SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Orrin Hatch tried to get the jump on Democrats with questions for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about allegiance to the president, his relationship with a judge accused of sexual misconduct and separation of powers Wednesday.
Hatch, R-Utah, said some of his colleagues have suggested that Kavanaugh would rule in President Donald Trump's favor on issues that come before the court because the president nominated him for the job.
Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C., described himself as an "independent" judge.
"If confirmed to the Supreme Court and as a sitting judge, I owe my loyalty to the Constitution," he said holding up a tattered pocket-size copy of the document.
Protesters again repeatedly disrupted the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Kavanaugh, including once during Hatch's 30-minute questioning and twice while Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was on the clock.
Unlike Tuesday when Hatch became frustrated with demonstrators, the senator ignored a woman yelling as he asked questions. Lee, who filled in as chairman at one point, alloted himself extra time because of the interruptions.
Lee focused most of his questions on the Constitution and separation of powers, asking Kavanaugh at one point to name is his favorite Federalist Paper.
The senators also said Kavanaugh was not on either of the two lists of potential Supreme Court nominees — many handpicked by the conservative Federalist Society — that Trump put out before taking office.
In addition to asking Kavanaugh what kind of loyalty he would have to Trump compared to the American people, Hatch questioned him about his time in the George W. Bush administration.
Democrats want to see "every single scrap of paper you ever touched" during six years in the Bush White House to get at his role in crafting the administration's interrogation and detention policies, Hatch said.
Kavanaugh said he was not involved. Hatch followed up saying some have accused the judge of misleading the committee in 2006 about his role in the detention policy.
"I told the truth and the whole truth in my prior testimony," Kavanaugh said. "I was not read into that program."
Hatch asked Kavanaugh to give examples of when he ruled against the Bush administration after being appointed to the appeals court. Kavanaugh said he reversed the conviction of a man in a military commissions case who was convicted for an offense that wasn't an identified crime at the time it happened.
"It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you’re right under the law, you prevail," Kavanaugh said.
Hatch explored Kavanaugh's relationship with former 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski, who Kavanaugh clerked for in 1991. Kozinski resigned last December amid accusations of improper sexual conduct and abusive practices toward law clerks.
"Some of your opponents have suggested that you must have known about these allegations. This seems to me to be an effort at guilt by association, which is not the way this committee should operate," Hatch said.
Kavanaugh said he knew nothing about the accusations and that he was not on an email list Kozinski allegedly used to send inappropriate material.23 comments on this story
Hatch asked Kavanaugh about the Chevron doctrine, which takes its name from a 1980s Supreme Court decision that instructs federal courts to defer to a government agency's interpretation of ambiguous law.
Kavanaugh said agencies can't use old laws to do a new thing.
"I’m not skeptic of regulation at all. I’m a skeptic of unauthorized regulation, of illegal regulation, outside the bounds of what Congress has passed," he said.
Kavanaugh also said courts have to stick to law passed by Congress.
"We don't rewrite those laws," he said, adding the executive branch also should not rewrite law.