WASHINGTON (CNN) – Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein sent an email Tuesday to the US attorneys’ offices around the country requesting help with reviewing documents in connection with President Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, according to a source familiar with the request.
“As a result of Judge Kavanaugh’s extensive career in public service, DOJ may need to review a large volume of documents,” Rosenstein wrote. “In order to complete the project within the time requested, we may need the equivalent of more than 100 full-time attorneys.”
He requested one to three names from each of the 93 US attorneys’ offices.
The New York Times first reported the email.
The paper trail tied to Kavanaugh, who served in the administration of President George W. Bush as associate counsel and later as staff secretary, has become central to the fight over his nomination in the Senate.
The majority of the assistant US attorneys who participate will not be coming to the main Justice Department headquarters in Washington, but can work remotely reviewing documents before production, the source explained.
Former Justice Department officials told CNN the concept of using career prosecutors to assist on a highly political nomination may seem “odd” at first glance, but the Office of Legal Policy at the Justice Department, which is supervising the project, has always assisted with nominations and is composed of mostly career attorneys. While the individual 93 US attorneys leading each office are political appointees, the vast majority of attorneys who work at the Justice Department across the US are in career positions.
An official of the George W. Bush Library has identified over a million documents concerning Kavanaugh that could potentially be responsive to document requests. “We have also identified approximately 429,870 pages and 667,824 electronic files of potentially responsive records that must be processed,” Shannon Jarrett of the George W. Bush Library and Museum said in a letter last April to Gabe Roth, who has made a request on behalf of his group, Fix the Court.
“Nothing about the review is political — it’s a document production with redactions,” said a Justice official. A second source said this is the reality of a nominee who has more government documents than any other prior nominee, given he has spent his entire career in public service.
“It’s unprecedented,” says the source, who believes the number of documents is particularly large because of emails. “The only way to deal with a potentially unprecedented document request is to ask for extra help,” adding that “this is like any document production. We’d like to do it as soon as possible.” It’s unclear how the document production will affect the timing of a confirmation hearing.
But opponents of Kavanaugh’s nomination disagree.
“This raises concerns about asking law enforcement officials to participate in a political process, but it also underscores just how many documents must be processed and released before a hearing can be scheduled,” said Christopher Kang, the chief counsel of Demand Justice, a group opposed to the Kavanaugh confirmation.
Kang worked on the nominations of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan when he was in the White House Counsel’s Office under President Barack Obama. He said Kagan had about 70,000 pages of emails from the Clinton library, but Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said “the scope of the production of executive branch documents we’ve been asked for is many, many times as large.”