Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh wasn’t part of either successful prosecution this week of figures from President Trump’s inner circle during the campaign — but Democrats said he should face consequences nonetheless.
One senator said Mr. Trump is now an “unindicted co-conspirator” in campaign finance violations and that this taints Judge Kavanaugh, his nominee for the Supreme Court.
Another Democrat said Wednesday that the legal questions surrounding Mr. Trump could eventually end up at the high court, and Judge Kavanaugh could end up being part of the “jury” that will decide the president’s fate.
“A game-changer,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, the morning after Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty on eight financial fraud counts, and Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations on behalf of the Trump campaign.
Democrats say Judge Kavanaugh has a broad view of presidential powers, which they fear could shield Mr. Trump from legal jeopardy. They said they need more time to delve into the issue, and say Republicans should delay his confirmation hearing, slated to begin Sept. 4.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, said she canceled a meeting with Judge Kavanaugh because she thinks the nomination is too tainted by the Manafort and Cohen convictions.
“We cannot abandon common sense in this dangerous time in our democracy,” she said.
Manafort’s prosecution doesn’t reach Mr. Trump, and the president’s defenders say Cohen was railroaded into a guilty plea. More to the point, they say, none of that has any bearing on Judge Kavanaugh.
“Sen. Schumer may believe that the Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort cases invalidate the election. I do not,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican.
Presidential press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said demands for delay were “pathetic,” and Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, said Democrats made the same arguments against Justice Neil M. Gorsuch last year, also citing the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian collusion.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican and Judicial Committee chairman, said he won’t delay the hearing because there’s no precedent for doing so. adding that Justice Stephen G. Breyer was nominated and confirmed to the Supreme Court while President Clinton was under a special-counsel investigation over the Whitewater land deal.
“In fact, President Clinton was under investigation for much of his presidency and was impeached for committing perjury. But the Senate didn’t stop confirming his lifetime appointments to the bench,” Mr. Grassley said.
For Democrats, though, the implications of the Cohen and Manafort cases reach beyond Judge Kavanaugh.
Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts renewed efforts to pass a bill insulating Mr. Mueller from political pressure or firing by Mr. Trump.
“Both prosecutions arose from the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, and President Trump continues to criticize Mueller and his team and to threaten their ongoing investigation,” Mr. Coons said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said the Judiciary Committee should investigate Cohen’s claim that Mr. Trump ordered him to commit the campaign finance violations, since the committee has oversight over those laws.
“Mr. Cohen’s lawyer has indicated that he is willing testify before Congress without even being granted immunity,” Mr. Leahy said. “It is difficult to reconcile the Judiciary Committee’s inaction here.”
Calls to hear from Cohen also arose in the House Judiciary Committee where Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, the panel’s top Democrat, said Republicans should stop trying to undermine the Mueller probe.
Republicans vowed to resist attempts to derail their agenda on Capitol Hill. In particular, they said they’ll continue to make progress on bills to fund the government into the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Rep. Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican, said he doubts the legal setbacks for Mr. Trump’s inner circle will spoil those negotiations.
“They’re not directly tied together,” he said. “We’re making progress.”
⦁ David Sherfinski contributed to this report.
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