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Congress has 'constitutional duty' to investigate pres., SCOTUS pick Kavanaugh said at 2000 event

Duke Law School | Kavanaugh, right, at a 2011 Duke Law event
Duke Law School | Kavanaugh, right, at a 2011 Duke Law event

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s connection to Duke goes beyond being known as the "Coach K" of his daughter’s basketball team.

On Wednesday, a partial video of the Supreme Court nominee reminiscing on the Clinton impeachment process at a 2000 Duke School of Law event was obtained by the office of Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). This marks Kavanaugh’s fourth public statement that Congress possesses a “constitutional duty” to investigate a sitting president.

"In the old days, if you had a serious allegation against the president and there was a common understanding that the president could not be indicted while he was in office, the Congress of the United States would look into the allegation immediately and would get the facts," Kavanaugh said. "They can depose witnesses and find out the truth."

Kavanaugh, a U.S. Judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, worked in the independent counsel’s office during the Clinton investigation under Kenneth Starr, Law ‘73. He detailed the sentiments of members of the office on Congress deferring its inquiry until Starr would have completed a “full scale investigation.”

“In our office, did we think that was the right thing to do?” Kavanaugh said. “Not necessarily. But, what were we to do? We were operating under a statute.”

Bill Hatfield, who reported on the talk for The Chronicle, wrote that Kavanaugh expressed “mixed views of Congress’s performance.”

"’[They] decided to defer looking at [the Clinton-Lewinsky case]... until Ken Starr had gathered all the facts,’ he said, adding that ‘Congress never should have released [the Starr Report] without checking it beforehand,’” Hatfield wrote.

Kavanaugh’s appearance at the School of Law did not end in 2000. More than a decade later, Kavanaugh returned twice to judge the Dean’s Cup Competition—an annual moot court competition for second and third-year law students. 

The Dean’s Cup attracts federal judges from across the country, including current and former Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor, then on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In February 2011, Kavanaugh judged the final round involving a First Amendment case alongside Judge Reena Raggi of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Denis Shedd of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Three years later, Kavanaugh served on a panel with Judge Michael Chagares of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Gene Pratter of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Check out the video of his 2000 visit, as posted by Booker's office to Youtube, below:


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