Brett Kavanaugh was announced as President Donald Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by Anthony Kennedy on July 9, 2018.
On July 10, investigative reporter for the New York Times Steve Eder made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request under Maryland’s Public Information Act.
This is what the request entailed:
The New York Times requests to review certain correspondence of Ashley Kavanaugh during her tenure as town manager in Chevy Chase Section 5. Specifically, we request digital copies of any emails to or from Ms. Kavanaugh that contain any of the keywords or terms listed below.
As such, please conduct a search of the email account(s) used by Ms. Kavanaugh for the following:
The time frame of the request is Ms. Kavanaugh’s start date as town manager in 2016 to present.
Three days later (July 13) Associated Press Reporter Michael Kunzelman made a substantially different FOIA request of the same subject matter.
Pursuant to the Act, I am requesting copies of the following public records: all emails sent or received by the following email address since June 16, 2015: email@example.com.
I would like to receive the information in electronic format.
The difference between the requests is telling. Eder has already shown partisan bias against Kavanaugh’s nomination by coauthoring a NYT piece on July 15 that essentially characterized the Judge as a swamp monster. But it’s clear from his FOIA request that this investigative reporter is much more interested in raking up some partisan muck more than objective reporting.
Virtually nothing about his FOIA request could be characterized as not searching out embarrassing partisan information designed to make Kavanaugh look like a “Conservative Warrior” as the title of the July 15th article suggests. In other words, Eder’s request was not objective or investigative.
By contrast the AP’s request was literally for everything, all the emails from the day Trump announced he was running for President to the present. It is understandable that Eder would make a more narrow request since FOIAs are sometimes denied for having too wide a scope thus creating an undue burden upon the government agency fulfilling the request. But this is the NYT! The number of times their FOIAs have been rejected is assuredly small. Especially when considering the AP press felt comfortable issuing a much broader request also casts suspicion upon the practicality of Eder’s focus.
If Eder had made the same request as the AP did he could have electronically searched the documents for those key words anyway. Then he would have had access to all the relevant information not merely a partisan hack of the info he really wanted to write about.
In some sense what is even more disturbing isn’t just the partisan hit job that this research was designed to create but the lack of professionalism. Because this nomination really does matter. Former Justice Kennedy’s decisions disappointed conservatives just as much as liberals on numerous occasions. That’s the nature of being the swing voter on a severely divided court. Replacing him with a genuine principled originalist is a high priority for Trump’s base and could have significant ramifications for 2020.
In other words, Conservatives have just as much reason as Liberals to find out if there is something insidious about Kavanaugh, some hidden conflict of interest or scandalous character defect. While it feels gross that both the NYT and AP went after his wife, her position as Manager of Chevy Chase Section 5 puts her within the scope of Maryland’s information act and so these emails are fair game. But the NYT is still essentially the paper of record in America and it’s important that they truly investigate something like this, not simply try to spin it along our deeply divided partisan lines. This sort of investigative style could accidentally cover up serious problems with Kavanaugh. Especially because this lends credibility to Trump’s ceaseless cries of fake news that will only feed the alt right/Infowars tribal fire.
The American people deserve better from our paper of record, otherwise there’s no reason to think that she will remain the paper of record.
A.C. Gleason is a proud Biola University alum, where he met his wonderful wife. He earned his MA in philosophy of religion from Talbot. He co-hosts and co-produces The AK47 Podcast with fellow Talbot Alum Kyle Hendricks. You can find more of his writings on Medium and ricochet.com . Follow him on Twitter @ac_gleason and his podcast @aaronkyle47. He denies all accusations that Comrade Real Presence is his alter ego, although he hears that guy is awesome.