It turns out Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is already more of an unraveling mess than we could have imagined. Yesterday we learned that Kavanaugh lied under oath to the Senate in 2006. Today it’s been revealed that Kavanaugh was carrying as much as $200,000 in personal debt in 2016, which all but disappeared in 2017. He’s offering a plausible explanation for how he got so far into debt and how he got out of it so quickly. However, it’s not yet clear whether his excuse will hold up, and it points to even bigger problems for his prospects of being confirmed.
Trump’s White House revealed today that Brett Kavanaugh had between $60,000 and $200,000 in credit card debt and personal loans in 2016. This is astounding. Public officials who are deeply in debt are considered ripe targets for bribery or blackmail. No federal judge should ever be in a position like this. Even more astoundingly, it only took Kavanaugh a year to magically reduce his personal debt to such a low number that it fell below the federal minimum for disclosure.
The White House is claiming that Kavanaugh racked up much of the debt by purchasing baseball season tickets for several of his friends, who then reimbursed him the next year. Senate Democrats will pounce on this and investigate it to determine whether Kavanaugh was simply making the kinds of irresponsible financial moves for his friends that no sitting federal judge should ever even consider doing, or if the baseball tickets are just a cover story for something much darker.
Either way, this is yet another blow to the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. Senate Republicans don’t care that Donald Trump had an unethical back room deal with retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, or that it’s inappropriate for Trump to pick one of the judges who will decide whether he can pardon himself on his way to prison. But Senate Republicans do care about having to marry themselves to a nominee who commits perjury and then racks up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt before making it magically disappear. If even two GOP Senators lose their nerve, this nomination is sunk.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report