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Kavanaugh’s long paper trail could decide confirmation fight

The fight over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee began today. Brett Kavanaugh started his climb toward confirmation by meeting with the Senate's top Republican and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Democrats are mostly united in opposition, fearing he would overturn key precedents and insulate Trump against the Russia probe. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The nomination is official, and now the fight over confirming Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s nominee to fill the vacancy of Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, begins.

    It started today, with the two sides staking out their ground.

    Congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins is at the Capitol.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The new nominee began his climb toward confirmation this morning, meeting first with the Senate’s top Republican.

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.:

     I think the president made an outstanding nomination. We look forward to the confirmation process.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Majority Leader Mitch McConnell posed with federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Vice President Pence.

  • Mike Pence:

    Members of the Senate and the American people they represent will see, as the president said that, Judge Brett Kavanaugh is quite simply the most qualified and the most deserving nominee.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Kavanaugh also met with next most important Republican to his fate, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, whose committee ultimately will hold confirmation hearings.

    Kavanaugh started as a clerk for the Supreme Court justice he’d be replacing, Anthony Kennedy. He also worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr investigating President Clinton. In 2000, he joined George W. Bush’s legal team in the Florida presidential vote recount, and later worked in the Bush White House.

    President Bush named him to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he’s served since 2006.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Judge, the podium is yours.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Last night, President Trump introduced Kavanaugh as his choice for the high court.

  • Brett Kavanaugh:

    My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But Kavanaugh also has a long paper trail that could decide his confirmation fight. Three Republicans to watch, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who want to safeguard Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized abortion rights.

  • Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine:

    Any judge who demonstrated hostility to Roe would not be a person that I could vote for. I have not seen that with Judge Kavanaugh.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And Senator Rand Paul, he has criticized Bush era policies championed by Kavanaugh. Paul tweeted last night that he will meet the nominee with — quote — “an open mind.”

    Democrats are mostly united in opposition to Kavanaugh. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned today that he believes the nominee would overturn key precedents.

  • Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.:

    President Trump repeatedly promised to nominate justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade and who will undermine our health care laws.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Senator Dianne Feinstein followed up at a rally outside the Supreme Court.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

     His record on the bench in the Bush White House and as a Republican political operative indicates that, if confirmed, he would be among the most conservative justices in Supreme Court history.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono said she fears how Kavanaugh might rule if the president were charged in the Russia probe.

  • Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii:

    At a time when this president pushes executive powers to the limit, should we have somebody on Supreme Court who believes that there should be insulation of the president against either criminal or civil proceedings?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But three Democratic senators are facing tough reelection battles in red states, and their votes may be up for grabs, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly. All voted for President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

    This time, the Senate is even more closely divided. With John McCain fighting brain cancer, Republicans have just a 50-49 majority.

    At the U.S. Capitol, I’m Lisa Desjardins for the “PBS NewsHour.”

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will hear from U.S. senators on both sides of the confirmation fight after the news summary.

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