Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh said that comments he made in 1999 about a key Supreme Court case that ordered President Nixon to comply with a subpoena had been “mischaracterized.”
At a Georgetown Law roundtable, Kavanaugh said that “maybe Nixon was wrongly decided,” a reference of the 1974 unanimous Supreme Court decision in the Watergate tapes case, U.S. v. Nixon.
On Wednesday, the judge told Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) that those comments had been “seriously mischaracterized” and explained that it was a rhetorical remark aimed at other lawyers at the roundtable who had worked for Bill Clinton, opposite of Kavanaugh when he was working for Ken Starr’s investigation.
“They were concerned that the subpoenas that were enforced by the courts during the Starr independent counsel investigation had weakened the presidency. That was the position of the Clinton lawyers,” Kavanaugh said, “I said, well we were just following U.S. v Nixon. That was my position. My position was either you’re wrong or Nixon’s wrong to the Clinton’s lawyer, and that’s the context of that comment.”
Coons pushed back on that claim, noting that Philip Lacovara, who argued the Watergate case on behalf of the U.S., thought that Kavanaugh’s remark was to be taken seriously and was quoted as saying that Kavanaugh was “staking out his jurisprudential approach.”
Kavanaugh — while emphasizing that he thought Nixon was rightly decided —
said he thought Lacovara “was misunderstanding” what he was saying.