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Kavanaugh accused of 'untruthful testimony, under oath and on the record'

Susan Collins said she would have "a major problem" with Brett Kavanaugh if he gave testimony that was "not truthful." Well, as it turns out....
Image: Brett Kavanaugh
President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, gestures over his notes as he testifies on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee...

When Judge Brett Kavanaugh met privately with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) ahead of his confirmation hearings, the conservative jurist realized he was talking to one of only a handful of pro-choice Republicans still in Congress. With this in mind, Kavanaugh told Collins he sees the Roe v. Wade debate as "settled as a precedent of the court" and "settled law."

Substantively, the phrasing was vacuous, but it also may not have reflected his genuine beliefs: we learned last week that Kavanaugh wrote a memo in 2003 insisting that Roe shouldn't be seen as settled law. Is that the sort of thing that might give Collins pause?

Evidently not. The Maine Republican shrugged off the revelation as inconsequential late last week. That said, the Portland Press Herald published a report over the weekend that included a quote from Collins that struck me as new.

When asked about a controversy regarding whether Kavanaugh lied under oath during his 2004 confirmation hearing to be a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, Collins said she wasn't aware of the issue. Democrats are charging that Kavanaugh lied about whether -- while working for the Bush administration in 2003 -- he handled the "vetting process" for another judge, appeals court Judge William Pryor. Kavanaugh said he wasn't involved in the process during his 2004 confirmation hearing, but newly surfaced emails from that time suggest that he was.Collins said she would examine the issue this weekend."If in fact (Kavanaugh) was not truthful, then obviously that would be a major problem for me," Collins said.

And if the GOP senator was serious on this point, it's worth watching closely what Collins will do next -- because there's quite a bit of evidence that Kavanaugh hasn't been truthful.

Indeed, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who hardly has a reputation for throwing around reckless accusations, stated unequivocally that he believes Kavanaugh has given "untruthful testimony, under oath and on the record."

The longtime Vermont senator pointed specifically to this blistering editorial from the New York Times, which said Kavanaugh "can't be trusted," adding that he's "a perfect nominee for a president with no clear relation to the truth."

There are several areas of concern when it comes to dubious comments Kavanaugh has made under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but one of the most important may be an incident from 2003 in which a Senate Republican aide stole thousands of documents from committee Democrats on the fight over Bush/Cheney judicial nominees. (Those handful of you who were reading me at the time might remember the story known at the time as "Memogate.")

During confirmation hearings for his original judicial nomination, senators pressed Kavanaugh for answers on his possible involvement in the scandal. Under oath, he told the Judiciary Committee that he wasn't aware of the thefts and never saw the stolen materials in any way.

Two years later, in 2006, Kavanaugh testified that he never even suspected that there were thefts of Democratic documents underway.

Last week, Leahy asked the Supreme Court nominee, "When you worked at the White House, did anyone ever tell you they had a 'mole' that provided them with secret information related to nominations?" Kavanaugh said he had no such recollection.

Each of these claims, we now know, appear to have been the opposite of the truth. We have an incomplete record of Kavanaugh's professional history, but the limited amount of information we do have points to an email Kavanaugh received with a subject line that said, "Spying." The first line of the email references a "mole" that provided Democratic materials on judicial nominees -- the same materials that the "mole" stole and that were shared with Kavanaugh.

Lisa Graves, whose materials were stolen as part of the Republican theft at the time, wrote a brutal piece for Slate the other day: "Even if Kavanaugh could claim that he didn't have any hint at the time he received the emails that these documents were of suspect provenance -- which I personally find implausible -- there is no reasonable way for him to assert honestly that he had no idea what they were after the revelation of the theft. Any reasonable person would have realized they had been stolen, and certainly someone as smart as Kavanaugh would have too. But he lied. Under oath. And he did so repeatedly."

Graves suggested that Kavanaugh doesn't deserve a promotion to the nation's highest court; he deserves to be impeached over his repeated deceptions to the Senate.

All of which brings us back to Susan Collins and her newly stated believe that if Kavanaugh "was not truthful, then obviously that would be a major problem for me."

We're about to find out exactly what that means in practical terms.