Thursday, July 19, 2018

Trump Supreme Court pick: I would 'put the nail' in ruling upholding independent counsel

(CNN) Judge Brett Kavanaugh two years ago expressed his desire to overturn a three-decade-old Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of an independent counsel, a comment bound to get renewed scrutiny in his confirmation proceedings to sit on the high court.

Speaking to a conservative group in 2016, Kavanaugh bluntly said he wanted to "put the final nail" in a 1988 Supreme Court ruling. That decision, known as Morrison v. Olson, upheld the constitutionality of provisions creating an independent counsel under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act -- the same statute under which Ken Starr, for whom Kavanaugh worked, investigated President Bill Clinton. The law expired in 1999, when it was replaced by the more modest Justice Department regulation that governs special counsels like Robert Mueller.

The comments are certain to get new attention amid his confirmation proceedings given that President Donald Trump and his campaign remain under investigation by Mueller -- and alongside the skepticism Kavanaugh previously expressed over whether a sitting president can be indicted.
Whether that means Kavanaugh views Mueller's appointment and investigation itself as unconstitutional is unclear, given the special counsel works directly for the Justice Department under a different set of rules that governed the independent counsel.

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