Merkley Town Hall

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, talks during a town hall meeting at the Coquille Community Center in this May file photo.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley said Wednesday he'll ask a federal judge to issue an injunction to delay Senate Republicans from voting on U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Merkley argues the Trump administrations has withheld substantial parts of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s background and whether he is in fact qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

“I’m standing up and filing this case to say this must end,” Merkley said.

Merkley’s suit asks the courts to intervene to prevent the process from continuing until Kavanaugh’s full record is available for public scrutiny.

“We have an extraordinary situation in which the executive branch has violated the separation of powers laid out in the constitution,” Merkley said. “The constitution gives the president the power to nominate and gives power to the senate to review the record of the nominee in order to determine if that individual is of fit character.”

The request for the injunction specifically names defendant’s president Donald J. Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, and Kavanaugh’s lawyer and personal friend William Burck. The request for the injunction also names Senate secretary Julie Adams, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, and the National Archives.

Merkley emphasized “three acts of direct interference,” by which he believes the president and senate leaders concealed documents necessary for senators to fulfill their constitutional duty.

The interference claimed by Merkley is that the defendants conspired to conceal from the Senate and public all of the documents from Kavanaugh’s three years as staff secretary in the George W. Bush White House. 

“In this case, the President of the United States has done something unprecedented and intervened on a massive scale to completely deny the Senate access to some three years of Kavanaugh’s history as staff secretary to George W. Bush,” Merkley said.

Second Merkley claims defendants conspired to conceal 100,000 documents from Kavanaugh’s time of service as a lawyer in the White House Counsel’s Office under president George W. Bush. Merkley also claims the defendants empowered William Burck to utilize executive privilege on behalf of president Trump to block Senate access to the relevant documents.

“The president has proceeded to give a private lawyer who has huge, partisan, conflicts of interest the power to exercise on behalf of President Trump executive privilege. He exercised that to censor the documents from the time Kavanaugh served in a different capacity, which was as a lawyer on the White House Counsel team,” Merkley said.

Finally in the request, Merkley argues that defendants conspired to further limit access to documents by utilizing the services of William Burck to label 141,000 pages “Committee Confidential,” limiting the ability of senators to speak about them and to communicate with experts and members of the public about the contents.

“The events of the past 10 days have only underscored how critical it is that the Senate conduct a careful and comprehensive review of a nominee before giving its consent,” Merkley said. “But this President has gone to lengths never seen before to make sure we can’t do that job. The unprecedented obstruction of the Senate’s advice and consent obligation is an assault on the separation of powers and a violation of the Constitution. The president and Mitch McConnell want to ram through this nomination come hell or high water, without real advice or informed consent by the Senate, but that’s just not how our Constitution works.”

According to Merkley, key Republicans are pushing for a vote for as soon as this Friday. However he feels that the severity of the accusations in his lawsuit will delay the vote.

“This is completely untested territory. As far as I’m aware we’ve never seen a president intervene so directly and extensively and substantially to block the ability of the Senate to review the record of a nominee. I am asking the court to not only give us access to the documents, but give us the time to digest those documents before a vote is held on the floor of the Senate,” Merkley said.

Ultimately Merkley would like to see an injunction that would tell the president to desist in the use of executive privilege to block the senate from having access to restricted documents.  

“Normally when a president exerts Executive Privilege, it is for a very small number of documents with a log that lays out the justification for each piece that is prevented. In this case there is no log. There is no index. There is no explanation. It is a wholesale censorship of relevant documentation,” Merkley said.

This lawsuit comes alongside a third woman coming alleging sexual misconduct on against Kavanaugh.

“These woman are being treated horribly. The Senate Judiciary Committee is turning this into a he said she said presentation and they’re bringing in a person to prosecute the witness as if she is a criminal," Merkley said.

Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at


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