With confidence growing among Republicans in the U.S. Senate, federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh is back on Capitol Hill for a third day of hearings on his nomination by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court, as GOP Senators argue that Kavanaugh is a properly tempered jurist to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, while Democrats contend Kavanaugh will tip the balance of the court too far to the conservative side.
The first day of questions for Kavanaugh stretched for over twelve hours, finally ending after 10 pm on Wednesday night. This second day of Q&A will be shorter, as Senators will get rounds of 20 minutes, rather than a full half hour.
President Trump on Wednesday praised the performance of his nominee for the High Court, predicting swift approval by the full Senate.
"I think Brett Kavanaugh has really conducted himself in an incredibly positive manner," the President told reporters.
10:33 pm - Just as President Trump wrapped up a campaign rally in Billings, Montana, the White House has put out a statement praising the testimony of Kavanaugh.
10:12 pm - Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wraps up the public portion of this hearing, telling Kavanaugh that he's made a 'powerful and convincing case' that he deserves confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
10:10 pm - Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) gives one more question to Kavanaugh to clean up the question of did he talk with someone at the law firm which once did work for President Trump.
10:00 pm - Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) jokes with Kavanaugh that the long days of hearings is like running a marathon, and notes the judge has run the Boston Marathon twice. Flake returns to the issue of cameras in the courtroom, and interestingly enough is one lawmaker who is not interested in putting cameras in the U.S. Supreme Court. "We're better off having oral arguments the way they have been," Flake said.
9:30 pm - Three days of Kavanaugh hearings, and there has been a steady stream of people who interrupted the hearing and were hauled out by the Capitol Police. Dozens of them were charged for their actions.
8:30 pm - As the hour grows late, Kavanaugh finds himself sparring with Democrats yet again over the issue of investigating a President, once again going over how he has talked about the U.S. v Nixon case on the Watergate tapes.
7:45 pm - Earlier in the day, Sen. Richard Blumenthal had asked Kavanaugh about a specific person that the judge knew at the law firm asked about by Sen. Harris. Kavanaugh admitted knowing Ed McNally, but officials deny that the two men had any talks about the Mueller investigation.
7:35 pm - This story breaks as the Senate Judiciary Committee has repeatedly touched on the Mueller investigation.
7:05 pm - Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) had caused a stir last night when she asked Kavanaugh if he had talked with members of a law firm that once represented President Trump with respect to the Mueller investigation. She picked up immediately on that again this evening, repeatedly pressing Kavanaugh for an answer. The Judge asked Harris who it was that he supposedly spoke with. Harris asked for an answer. Kavanaugh said 'no.'
6:50 pm - Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) criticizes the way opponents of Kavanaugh have dealt with this confirmation hearing process, saying it's obvious why people might not want to go through with it. So he finishes by asking Kavanaugh, "Why in the world would you want to do this?"
6:30 pm - Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) going head first after Kavanaugh, pressing him repeatedly to criticize some statements of President Trump, saying there is a 'credible suspicion' that the President has chosen someone to protect Mr. Trump from a criminal investigation. "You should conclude respectfully that I have the independence required to be a good judge," Kavanaugh responded.
6:05 pm - During a short dinner break, Judge Kavanaugh sticks around for a few minutes to take pictures with his daughter's basketball team - which he coaches.
5:45 pm - Under questioning from Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), Kavanaugh talked about how he stopped voting in elections soon after becoming a judge, explaining that it just didn't feel right for him to take a political stand in the voting booth, while being an impartial 'umpire' in his work life. His explanation sounded much like the one this reporter offers to people explain why I don't vote.
4:45 pm - After Blumenthal wraps up, Republicans again play some defense on where Kavanaugh stands on the special counsel system. GOP Senators have spent a lot of time on this, seemingly to try to insulate the nominee from charges by Democrats that he might favor the President in any fight with Special Counsel Mueller.
4:30 pm - Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) again presses Kavanaugh about the Mueller investigation, asking repeatedly if the judge has discussed the Russia probe with people in the White House and/or the Trump Administration. Kavanaugh is very careful with his words and responses, leading Blumenthal to say he regards the Kavanaugh responses as 'ambiguous.'
4:15 pm - Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) questions Kavanaugh about his answer that his experience after Nine Eleven showed that maybe the Congress should not allow investigations of a President while in office, which is certainly at odds from Kavanaugh's experience in the Starr investigation. Kavanaugh again says his Minnesota Law Review article was a suggestion for the Congress.
4:00 pm - Judge Kavanaugh has talked frequently about coaching basketball. The girls from his team are now in the hearing room. "Welcome to your team," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
3:40 pm - Even as the testimony closes out today for Judge Kavanaugh, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are still releasing emails from his time in the Bush White House.
3:05 pm - Not all Senators are on Capitol Hill this afternoon, as Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) is flying on Air Force One with President Trump, who is holding a campaign rally in Billings, Montana this evening. On Twitter, Daines showed that the Kavanaugh hearing was being broadcast aboard the President's plane.
2:50 pm - Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) pulls Kavanaugh back to his 2009 Minnesota Law Review article which urged Congress to not allow future investigations of a President, until that person is out of office. "It was something for Congress to consider," as the judge again cited the Nine Eleven attacks for why he changed his mind from the Whitewater probe to today.
2:20 pm - Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) now asking questions. "Why should it matter if a judge is a textualist?"
2:15 pm - Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) takes Kavanaugh back to the time when he worked as an investigator for Ken Starr on the Whitewater probe. Back then, Kavanaugh was very aggressive in going after Clinton - but he has said since the Nine Eleven attacks, Kavanaugh now believes that Presidents should not be subject to investigations while in office.
2:05 pm - With the hearings underway again, Republicans are still pushing back on questions about Judge Kavanaugh and any possible conversations regarding the Special Counsel investigation. This statement from the law firm which originally did a lot of the President's personal legal work:
1:50 pm - While Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) made a big splash this morning by saying he was violating the rules in releasing 'committee confidential' emails about Judge Kavanaugh, the lawyer in charge of going through those emails for President George W. Bush says the Senate knew last night that it was okay for those emails to be released.
1:25 pm - Democrats are starting to release more information from some of the emails approved for release from when Kavanaugh worked in the Bush White House. They argue the emails show that some of Kavanaugh's earlier answers from his testimony back in 2004 shows that he didn't tell the truth. This is from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
1:05 pm - Republicans are again bringing Kavanaugh back to the issue of the Mueller investigation, and whether the Judge had spoken about this with anyone in an inappropriate matter. Sen. Hatch did some work on this earlier, so it's sort of a surprise to see another GOP Senator returning to that issue. "Have you had any improper conversation with anyone about the Mueller investigation?" asked Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). "No," Kavanaugh said flatly.
12:35 pm - Back from a lunch break, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) goes straight into the issue of investigations of a President, specifically President Trump. "That's why your nomination is different than many," Durbin said.
12:20 pm - While the Senate Judiciary Committee is in a quick recess for lunch, Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer takes to the Senate floor to denounce Kavanaugh, arguing that the Judge is evading direct answers on a series of issues. "He's ducking. He's hiding," Schumer said.
11:50 am - Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is pulling Judge Kavanaugh into questions about the Mueller investigation, which Kavanaugh has tried his best to skirt so far. Graham is talking about what happened in the President Clinton-Whitewater investigation, and bringing up the U.S. v. Nixon ruling by the Supreme Court in 1974.
11:30 am - Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is now asking Kavanaugh about emails which Democrats say were stolen from the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 2003 by a GOP staffer, and sent to Kavanaugh about judicial nominations made by President George W. Bush, detailing Democratic strategy on GOP nominees.
11:10 am - As noted further down in these updates, last night Kavanaugh was asked by a Democratic Senator about any discussions he had on the Mueller investigation. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) brought up the issue during his question time, giving Kavanaugh the chance to address the issue. Kavanaugh said he has never had 'any inappropriate' conversations about the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
10:45 am - Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) immediately brings up the issue of one of the Kavanaugh emails, a 2003 exchange where he seems to make the case that he does not see Roe as being 'settled law.' That's a big deal for abortion-rights supporters, who worry that Kavanaugh would be a fifth vote to overturn Roe v Wade. Feinstein presses for an answer, but Kavanaugh gives the expected answer, that it would be wrong for him to say anything definitive on such a controversial matter.
10:35 am - After just over an hour, the Q&A begins. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) gets in his plug for TV camera coverage of the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh talks about how the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has been releasing audio from arguments, as the Judge indicates he would like to see more openness, but also pretty much telegraphs that he knows the Supreme Court probably isn't going to change that.
10:25 am - The spat continues as Democrats are openly daring Republicans to try to expel them from the Senate by releasing emails. "I hope that they will bring charges against us," said Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
10:15 am - "Count me in, too!" said Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), as she says she will join Sen. Booker in publicly releasing documents, which are being withheld under the Presidential Records Act. Senators can look at the emails of Kavanaugh from his time at the White House, but most cannot be released publicly. Kavanaugh is sitting at the witness table, just watching the debate unfold.
10:10 am - This is one of the emails that is attracting attention, a 2003 exchange involving Kavanaugh - who was then working in the Bush White House on judicial nominations, where he suggests that Roe v. Wade was not 'settled law,' which raises red flags for Democrats, worried that Kavanaugh would vote to overturn that landmark decision on abortion.
10:00 am - Some of the "committee confidential" emails involving Kavanaugh have started leaking out, as the New York Times published some this morning on the internet.
9:50 am - The hearing begins not with testimony from Judge Kavanaugh, but with an extended spat between Senators about emails of Judge Kavanaugh, from when he worked at the White House. Many of them have been designated "committee confidential" - which means they can be seen by Senators, but cannot be publicly released. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) threatened to release documents, saying he knows the penalty could be expulsion from the Senate. The documents are not 'top secret' - but are related to Kavanaugh's time as Staff Secretary to President George W. Bush.
9:35 am - The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), taps the gavel to start the hearing, welcoming those in the audience for the third day - even those who might only be there for a few minutes - as Grassley drew some chuckles with his reference to those who might interrupt today's proceedings.
9:20 am - As Senators begin arriving for this third day of hearings, one exchange last night is still prompting questions in the halls of Congress. It came from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who all but accused Judge Kavanaugh of discussing the Special Counsel probe with people who worked at the law firm of Mark Kasowitz, who once led President Trump's defense as his personal lawyer. It was one of the few times in the hearing that Kavanaugh seemed to be knocked off stride, but while Harris kept asking about who Kavanaugh discussed the case with, she never came out and said who was involved.
9:00 am - Once again today there is an early line outside of the Senate office buildings for the public - and after the repeated interruptions the first two days by demonstrators - it's not out of the question that someone in this photo will be repeating some of those verbal interruptions inside the hearing.