Harris puts Kavanaugh on edge with Mueller question

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., left, questions President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, in the evening of the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) –The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Kamala Harris put Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on edge with a surprise question at his confirmation hearing on whether he spoke with anyone about the investigation into Russian election meddling.

It’s the only time President Donald Trump’s high court pick appeared to stumble.

The California Democrat, who’s considering a presidential run, pressed Kavanaugh late Wednesday as the hearing wound down to tell her who, if anyone, he’s spoken to at a law firm about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into contacts between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

The firm in question was founded by Marc Kasowitz, who has represented Trump. Harris, a former prosecutor, did not say during the nearly eight-minute exchange why she was asking the question, but she seemed to surprise Kavanaugh.

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“Have you had a conversation with anyone at that firm about that investigation?” Harris said late on the second day of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. “I think you’re thinking of someone but you don’t want to tell us.”

Kavanaugh seemed perplexed at first, then said he couldn’t think of any such conversations and repeatedly asked to see a list of lawyers who work at the firm. Harris said he doesn’t need to see a list to recall whether he’s talked to anyone at the firm in the 15 months since Mueller’s probe was launched.

Judiciary Committee Republicans complained that the question was unfair. Asked the question again Thursday by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Kavanaugh said, “I don’t recall any inappropriate conversations about the investigation.”

Mueller is probing whether Trump or any of his associates were aware of Russia’s efforts to influence the election and whether Trump obstructed justice.

Harris is one of several Democrats concerned about Kavanaugh’s view of whether a sitting president can be indicted.

In a footnote to a 2009 law review article, Kavanaugh wrote that “a serious constitutional question exists regarding whether a President can be criminally indicted and tried while in office.”

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A decade earlier, Kavanaugh wrote that the Constitution seems to dictate that “congressional investigation must take place in lieu of criminal investigation when the President is the subject of investigation, and that criminal prosecution can occur only after the President has left office.”