Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has publicly argued in recent years that American presidents should not be subject to criminal investigation while in office, saying in a 2009 law review article that it would be too “time-consuming and distracting.”
But a newly released memo from his time as a deputy to independent counsel Ken Starr reveals that Kavanaugh pushed to question then-president Bill Clinton about graphic details concerning his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.
The Washington Post previously reported some details from the August 1998 memo.
In it, Kavanaugh insists -- ahead of a sit down with Clinton -- that the president should not get any "break" and needed to provide "full and complete" testimony regarding their encounters.
"He should be forced to account for all of that and to defend his actions," Kavanaugh wrote to Starr. "It is our job to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear -- piece by painful piece."
Kavanaugh listed 10 suggested questions for Clinton about his relationship with Lewinsky, including “If Monica Lewinsky says that she gave you oral sex on nine occasions in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?” and “If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”
It's not clear how many of the suggested questions may have been asked of Clinton.
The full memo can be read here.
While Kavanaugh appears to have advocated graphic questioning of Clinton, he also pushed behind the scenes for those details to be kept out of Starr's public report.
In another memo to Starr in late August 1998, Kavanaugh signals an uneasiness about including sexually explicit details and language in the report.
“IS IT TOO GRAPHIC?” Kavanaugh asked in an Aug. 31, 1998, memo to other lawyers in the Office of Independent Counsel, run by Starr. “SHOULD IT BE MORE GRAPHIC (kidding)?”
These memos emerge as Democrats prepare to grill Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing next month about his views on executive power and the extent to which presidents should be subjected to aggressive investigative scrutiny – especially in light of the possibility that question could shortly come before the Supreme Court.
In the 2009 law review article, Kavanaugh wrote, “Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel. Criminal investigations targeted at or revolving around a President are inevitably politicized by both their supporters and critics.”
He added, “The point is not to put the President above the law or to eliminate checks on the President, but simply to defer litigation and investigations until the President is out of office.”
This is not something I necessarily thought in the 1980s or 1990s. Like many Americans at that time, I believed that the President should be required to shoulder the same obligations that we all carry. But in retrospect, that seems a mistake,” he wrote. “Looking back to the late 1990s, for example, the nation certainly would have been better off if President Clinton could have focused on Osama bin Laden without being distracted by the Paula Jones sexual harassment case and its criminal investigation offshoots.”
Some lawmakers see a double standard in Kavanaugh's record: aggressive on Clinton, but after that advocating a more lenient approach to sitting presidents.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has said Trump picked Kavanaugh because he knows he would be “a barrier” to prevent special counsel Robert Mueller from subpoenaing the president.