What We’re Seeking:
Representing the Senate
On September 17, 2018, American Oversight filed a lawsuit and motion for a temporary restraining order on behalf of six members of the Senate Judiciary Committee — Senators Richard Blumenthal, Patrick Leahy, Sheldon Whitehouse, Mazie Hirono, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris — seeking the release of records from the National Archives and the Central Intelligence Agency related to Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
The Senators had filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests as a last resort after the administration and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley blocked access to records they deemed essential to fulfill their constitutional advice and consent responsibility.
Fix the Court Litigation:
On September 6, 2018, American Oversight filed an emergency lawsuit on behalf of watchdog group Fix the Court and moved for a preliminary injunction seeking the release of Kavanaugh records from the Department of Justice. This complaint asked the court to order the release of documents detailing Kavanaugh’s interactions with members of the Office of Legal Policy (OLP) during the five-and-a-half years in which he worked in the George W. Bush White House.
Over the first two days of confirmation hearings in early September, Senator Patrick Leahy confronted Kavanaugh with questions and documents that appeared to show then-White House attorney Kavanaugh knew, or should have known, that he had received confidential information stolen from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Those emails included correspondence with officials at OLP. While Leahy released several emails to the public, he also noted that “[t]here are many more [emails] that have been hidden from public scrutiny under a faulty claim of committee confidentiality.” He also said he “suspect[s] there are even more that were never released to the committee at all, based on the partisan and woefully incomplete document production.”
Those emails should be responsive to Fix the Court’s FOIA request. The lawsuit filed on September 6 asked DOJ to immediately release those emails to the public.
This was the third lawsuit brought by American Oversight on behalf of Fix the Court to uncover records documenting Kavanaugh’s previous government service. Two prior complaints, filed on July 10, 2018, sought the release of documents from Kavanaugh’s work on the Starr commission in the 1990s and his time in the White House.
One complaint, against the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), sought records from the Office of Independent Counsel Ken Starr, including all of Kavanaugh’s correspondence, notes and memos, and other records from his time in the OIC from 1994-1998. NARA ultimately produced more than 20,000 pages of Kavanaugh records that otherwise would not have been released.
The other complaint, against DOJ, sought all communication’s between the assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel and his or her primary deputy to Kavanaugh, and vice versa, during Kavanaugh’s time at the White House, both as staff secretary and in the counsel’s office. DOJ has now produced several hundred pages of records in response to this lawsuit.
Lambda Legal Litigation
On September 4, 2018, Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit represented by American Oversight seeking the release of Kavanaugh records from the Office of Management and Budget. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenged OMB’s failure to respond to a FOIA request filed in August that sought documents related to Kavanaugh’s involvement in Bush administration policies that discriminated against LGBTQ children, families and relationships.
Special Master Report
On August 23, 2018, following a legal motion by American Oversight, the National Archives released the 1999 Special Master’s report on the investigation into leaks by the Office of Independent Counsel Ken Starr, where Kavanaugh then worked as a prosecutor. The long-secret report was released in response to a court order from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, granting a motion by American Oversight to unseal the document.
Only four copies of the report were prepared in 1999. The report had never been released, but news reports at the time stated that the Special Master detailed evidence of “inappropriate disclosures to the press” by the OIC. Contrary to claims made by the White House, the report did not fault or exonerate Judge Kavanaugh because it largely addressed a narrow time period when he was not working for the Starr Commission.