Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Before Supreme Court nod, an intrusive interrogation

By JOSH LEDERMAN, NYT
Feb. 16, 2016 4:59 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — Did you ever buy porn, sniff glue, have sex in junior high? Exactly how many times?

White House lawyers are scouring a life's worth of information about President Barack Obama's potential picks for the Supreme Court, from the mundane to the intensely personal. In trying to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, the president could alter the balance of the court for decades — but only if he can get his nominee through Republicans in the Senate.

Prospective justices are put through the nation's most thorough background check, an invasive process where nothing is off-limits. After all, a surprise dredged up later could scuttle confirmation. So candidates' taxes, writings, childhoods, business dealings, medical histories and, yes, love lives, are all scrutinized for potential red flags.

"The idea that you miss something that later torpedoed the nomination — that's a nightmare," said Jack Quinn, former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton.

Just ask Judge Douglas Ginsburg. Nine days after President Ronald Reagan nominated him for the high court, it was revealed he had smoked marijuana as a law professor at Harvard and he was forced to bow out.

For Obama, who has successfully nominated two justices, the vetting process is even more critical this time as he works to push a nominee through in his final year in office. Already, Republicans are threatening to not even hold a vote. If hearings get mired in a squabble over some late revelation, Republicans could find a fresh rationale for dragging the process out until Obama's term ends in January 2017.

Traditionally, vetting takes weeks if not months, depending on how many candidates are being checked. But Obama is expected to move as quickly as possible to announce his pick.

(More here.)

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