Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Senator challenges judge over detainee rules

Senator challenges judge over detainee rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A White House lawyer turned U.S. judge was asked on Tuesday to explain apparent discrepancies between reports he played a role in talks about setting rules for the treatment of enemy combatants and his congressional testimony he was not involved.

In a letter to Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois also asked that the judge recuse himself from cases involving those detainees.

"By testifying under oath that you were not involved in this issue, it appears that you misled me, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the nation," Durbin wrote Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by the Senate last year on a vote of 57-36 for a seat on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Kavanaugh was nominated to the court by President George W. Bush after serving as a White House lawyer.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Kavanaugh was involved in a heated 2002 White House meeting about whether U.S. citizens declared enemy combatants should be given access to lawyers. Durbin said National Public Radio confirmed the information on Tuesday.

A court spokesman for Kavanaugh said in a statement, "Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation testimony was accurate, and Judge Kavanaugh will continue to carefully address recusal issues based on the law and the facts of each case."

At Kavanaugh's May 2006 confirmation hearing, Durbin questioned him about William Haynes, a former general counsel at the Defense Department, who was nominated by Bush to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"I asked: 'What did you know about Mr. Haynes's role in crafting the administration's detention and interrogation policies?'" Durbin wrote.

"You testified: 'Senator, I did not - I was not involved and am not involved in the questions about the rules governing detention of combatants - and so I do not have the involvement with that,'" Durbin quoted him as testifying.

Durbin said in his letter to Kavanaugh that in light of the media reports, "your sworn testimony appears inaccurate and misleading."

He asked Kavanaugh to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with "an explanation for this apparent contradiction."