White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah joined me this morning:
HH: Joining me to talk about Judge Kavanaugh and the path ahead is Raj Shah. He is the deputy press secretary at the White House. He is the point guy on all things Kavanaugh for the next many months. Raj, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, good to talk to you this morning.
RS: Hugh, good morning. Thanks a lot for having me on. Good morning to you, too.
HH: It is a, it’s an exciting morning, because we have within grasp now the first originalist majority of my lifetime. I’ve been doing this since 1983 and been broadcasting for a long, since 1990. Never had a majority of originalists. Brett Kavanaugh is an originalist. Has anyone at all on the center-right criticized the pick?
RS: I’ve yet to hear any real or serious criticism. And there’s really not a whole lot to criticize. You’ve got a judge with an immaculate record. As the President said, he’s the judge’s judge. He’s the judge that other people in the federal judiciary read. He’s gotten over a dozen of his opinions endorsed by the Supreme Court, and his views endorsed by the Supreme Court. And he’s been cited by judges at the federal appellate and lower levels dozens, and in some, I think, in some of the instances, hundreds of times. So he’s an influential judge who hasn’t just been validated by people that work in the White House or in the previous Republican administration. He’s somebody who’s been validated by hundreds of judges across the country in the federal judiciary. And his writing is clear. It’s distinct. It’s convincing. And it will stand the test of time.
HH: Now Raj Shah, you were announced a week ago as being the point person on this, so you have been spending your time assembling a team. Who will be assisting you in assisting Judge Kavanaugh in addition to the wonderful Jon Kyl, our favorite senator, now our favorite senate after retirement, who else is on that team that’s going to help you help Judge Kavanaugh?
RS: Well, first off, let me tip my hat to Senator Kyl. He’s been around for, he served three terms in the Senate from Arizona. He served on the Senate Judiciary Committee for four of the last five Supreme Court confirmation back and forths, and you know, he’s bringing a tremendous amount of experience. He, along with Don McGahn, who is the White House Counsel and his team of attorneys have been vetting the nominee, have been making sure that through their review of his over 300 opinions, that he is an originalist as you noted, that he does interpret the law as it was written. We have a communications team that are going to be working with our allies in the Senate and elsewhere to give that kind of political and communications support that this nominee needs. But let’s be clear. It’s not going to be as difficult as it could be, because we have an incredible asset, which is the judge, Brett Kavanaugh. He is an incredible mind, an incredibly credentialed judge, and he’s going to wear well and sell well. We think that the senators who are going to vote on his nomination in committee are going to evaluate him in the hearing, and then vote for his confirmation. We expect that they’re going to get an opportunity to kick the tires. They’re going to ask him what he thinks about the law, what he thinks about, you know, various rights and various history in the Court. And we think that they’re going to come away, as we have, very impressed.
HH: Now obviously, Majority Leader McConnell has the key role of orchestrating the final vote, but chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley, is the one who will convene the hearings. So you’ve been talking with him, obviously. When do you expect the hearings to begin, Raj Shah?
RS: Well, we haven’t determined a date in conjunction with the committee. That is their role and prerogative, but a little bit of history. The last two Supreme Court confirmations have occurred in 66 days. And that is with, you know, President Obama selecting Elena Kagan in 2010, which was a mid-term election year, I’d like to remind everyone listening, as well as Justice Gorsuch last year. So a little over two months, about two months is the historical standard between nomination and confirmation, obviously with the hearing as part of that process. So this will give ample time for senators in the majority and the minority on the committee and off the committee to ask the White House questions, to ask Judge Kavanaugh questions, to be heard and take on their Constitutional role of advice and consent.
HH: Will Judge Kavanaugh offer to meet with all senators?
RS: Well, we haven’t gone through that process just yet. We certainly will offer to meet with all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Today, he’s going to be going to the Hill to meet with members, members, particularly the leadership, Senator McConnell and Senator Grassley, Chairman Grassley of the Judiciary Committee. But we’re going to go through this process. Obviously Judge Kavanaugh will be meeting with many senators, and the President and Don McGahn in particular have talked to dozens of senators over the last week and a half through this process.
HH: When Chief Justice Roberts was nominated, I got a call from my old friends in the White House that said we have to release all your files from the White House Counsel’s office, because they’re germane to his nomination. Will all of the files of Brett Kavanaugh from his George W. Bush years be released, Raj Shah?
RS: Well, we’ll figure the process of making as, you know, clear and fair a disclosure as possible, and be as transparent as possible. Judge Kavanaugh obviously has a voluminous record, but he also has 300 written opinions in the D.C. Court of Appeals. That is by far the most relevant to how he would be as a Supreme Court justice, and it is the most information that one can glean into his actual record and jurisprudence. You know, being copied on you know, correspondence when you are the staff secretary, how much bearing that has on one’s Supreme Court tenure is you know, pretty specious at best, but we’ll work with the Senate in that process and accommodate them accordingly.
HH: Do you, Raj Shah, have a team member down at the Bush library working on this, though, because I remember this quite clearly, and Democrats threatened not to give the Chief a vote until and unless all of his White House files were released. There has to be a check about that which can’t be released because of classified stuff, but eventually we’re going to have to yield on this. Do we have a team down there already working on it?
RS: Well, we’ve been in contact with the Bush library, and again, we’ll work with them through this process. We’ll accommodate the Senate’s requests accordingly and get them the papers that are appropriate for them to review.
HH: And where are the archives of the Independent Counsel stored, Raj Shah, because those will also be of interest to Senate Minority Democrats?
RS: Right, look, there are going to be various pockets of records that you know, individuals are going to be interested in both on the committee and elsewhere. And we’re working through the process of talking to the committee, figuring out exactly what they’re looking for, what they feel is germane, and working with them through the process of producing those documents. We’ll get through that process over the next few weeks. But understand that you know, the leader, Senator McConnell, has called for a vote this fall. We’re going to have a hearing, and eventually, I think judges, or sorry, senators are going to be impressed with his record and vote for his confirmation.
HH: I agree with that. I’m just, I’m curious about the 66 days. That would seem to imply, Raj, that there will be hearings in August. Is that possible?
RS: Well, we think that’s possible. That is going to be up to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We’re working with them. Again, this is the beginning of a process, Hugh. It’s taken a little while for them to set hearing dates in the past. I’m sure that will be the case this time. We’ll work with them on document production, work with them on meetings with senators, and this is a process that the Senate, you know, it’s gotten more partisan in recent years, but they’ve always given, you know, these judges have always, you know, once they’ve been received, they’ve gotten an opportunity to make their case.
HH: Now it’s always been the case that nominees do not give interviews. They only speak to senators, and then they speak in the hearings. Do you expect that precedent to hold here and Judge Kavanaugh will not be available for interviews except by the senators and in open hearing?
RS: I’m not planning to book him on a whole lot, Hugh.
HH: (laughing) Now is that a definite there? He’s just not going to do them, right?
RS: I think we’re probably going to follow the past historical standards.
HH: All right. In light of this as well, we’re going to have every reporter in the world trying to find any bit of fly speck of dirt on Brett Kavanaugh. But he went through this in 2006 when he was held up in the Senate for a long period of time. Anybody have any fear at all about that deep dive into his background?
RS: Not really. I think we think that the Judge, through his many years of service both in government and in private life has shown exemplary character. He’s a role model for many people around the country and in his community. And we think that the record is going to shine a good light on him and demonstrate what we all see.
HH: Good luck to you, Raj Shah, because this is going to be one heck of a ride. Good luck and get it done, I hope, by early September so he’s ready for the first Monday in October. Raj Shah, deputy White House press secretary, thanks for joining me.
End of interview.