SENATE CONFIRMATION | Condoleezza Rice says Kavanaugh 'listens'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is praising Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, saying he "listens, especially to those with whom he disagrees."

Rice made the statement today in introducing Kavanaugh during the first day of his Senate confirmation hearings. Both Rice and Kavanaugh worked for President George W. Bush.

Rice describes Kavanaugh as "really, really smart" and "hardworking." She says he "makes those around him better."

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and liberal lawyer Lisa Blatt are also making introductory remarks before Kavanaugh gives an opening statement. Lawmakers will begin questioning Kavanaugh on Wednesday.

Rice served as secretary of state from 2005 to 2009.

1:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Quarreling and confusion disrupted the start of the Senate’s confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh today, with Democrats trying to block the proceedings over documents withheld by the White House while protesters interrupted the session in a persistent display of opposition.

In his opening remarks released ahead of delivery, Kavanaugh sought to tamp down the controversy over his nomination, which would likely shift the closely divided court to the right. He promised to be a “team player” if confirmed, declaring that he would be a “pro-law judge” who would not decide cases based on his personal views.

But Democrats raised objections from the moment Chairman Chuck Grassley gaveled the committee to order. They want to review 100,000 documents about Kavanaugh’s record being withheld by the White House as well as some 42,000 documents released to the committee on a confidential basis on the eve of the hearing, along with others not sought by Republicans on the committee. For more than an hour senators sparred while protesters repeatedly shouted at them.

“We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee,” said Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., made several motions to adjourn, saying if the confirmation continued, “this process will be tainted and stained forever.”

Grassley denied multiple requests to postpone, defending the document production as the most open in history. He said the chaotic scene was something he’d “never gone through” in 15 past confirmation hearings.

More than two dozen protesters, shouting one by one, disrupted the hearing at several points and were removed by police. “This is a mockery and a travesty of justice,” shouted one woman. “Cancel Brett Kavanaugh!” Others shouted against the president or to protect abortion access. “Senators, we need to stop this,” called out one.

Struggling to speak over protesters, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said: “These people are so out of line they shouldn’t be in the doggone room.” As patience thinned and tempers flared, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, denounced what he called the “mob rule.”

As for the documents, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., quipped that senators would have had to read 7,000 pages an hour overnight just to review those dropped Monday evening.

The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, sought to provide context for the frustration coming from her side of the aisle.

“These are very unique circumstances. Not only is the country deeply divided politically, we also find ourselves with a president who faces his own serious problems,” she said referring to the investigations of top administration officials. “So it’s this backdrop that this nominee comes into.”

With majority Republicans appearing united, it’s doubtful the hearings will affect the eventual confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominee. But they will likely become a rallying cry for both parties just two months before the midterm elections. The White House sent out a summary of how many times Democratic senators tried to halt the session with motions and questions, while Republican campaign officials denounced Democrats as “grandstanding” and “pandering” to the “resistance base” of voters.

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