Court Grants American Oversight Motion, Orders 1999 Special Master’s Report Unsealed

Washington, DC – Granting a motion from American Oversight, a federal judge has ordered that a long-secret 1999 Special Master’s report into leaks from the Starr Commission must be unsealed and released by the National Archives no later than 3:00pm this Friday, August 24, 2018.

The report may shed light on any role that Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who served as a prosecutor in the Office of Independent Counsel Ken Starr (OIC), may have played in the leaking of confidential information.

Statement from American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers:

“There have been 20 years of rumors and speculation about who was doing the leaking on the Starr commission, and just a week after American Oversight asked for this report to be unsealed, we may finally get an answer. If Judge Kavanaugh was involved in improper leaking of confidential information, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people have a right to know before he is confirmed to a lifetime position on the Supreme Court. Senator Grassley seems determined rush through Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation without examining his record, so we’re doing his job for him and uncovering the facts, one page at time.”

Judge Lamberth’s order unsealing the report is below.

Timeline of American Oversight’s Efforts to Unseal the Report
  • On August 15, 2018, American Oversight sent a letter to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (DDC) asking for the 1999 Special Master’s report to be unsealed. With Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings set to begin in early September, American Oversight sought the release of the report to determine whether Kavanaugh was involved in the inappropriate disclosure of confidential information.
  • The matter was assigned to DDC Judge Royce Lamberth, who then asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to ask the National Archives if they could locate a copy of the report. Last Thursday, the Archives located the report and provided it to DOJ, which then indicated that it was reviewing the report to formulate its position on whether it should be unsealed.
  • On August 21, American Oversight filed a motion asking for the court to order DOJ to turn the Special Master’s report over to the court for review, for DOJ to file its position, and for the court to unseal the report.
  • Later that day, 10 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to Judge Lamberth, urging him to unseal the report.
  • On August 22, DOJ filed a notice that it had transferred the report to Judge Lamberth of DDC. DOJ also noted that it did not oppose unsealing the report.
  • At the request of the court, counsel for American Oversight and DOJ drafted and filed proposed text for an order unsealing the report. Hours later, on the evening of August 22, Judge Lamberth issued his order unsealing the report and setting a deadline of 3:00pm on Friday, August 24 for its release.
Background on the 1999 Special Master’s Report and Judge Kavanaugh’s Record

In 1998, then DDC Chief Judge Norma Holloway Johnson appointed Judge Joseph Kern III as a Special Master to investigate allegations that the OIC was leaking grand jury material. Kern submitted his 60 page report in 1999. Only four copies of the report were made, it was not added to the court docket, and it has never been released to the public.

News stories at the time suggested that the report had found that the OIC inappropriately leaked confidential information, even if it did not find evidence of leaks of grand jury material. A later 2010 book by Ken Gormley, Death of American Virtue, described the report as having found problematic conduct by the OIC. More recent news reports have suggested that Kavanaugh was frequently in touch with reporters during his time in OIC, with one report characterizing him as a “go-to member of Starr’s team” for journalists.

Vetting Kavanaugh

American Oversight’s move to unseal the Special Master’s report is part of the watchdog’s broader effort to ensure that the American people and the Senate have a chance to properly vet Kavanaugh before a confirmation vote occurs. American Oversight is also representing Fix the Court in its lawsuits to uncover Kavanaugh’s records from his time on the Starr Commission and in the White House Counsel’s office – litigation that has led NARA and DOJ to release thousands of pages of previously undisclosed documents in the past several weeks.

More information about American Oversight’s work to investigate Kavanaugh’s record can be found here.

Order Unsealing 1999 Special Master Report