US Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh faces tough Congress hearings

Judge Brett Kavanaugh will be grilled over four days on abortion, gun rights and other key US political issues.

    If appointed, Kavanaugh is expected to swing the US Supreme Court towards a more conservative stance on key issues [Leah Millis/Reuters]
    If appointed, Kavanaugh is expected to swing the US Supreme Court towards a more conservative stance on key issues [Leah Millis/Reuters]

    US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is expected to face tough questions during four days of hearings this week over his stance on controversial issues, including women's rights and corporate power.

    Democrats will grill President Donald Trump's pick for the Supreme Court on his endorsement of presidential immunity and his opposition to abortion.

    Kavanaugh is nominated to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy who retired at the end of July

    About two dozen witnesses will be summoned in front of Congress to argue for and against confirming Kavanaugh, who could swing the nine-member high court decidedly in conservatives' favour for years to come. 

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    "Brett Kavanaugh praised the dissent in Roe v Wade. He called Justice Rehnquist, who authored the dissent in Roe, his 'judicial hero'," California Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Twitter.

    "There's no mystery as to where he stands on Roe v Wade," she added, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that granted women the right to an abortion.

    In a later tweet, Feinstein highlighted a different case in which Kavanaugh, 53, also ruled in favour of restricting women's choice regarding reproductive rights.

    Conservative Catholic Kavanaugh, who hails from a wealthy Washington, DC suburb, has the backing of powerful right-wing judicial groups and deeply religious evangelical Christians.

    Both groups are pro-gun and anti-abortion rights and form a key part of the Republican voter base.

    Trump's alleged wrongdoings

    Other issues to come into play during the hearings are his support for corporations against regulation, and the judge's belief that a sitting president should not be distracted by legal proceedings against him.

    Kavanaugh's thoughts on the last issue are especially important as Trump was alleged to have taken part in late 2016 in making payments to an adult film star and a Playboy model in possible violations of election laws.

    Those allegations, recorded in a recent plea deal by Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, implicated then-candidate Trump directly in the payment. 

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    "The elephant in the room Tuesday is going to be the president's implication as an unindicted co-conspirator in very, very serious criminal wrongdoing," said Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.

    Democrats are also angry the Trump administration has not released all the records of Kavanaugh's work while he was in the White House.

    Republicans argue that Kavanaugh's judicial history shows he is well-suited for the job.

    Kavanaugh needs 50 votes for confirmation but, according to US media, currently, only 47 Republicans have said they will vote in favour of him, with 41 Democrats in opposition.

    The Supreme Court nominee started his career as a clerk in Justice Kennedy's office.

    In the 1990s, Kavanaugh worked with special prosecutor Kenneth Starr in his probe of Democratic President Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to Clinton's impeachment trial.

    In 2001, he joined former President George W Bush's White House legal team, where his role in key terrorism-related decisions, such as permitting the torture of detainees, remains unclear.

    As a US Court of Appeals judge in Washington, DC for the past 11 years, Kavanaugh has ruled and written on some of the nation's most sensitive cases, including when he opposed the Affordable Care Act - the signature health reform by ex-president Barack Obama that Trump has sought to dismantle.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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