Kavanaugh Questioning Reminds of How Dems Discriminated Against Latino Nominee

‘[Estrada] has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment…’

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Patrick Leahy/Photo by Center for American Progress

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Liberal Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s line of “gotcha” questions to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Wednesday involved a 2003 controversy that many Democrats might prefer to forget.

The controversy showed Senate Democrats nakedly politicizing, and racializing, the consideration of a judicial nominee based not on his qualifications but specifically on his ethnicity.

The 2003 brouhaha involved electronic messages among Senate Democrats and their staffs that Manny Miranda, then a top Republican Senate staffer, found on and shared from a Judiciary Committee computer server.

Leahy’s questions seem to imply that Kavanaugh, while working then at the White House, knowingly received and made use of “stolen” e-mails Miranda allegedly shared with him. (Kavanaugh did not.)

Setting aside questions about the legality (a criminal probe led to no indictments) or ethics of Miranda accessing partisan Democratic e-files from a shared server, Democrats are re-opening something of a Pandora’s box by re-litigating this 15-year-old political fracas.

While Republicans might have been embarrassed about how the memos were released, Democrats arguably were even more embarrassed by the actual, far more relevant content of those files.

The most important of those messages involved Democrats’ ultimately successful effort to block the nomination of widely respected attorney Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Estrada was the first judicial nominee in U.S. history to have his appointment killed via a Senate filibuster, despite having support from an absolute majority of U.S. senators.

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A key message from committee staffers to liberal Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, admiringly explained that outside left-wing groups considered Estrada “especially dangerous, because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment.”

In other words, the Democrats broke 212 years of Senate tradition by filibustering a nomination to death, not based on a nominee’s merits – the left-leaning American Bar Association unanimously rated Estrada, a former assistant solicitor general, as “well qualified” – but because they did not want Republicans to get have the opportunity, in later years, to appoint the first Latino/Hispanic American to the Supreme Court.

In short, they opposed an individual specifically because of his ethnicity – the very definition of bigotry.

Meanwhile, a coalition of conservative groups thought the direct involvement of the left-wing groups in the anti-Estrada crusade was so out of line that they demanded a criminal investigation into collusion between those groups and the Democratic Senators (and staff).

Miranda himself charged that still-unshared Democratic emails gave “evidence of the direct influencing of the Senate’s advice and consent role by the promise of campaign funding and election support in the last mid-term election.”

Like the probe into Miranda’s actions, that requested inquiry went nowhere.