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Did Brett Kavanaugh lie to the U.S. Senate?

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The New York Times reported on Friday that Kavanaugh, who is President Trump’s nominee to replace Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, misleadingly downplayed his role in a campaign to put a controversial judge on an appeals court. In 2006, when Kavanaugh himself was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, he told the Senate that Judge Charles W. Pickering “was not one of the judicial nominees” that he was “primarily handling” as part of his work as an attorney for the George W. Bush administration. But documents from the time show that Kavanaugh may have actually played an important role in Pickering’s nomination process:

Among other things, the emails show that Judge Kavanaugh helped work on a binder of documents about the judge, Charles W. Pickering Sr., to give to Senate staff members; drafted a letter to a senator about him; and handled a draft opinion article supporting his confirmation intended for publication under the name of Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel whose staff called him “Judge.”

In 2003, when Bush put Pickering forward as a nominee, controversy centered on the Mississippi judge’s aggressive campaign to get the Justice Department to reduce the sentence of a man “convicted of burning a cross on an interracial couple’s lawn,” The Washington Post reported at the time. Pickering believed the man’s seven-year sentence was too long and too harsh for the crime, and wrote in a sealed order that the man’s “record is devoid of any general attitude of racial animosity.” Bush eventually appointed Pickering when the Senate went on recess.

Kavanaugh’s involvement in the Pickering nomination is only the latest trouble to beset his own nomination. According to a CNN poll released on Thursday, only 37 percent of Americans think the Senate should confirm his nomination, making him the most unpopular Supreme Court nominee since Robert Bork in 1987.