Protesters and lawyers alike flooded the committee room for the second day of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings on Wednesday, all to watch as President Donald Trump’s choice for the high court faced a grilling from U.S. senators on a smattering of hot-button issues.
As Kavanaugh fielded a volley of questions, from his views on abortion rights to presidential immunity, a who’s-who crowd of Washington, D.C., attorneys filled rows of seats behind him. The sea of familiar faces—some vehemently opposing his nomination and others publicly backing him—underscored the high stakes and partisanship that’s come with Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Lawyers who’ve publicly backed Kavanaugh, including Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network and Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, both sat in the day’s proceedings for the bulk of the day, tweeting their thoughts in real time.
The heads of groups opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination, including Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Kristen Clarke, president of the liberal National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, took seats in the hearing room.
An interesting figure also emerged in Wednesday’s proceedings: John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas and a former associate counsel in the Trump White House counsel’s office, attended much of the Day 2 hearing. The previous day, he took to Twitter to swat down accusations that his wife had made a “white power” hand signal.
His wife, Zina Bash, is a former Kavanaugh clerk who has aided the judge through his nomination process. Ms. Bash also worked at the White House’s Domestic Policy Council.
On Tuesday, a number of left-wing social media accounts picked up the positioning of Ms. Bash’s hands, accusing her of making a white power gesture. The Twitter users, who have large followings, offered no evidence to support their allegations.
“The attacks today on my wife are repulsive,” Mr. Bash, her husband, tweeted on Tuesday. “Everyone tweeting this vicious conspiracy theory should be ashamed of themselves. We weren’t even familiar with the hateful symbol being attributed to her for the random way she rested her hand during a long hearing.”
He noted Ms. Bash’s Mexican and Jewish heritage, and added that her grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust. “We of course have nothing to do with hate groups, which aim to terrorize and demean other people—never have and never would,” Mr. Bash added.
Mr. Bash, approached by a reporter on Wednesday, declined to comment further.
Ms. Bash returned to her seat behind Kavanaugh on Wednesday, seated beside other staffers who have been involved in the Kavanaugh confirmation effort, including White House Counsel Donald McGahn and the Justice Department’s top official on judicial nominations, Beth Williams.
Kavanaugh also gave shoutouts to former female clerks—some of whom were in the room—including Ms. Bash, as well as Porter Wilkinson, an-ex Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher attorney and a former clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts. (Wilkinson is also the daughter of federal judge Harvie Wilkinson, and is married to Jeff Wall, currently the p[rincipal deputy solicitor general.)
On Wednesday, as Kavanaugh answered questions to senators, protesters sporadically popped up from the back of the room, interrupting the exchanges. The nominee continued to avoid acknowledging most of the protests on Wednesday, looking ahead to directly address the senators.
As he made his way through one answer, discussing the intersection of religious freedom and free speech, at least four protesters interrupted him.
“Senator Collins and Senator Ms. Murkowski, please vote no,” shouted one woman, referring to the two moderate Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. “You know he’s going to overturn Roe,” the protester cried as she was removed from the room.
“He is a threat to people with disabilities. … He does not believe people with disabilities have rights,” another woman, who said she has a sister with Down syndrome, shouted.
Capitol police arrested around 70 people on Tuesday, according to reports. Officers removed dozens more individuals from the hearing room on Wednesday.
“Health care is what’s at stake. … Immigrants’ rights is what’s at stake,” yelled one man, before a police officer told him he was being arrested.
The disruptions on Wednesday appeared to irk some senators, both Republican and Democratic. Lawmakers would at times ask for more time in their questioning of Kavanaugh.
“I’m sorry about the circumstances, but we’ll get through it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said to Kavanaugh on Wednesday morning, acknowledging the difficulties of the confirmation hearing as she prepared to question him.
It remains unclear what impact, if any, the protests could have on Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, whose vote is viewed as up for grabs, as she faces a difficult re-election battle in November, said she only occasionally tuned in to Wednesday’s events, though staffers have provided her updates. She declined to weigh in on the day’s proceedings.