Democrats seeking to defeat the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh have recruited former Nixon White House counsel John Dean to testify during next week’s hearing on Capitol Hill, focusing on concerns about Kavanaugh’s views on presidential power and executive privilege.
Dean was a star witness of the 1973 congressional hearings on the Watergate scandal, recounting how he told President Richard M. Nixon that there was a “cancer” growing on the presidency. Nixon resigned the following year.
In a telephone interview, Dean said he would focus on Kavanaugh’s views on executive power and his statements about the case, U.S. v. Nixon, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to turn over secretly recorded White House tapes.
Kavanaugh’s view on the case is murky. He said in a 1999 panel discussion that “maybe Nixon was wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so. Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch . . . that was a huge step with implications to this day that most people do no fully appreciate.”
But Kavanaugh supporters said he had praised the ruling in other instances.
Dean also said he would focus on Kavanaugh’s 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, in which the federal appeals court judge wrote that a president is too busy to be distracted by civil suits and criminal investigation while in office. Kavanaugh’s view has come under scrutiny because he played the lead role in laying out the grounds for impeaching President Bill Clinton when he helped write a report to Congress for independent counsel Kenneth Starr.
Democrats are expected to question Kavanaugh about whether he believes that President Trump should be subject to investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, has called the investigation a “witch hunt.” Democrats have expressed concern that Kavanaugh could be asked to rule on whether Mueller can subpoena Trump and force him to testimony.
Dean, who has said Trump is “more dangerous” than Nixon, said it is a “correct presumption” that he is opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination. The hearings are slated to begin Tuesday, and Dean is scheduled to testify on Friday.
Republicans announced Thursday that Kavanaugh will be introduced at the hearings by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, among others, and a number of his former law clerks and others will testify in his favor. Former solicitor general Theodore Olson is also slated to testify for Republicans.
Starr, for whom Kavanaugh worked as an associate counsel during the investigation into Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, is not on the witness list.