Schiff: Trump May View Kavanaugh As "Get Out Of Jail Card"

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said it would be naive to believe Judge Kavanaugh's view on prosecuting presidents wasn't a key factor for President Trump's decision to nominate him to the Supreme Court. In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, Schiff said Kavanaugh and his decisions could be "tainted" by the suspicion that he was chosen expressly for his view on investigating the president.

Schiff also said it would be naive to think Trump didn't consider that Kavanaugh could be his "get out of jail card" when he weighed Supreme Court Associate Justice candidates. Schiff said if Kavanaugh votes in the president's favor on Trump-related Supreme Court cases, "it will do more to discredit the court than Bush v. Gore ever did."

"I do believe that there is only one guiding ideology philosophy, rule of law or rule of thumb for this President, and that is self," Schiff said Tuesday night. "He changes his policy positions five times a day. He has no devotion to anything that conservative view would espouse or the Republican Party for that matter. The only guiding principle, the North Star for this President is self-interest."





"Among these 25 candidates approved by the federalist society, he picks the one that says a sitting president shouldn't be the subject of an investigation or prosecution. I think it's hard to imagine that was not a very decisive factor in Kavanaugh's favor," Schiff also said.

"I mean that's a pretty damning statement about the motivation of the president for picking a Supreme Court justice, that basically, he's sort of trying to get himself a get out of jail card, a potential get out of jail or stay out of jail card?" Cooper asked.

"Well, look, it would be naive to think otherwise with this President," Schiff responded.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: As we've been talking about Democratic objections to the nomination are coalescing, not just on abortion or the Affordable Care Act. Also judge Kavanaugh's writing with respect to sitting presidents and criminal case.

Joining us now for more on that is Congressman Adam Schiff of California, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Schiff, Kavanaugh's past opinions about sitting presidents and criminal prosecution, you've expressed your concern about that. But opinions a judge may have expressed previously on lower court whether on the bench or not. Why does that necessarily translate into how they'll rule on the Supreme Court? I mean Kavanaugh wrote this in the Minnesota Law Review, it wasn't even a ruling of his.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, of course someone's writings or past decisions are at best guidance about what they may do in the future. They're never a perfect road map. But here there are very legitimate concerns. This is someone who was on the Ken Starr investigative team that was dogging a sitting president who then has an epiphany and says really, sitting presidents shouldn't be the subject of an investigation or prosecution. And what accounts for the transformation? Well, he worked in the Bush White House and discovered that presidents are very busy.

I don't think anyone is quite that naive to think that presidents are not busy, but nonetheless, here is now a strongly articulated policy view that presidents shouldn't be subject to investigation or prosecution.

And where that's of concern is if you have a question of first impression, can the president pardon himself? Can the president pardon his own family? Can the president be held liable for obstruction of justice or is he essentially, as Giuliani and the others argue, above the law because he is the law and he can't be held to be obstructing the law? If these cases go to the court and Kavanaugh is sitting on the court and rules in the President's favor, that opinion will have no respect in the public because it will be tainted by the suspicion that he was chosen expressly for that purpose.

I think it will do more to discredit the court than Bush v. Gore ever did. And so the Senators are going to need to ask very difficult, deep, probing questions about this. And if he fails to answer them, I think he either ought to be refused on that basis alone or that a recusal be committed to an advance.

COOPER: Well, I mean, do you personally believe that that's why he was selected, to give cover for the president? On this particular issue?

SCHIFF: I do believe that there is only one guiding ideology philosophy, rule of law or rule of thumb for this President, and that is self. He changes his policy positions five times a day. He has no devotion to anything that conservative view would espouse or the Republican Party for that matter. The only guiding principle, the North Star for this President is self-interest.

And so, yes, among these 25 candidates approved by the federalist society, he picks the one that says a sitting president shouldn't be the subject of an investigation or prosecution. I think it's hard to imagine that was not a very decisive factor in Kavanaugh's favor.

It's also hard to imagine that given that history that any opinion he would participate in would have the kind of respect of the public that it would need to have credibility. So this is I think a key factor and --

COOPER: I mean it does --

SCHIFF: I just think you would --

COOPER: I mean that's a pretty damning statement about the motivation of the president for picking a Supreme Court justice, that basically, he's sort of trying to get himself a get out of jail card, a potential get out of jail or stay out of jail card?

SCHIFF: Well, look, it would be naive to think otherwise with this President. He reminds us on a daily basis on Twitter that it's all about him, that the problems that he has with NATO and Europe are about him, the affinity that he has with Putin is about him, that even controversies that would ostensibly have nothing to do with him are in reality about him. So why should we imagine that this Supreme Court pick would be anything different? I think it would be quite naive to think otherwise. And so in light of that, I think we have to game this out. These questions are likely to go to the court. Some of these questions are likely to go to the court. And what kind of a crisis of confidence will there be if a Supreme Court in which Kavanaugh sits makes a decision impacting the direction, the future of this presidency? I think that is something that every senator needs to think about during any confirmation process.

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