The nation's official government record-keeper told senators Friday that President Barack Obama won't try to block the release of documents from Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's work in the Clinton White House.
The staff of the National Archives and Records Administration has begun combing through tens of millions of papers and e-mails at Bill Clinton's presidential library in Little Rock to find the relevant files, and plans to start turning them over to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 4, according to Archivist David S. Ferriero.
In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the committee's chairman, and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, its top Republican, Ferriero said Obama doesn't plan to assert executive privilege over the files.
Leahy and Sessions wrote to the Clinton library Tuesday asking for documents from Kagan's years as a White House counsel and domestic policy adviser to Bill Clinton.
The next day, Leahy announced that Kagan's confirmation hearings would begin June 28, which some Republicans said was too soon given how long it could take to gain access to the Clinton-era files.
"As you know, the volume of records responsive to this request is significant," Ferriero wrote to Leahy and Sessions. "Nevertheless, the National Archives is fully committed to responding to your request as quickly as possible to meet your June 28 hearing date."
Kagan, Obama's choice to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens, has never been a judge and has only litigated a handful of cases. So there's little in her record that sheds light on her legal views and approach.
Republicans and Democrats believe notes, memos, e-mails and other material from Kagan's tenure at the White House could provide insight into her opinions, including where she stands on hot-button issues that could come before the court.
Ferriero said his staff has identified boxes of Kagan's files, e-mail she sent and received, and documents and correspondence that refers to her.
Leahy called the search "exhaustive and thorough," and said it appears to be "more comprehensive" than the one the Archives undertook in 2005 to unearth records requested by Democrats related to Chief Justice John Roberts' nomination.
One memo Kagan wrote in 1997 has already emerged and become fodder for critics on the right and left. In it, Kagan urged Clinton to back a ban on late-term abortions, an attempt at a compromise designed to head off passage of a more restrictive bill.
Advocates of abortion rights opposed the compromise because it would have limited a woman's ability to terminate a pregnancy. Abortion rights foes also blasted the proposal as an attempt to gut stronger restrictions.
In one-on-one meetings on Capitol Hill, Kagan has told senators she considers abortion rights to be settled law — a stock response among judicial nominees of all political stripes.
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