIA requests under a stipulated period of time and failure to do so could violate federal statutes. Fix the Court alleges that’s exactly what’s happened, accusing both the DOJ and NARA of wrongly withholding information about Trump’s Supreme Court pick. The watchdog group, along with co-plaintiffs American Oversight, filed a lawsuit against both agencies with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“As we learned with the Gorsuch nomination, federal agencies seem determined to make it as difficult as possible to obtain public records from judicial nominees,” Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said.
“With heightened interest in Judge Kavanaugh’s eventful time in government, the National Archives and the Justice Department should seek to resolve these complaints quickly and release the documents so the American public and their representatives in the Senate can make a more informed judgment ahead of a confirmation vote.”
Within the filings, Fix the Court has requested the court to issue an order which would make it mandatory for the DOJ and NARA to produce all Brett Kavanaugh documents within three weeks. It remains to be seen if the watchdog group wins in court, but Trump’s SCOTUS pick is already running into some serious opposition days after being nominated.