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Lambda Legal demands documents on Brett Kavanaugh and his role in the Bush administration

8 separate requests filed as Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley announces push to confirm Supreme Court nominee

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his family with President Trump – Photo: The White House.

Lambda Legal has filed eight separate Freedom of Information Act requests demanding documents and records of any correspondence related to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the role he played in promoting or approving anti-LGBTQ policies pushed the George W. Bush White House.

Kavanaugh, who served as White House Staff Secretary from 2003 to 2006, was nominated last month by President Trump to fill the seat being vacated by the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Since his nomination, he has referred to his time at the White House as “the most instructive” years in his professional development, prompting Democrats to question what decisions he was involved in or policies he promoted in that position.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Senate Republicans have announced their intention to move forward with confirmation hearings for Kavanaugh beginning on Sept. 4, in an effort to have him confirmed as soon as possible.

But they have refused to request documents related to Kavanaugh’s White House tenure from the National Archives — which Democrats, progressives, and LGBTQ groups see as an attempt to hide Kavanaugh’s full record and any views that might be unpopular or controversial.

In response, Lambda Legal filed the FOIA requests for documents, asking the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Special Counsel to produce any and all records related to Kavanaugh’s involvement in policies that might have condoned discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, families, and their children. 

Specifically, the requests ask the agencies what role Kavanaugh played in: the decision by the Bush administration to push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage; the administration’s efforts to promote such an amendment by using taxpayer dollars to pay anti-gay figures in the media like Maggie Gallagher and Michael McManus to write about the need for a ban; the administration’s decision to oppose an earlier version of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act that was working its way through Congress; and efforts to purge federal workers who were suspected of being LGBTQ from their jobs if they refused to be relocated to an office in Detroit.

Lambda Legal has asked the agencies to provide documents including “emails, email attachments, text messages, instant messages (such as AOL Instant Messenger), telephone call logs, calendar invitations/entries, meeting notices, meeting agendas, informational material, draft legislation, talking points, any handwritten or electronic notes taken during any oral communications, summaries of any oral communications, or other materials” related to these efforts, and to do so in an expedited manner.

“The American public has a substantial and urgent interest in Judge Kavanaugh’s lengthy career in public service to inform its understanding of his impending confirmation hearings,” Lambda Legal write in its FOIA requests. “Indeed, if a request for records intended to inform the public regarding an imminent lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court fails to qualify for expedited processing, it is hard to imagine what would.”

If the agencies in question refuse to comply with the requests, Lambda Legal is threatening to sue to ensure the information on Kavanaugh is released before Senate Republicans attempt to confirm Kavanaugh without fully vetting him. 

“The American people deserve to know the whole truth about Judge Kavanaugh’s record on LGBTQ rights and other important civil rights issues,” Sharon McGowan, legal director and chief strategy officer at Lambda Legal, said in a statement.

“The George W. Bush White House was one of the most homophobic administrations in recent history, and Brett Kavanaugh was at the center of the action,” McGowan added. “The American people need to know what’s hiding in Kavanaugh’s records, including the role he played in pushing an anti-LGBT constitutional amendment to deny same-sex couples access to the protections of marriage; his involvement in secret efforts to use taxpayer dollars to fund anti-LGBT media commentators; his role in helping Scott Bloch, the disgraced former head of the Office of Special Counsel, persecute LGBT federal workers; and his involvement in White House efforts to block passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, among other discriminatory policies.

“There’s already proof that Kavanaugh misled the American people during his first confirmation, and with so much at stake for LGBTQ rights, the American people deserve to see the full universe of documents and communications related to his record.”

The filing of the eight requests follows a separate, but related, FOIA request from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), joined by every Democrat on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, to compel the release of Judge Kavanaugh’s documents.

McGowan noted that the court, under Kavanaugh, is likely to consider cases that might undo the court’s precedents on access to affordable health care, abortion, and cases involving LGBTQ rights.

“Our country cannot afford another 40 years of Donald Trump’s values on the Supreme Court. The American people deserve to know the whole truth about Brett Kavanaugh’s record,” McGowan said. “Moving forward with the Kavanaugh nomination before his full record has been disclosed will call into question the legitimacy of these confirmation proceedings, and could cast a dark shadow of illegitimacy over the Court for years to come.

“This is a result that can and should be avoided by releasing the records, and allowing for full review of Kavanaugh’s record before any hearings are conducted.  We add our voice to the chorus of those calling on Chairman Grassley to reconsider his plans to push ahead with hearings after Labor Day, and restore some sense of rationality to this process.”

In addition to Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign has expressed reservations about Grassley’s expedited timetable for confirming Kavanaugh. HRC noted that it seems suspicious that Senate Republicans are so eager to fast-track Kavanaugh’s confirmation without looking into the content of his past writings or any communications he had while serving in the Bush White House.

“Historically, the Senate has made an effort to consider every public statement or document related to a Supreme Court nominee’s career. Before this hearing takes places, the American people demand and deserve to have the most comprehensive and transparent view of Brett Kavanaugh’s record,” Robin Maril, HRC’s associate legal director, said in a statement.

“There is no reason for Chairman Grassley and the Senate Republican Leadership to hide these emails — unless there’s something to hide.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include remarks by the Human Rights Campaign.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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