Supreme Court Nominations

Kavanaugh responds to gambling questions, explains rebuffed handshake

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Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said he has not accrued any gambling debts, though he occasionally visited New Jersey casinos when he was a student.

Kavanaugh disclosed his occasional gambling and explained debts on previous financial disclosure forms in written answers to follow-up questions posed by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which held hearings last week. The National Law Journal, the Washington Post, USA Today and the Associated Press have coverage.

Kavanaugh told senators that, on the few occasions when he did go to casinos, he recalls playing low-stakes blackjack. He has never received a tax form reporting gambling earnings and never reported a gambling loss to the Internal Revenue Service. Nor has he ever participated in any fantasy sports leagues, and he has never been treated for a gambling addiction.

On many legal questions, Kavanaugh continued to refuse to answer on the ground that the issues could come before him as a judge. The nominee also refused to comment on tweets and statements by President Donald Trump on the ground that judges should refrain from comments on current events and political controversies.

But Kavanaugh did respond to a question about whether he personally believed Nazis and white nationalists were “fine people”—a reference to an assertion made by Trump about some of the people participating in the 2017 rally staged by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one person was killed. “There is no place in American public life for vile ideologies of hate,” Kavanaugh said.

Kavanaugh also responded to a question about whether a president should be able to use his authority to pressure government agencies to carry out his directives for purely political purposes. “No one is above the law,” he responded.

A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit, Kavanaugh went on to say that during his time in the White House under George W. Bush that he “lived by the principle that everything the government does must be based on sound legal principles and a legitimate factual basis. Pure politics is never enough.” As a judge, Kavanaugh said, “I have never and will never bow to public pressure from any president, any senator, or any other political actor.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats submitted 1,278 written questions for Kavanaugh, more than the combined number of written questions submitted to every prior U.S. Supreme Court nominee in history, according to a press release by the committee Republican majority. The volume of questions “appears to be just one more effort to gum up the process,” said Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in the release.

In the written follow-up questions, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., had asked Kavanaugh about the reasons for the nominee’s runup in debt in 2015 and 2016. Kavanaugh’s 2016 financial disclosure statement had reported he had three credit cards and a loan from a thrift savings plan, and he owed between $15,000 to $50,000 on each of the credit cards and the loan.

Kavanaugh said the debt was “not close to the top of the ranges.”

Kavanaugh, 53, said the thrift plan loan was to help with the down payment on his home in 2006, and it was repaid with regular paycheck deductions. He also “sunk a decent amount of money” into his home for repairs and improvements that included replacing the heating and air conditioning systems and the water heater, painting and repairing the exterior, and addressing ceiling leaks and flooding in the basement.

He also is “a huge sports fan” who purchased four season tickets and playoff tickets to Washington Nationals games each season from 2006 through 2017. A group of friends would divide the remaining tickets in a “ticket draft” at Kavanaugh’s home, and everyone who received a ticket paid Kavanaugh “based on the cost of the tickets, to the dollar. No one overpaid or underpaid me for tickets. No loans were given in either direction.”

Kavanaugh also explained an email in which he referenced a “game of dice.” It read: “Apologies to all for missing Friday (good excuse), and growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice (don’t recall). Reminders to everyone to be very, very vigilant w/r/t confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.”

Kavanaugh was he was referring to his first date with the woman who would become his wife, and the “game of dice” was not a game with monetary stakes. Kavanaugh met his wife, Ashley, when they were both working in the White House in 2001 and their first date was the night before the Sept. 11 attacks. “In the email,” Kavanaugh said, “I was asking my friends not to share my interest in and upcoming date with Ashley with their spouses.”

Kavanaugh’s answers also addressed why he rebuffed the handshake offer from the father of a school shooting victim in Parkland, Florida. Fred Guttenberg had approached Kavanaugh during a break in the committee hearings and held out his hand.

“If I had known who he was, I would have shaken his hand, talked to him, and expressed my sympathy. And I would have listened to him.”
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh explaining why he didn’t acknowledge the father of a school shooting victim during his confirmation hearings

Kavanaugh said the man yelled his name, approached him from behind and touched his arm. Kavanaugh said it had been “a chaotic morning with a large number of protesters in the hearing room.”

“When I turned and did not recognize the man, I assumed he was a protestor,” Kavanaugh wrote. “In a split-second, my security detail intervened and ushered me out of the hearing room.”

“I unfortunately did not realize that the man was the father of a shooting victim from Parkland, Florida,” Kavanaugh wrote. “Mr. Guttenberg has suffered an incalculable loss. If I had known who he was, I would have shaken his hand, talked to him, and expressed my sympathy. And I would have listened to him.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Sept. 20 vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination, report Politico and CBS News. The full Senate could vote during the week of Sept. 24.

Democrats on Thursday made motions for the release of additional documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House, but Republicans voted them down.

Related articles: “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 1: Kavanaugh pledges an open mind in every case” “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 2: Kavanaugh answers ‘Purple Party’ president hypothetical” “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 3: Kavanaugh won’t say whether president’s character matters” “Live blog of confirmation hearings, Day 4: Yale law prof says Kavanaugh is best choice for Democrats”

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