And Kavanaugh opponents said they did not anticipate that the issue would move to the forefront unless the woman agreed to cooperate. Members of both parties said the situation was complicated by the fact that it was alleged to have occurred when all involved were in high school. By contrast, the accusations against Justice Thomas concerned adult behavior during his time as a supervisor at federal agencies.
But Democrats definitely have issues that they would like to explore further about Judge Kavanaugh. On Thursday, they sought to subpoena people and documents related to events from his White House years about which they believe he was not honest. Committee Republicans summarily blocked those efforts.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, tried to get the committee to seek testimony from former Republican Senate aides who were involved in an effort to improperly obtain thousands of private Democratic documents from Judiciary Committee computers between 2001 and 2003 — another period of intense partisanship over judicial nominees.
Documents released by the committee showed that Judge Kavanaugh, then a White House lawyer involved in nomination issues, exchanged information with Manuel Miranda, a Senate aide who had obtained and circulated some of the information.
Judge Kavanaugh told the panel he had no idea that any of the information had been inappropriately obtained — an assertion that was met with skepticism by Senate Democrats. In particular, his claim that bipartisan exchanges about nomination strategy were common and the “coin of the realm” in judicial fights provoked a backlash from former senior Democratic staff members on the committee. They said that was far from the case during the heated clashes over nominees in the early years of the Bush administration.
“That is simply not accurate when it came to judicial nomination fights,” said Kristine Lucius, a former counsel to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and a senior member of the committee. “There was nothing normal about this episode.”
The computer breach — and the potential advantage to the Bush administration at the time — is particularly raw with some Democrats on the panel. Judge Kavanaugh’s initial confirmation hearing for the appeals court came in April 2004, about a month after the release of a Senate investigation into the incident. Democrats believe that Judge Kavanaugh might not have survived that review if the documents now available were seen then.
Both Justice Thomas and Justice Gorsuch survived volatile accusations about their conduct as the confirmation process entered the later stages and were ultimately placed on the Supreme Court. Unless more accusations pile up against Judge Kavanaugh, he seems likely to join them soon.