The mission of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is to provide access to the permanent records of the Federal government, which include Presidential records from NARA’s Presidential Libraries.
President Donald Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court on July 9, 2018. NARA has permanent records related to Judge Kavanaugh, because he served in the White House Counsel’s Office and the White House Office of the Staff Secretary under the Administration of President George W. Bush, and he also served as an Associate Independent Counsel in the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr during the Administration of President William J. Clinton.
Each time a candidate is nominated to the Supreme Court by the President, the staff at the National Archives and Records Administration immediately begin the task of reviewing and releasing records related to that nominee. The process is governed by several laws, including the Presidential Records Act, the Federal Records Act, and the Freedom of Information Act. All of the records, electronic and paper, must be reviewed by archival staff before being released by NARA.
In addition to the challenges of reviewing the records, the archival staff face an enormous number of documents—in Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s case, far more than previous nominees. While National Archives processed and released roughly 70,000 pages on Chief Justice John Roberts and 170,000 pages on Justice Elena Kagan, there are the equivalent of several million pages of paper and email records related to Judge Kavanaugh in the holdings of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and in the National Archives.
This is a challenging task that National Archives staff are currently working to meet. These are not open records under the Presidential Records Act, and the way we’re reviewing and releasing them is governed by the processes specified in the law, including that we must give first priority to records requested by a chairman of a congressional committee. Some records might be withheld or released in redacted form for various reasons: to preserve the secrecy of grand jury proceedings; to protect the personal privacy of living individuals; to protect the identities of confidential sources; and to protect confidential communications within the White House. The PRA representative of former President George W. Bush, who has an independent right of access to Presidential records of his administration, is also engaged in a separate process to review and provide records to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In our efforts towards transparency, we have created a new webpage summarizing the Judge Kavanaugh records. Presidential records are being reviewed by NARA archivists and will be released on NARA’s George W. Bush Presidential Library’s website, along with previously released records. NARA has released the records from the Office of Independent Counsel Starr on the National Archives website. Additionally, correspondence between NARA and the Senate Judiciary Committee related to the overall process can be found in NARA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room. I encourage anyone with a deep interest in how this process works to read these exchanges for the latest and most accurate information.
I remain deeply committed to the efforts of archives in providing transparency as our best hope in combating low public trust in government. Transparency also supports active public engagement with government, and NARA is seeing high levels of engagement and interest in what we do. After all, archives and open government records are one of the pillars of democracy. When I became Archivist of the United States, I took an Oath of Office just as every Federal employee. I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Rule of Law. That is what I have been doing, that is what I am doing, and that is what I will continue to do as long as I am the Archivist of the United States.