“There were numerous emails sent to him that made it very clear this was stolen information, including a draft letter from me,” Leahy said in an interview.
Kavanaugh, asked during this week’s hearing whether he ever suspected the material was taken from Democrats, responded, “No.” White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement that Leahy’s assertion shows “just how desperate he is to smear Judge Kavanaugh’s stellar reputation.”
The allegation is one of several from Democrats who say Kavanaugh has not been completely forthcoming during his confirmation hearings, both for the federal bench years ago and during this week’s Supreme Court hearings.
Though Kavanaugh this week referred to the decision legalizing abortion nationally as established precedent, recently released emails show that as a White House lawyer in 2003 he advised against referring to the ruling as “settled law.” Earlier this week, he clarified testimony from his 2004 confirmation hearing involving a controversial judge he helped shepherd through the nomination process.
Leahy’s charge stems from an infamous episode between 2001 and 2003 when a Republican counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Manuel Miranda, learned that Democrats on the panel had put documents on a computer server shared with Republicans. Miranda said in an interview that he read them to learn about the party’s strategy on judicial nominations coming before the committee.
At the time, Kavanaugh was associate counsel in the White House and was responsible for helping to vet judicial nominees who would appear before the Judiciary Committee.
Miranda, now a private attorney in Maryland, said he worked “closely” with Kavanaugh on the nominations and may have shared information that he learned from the Democratic files. But he said that he never let Kavanaugh know he had seen documents taken from Democrats.
“I never told him that I got this from the Democrats. There was never anything like that,” Miranda said. “I can tell you for a fact that Brett didn’t know, because no one knew” aside from some other staffers.
A congressional report blamed Miranda and another staffer for viewing the documents. Miranda said he was never charged in the matter and that he never considered his action to be “hacking,” as Leahy has described it.
This week’s hearing was the latest effort by Leahy to suggest Kavanaugh knew he had received information improperly taken from Democrats. He questioned Kavanaugh about the matter in confirmation hearings in 2004, when Kavanaugh’s nomination for the federal appeals court was stalled, and in 2006, when Kavanaugh won confirmation. During both hearings, Kavanaugh said he learned about Miranda’s action only from news reports, and Leahy did not have access to Kavanaugh’s emails.
That changed at this week’s hearings, when the committee released a number of previously undisclosed emails that Leahy said raised new questions about Kavanaugh’s knowledge that the documents were improperly taken.
In a July 28, 2002, email, Miranda wrote Kavanaugh that Leahy’s staff has distributed a confidential letter to Democratic staffers, and then described the contents of the letter.
An email written by Miranda on March 18, 2003, and copied to Kavanaugh, had the subject line was “for use and not distribution.” Miranda wrote that “Dem staffers say that they have confidential information,” and he then listed “points they make.” Leahy said the points came from a draft of a letter written by his office. “We have every reason to believe that was taken,” Leahy said.
Separately, an email written to Kavanaugh by a then-staffer to the Republican leadership, Barbara Ledeen, had the subject line “spying.” Ledeen wrote that “I have a friend who is a mole for us on the left,” and described information she had learned about spending plans by liberal groups on judicial nominations. “It is important to note that IF we have a nominee, we need to ZIP THAT PERSON RIGHT THROUGH THE PROCESS....WE CANNOT BEAT 20 MILLION DOLLARS,” Ledeen wrote on June 5, 2003.
Kavanaugh forwarded the message to his boss, Counsel Alberto Gonzales, and others, writing, “interesting Ledeen email …”
Ledeen, who now serves as a Republican staffer on the committee, did not respond to a request for comment.
Leahy cited the “spying” email during the hearing, asking Kavanaugh, “None of this raised a red flag with you?”
“It did not, Senator,” Kavanaugh said. “People have friends across the aisle who they talk to — at least this was my experience back then; maybe it’s changed.”