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Top moments at the first chaotic day of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings

Protests on and off the dais marked a tumultuous start to proceedings as senators began considering President Trump's latest nominee to the high court.
Image: Kavanaugh arrives to testify before his Senate confirmation hearing
Brett Kavanaugh faced a chaotic scene Tuesday as hearings began.Tasos Katopodis / EPA

Chaos hit Capitol Hill Tuesday as senators began considering the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, with pushback and interruptions repeatedly derailing the proceedings.

Democrats spent much of the hearing frustrated about what they called a lack of transparency around the nomination, accusing the White House of over-classifying documents to keep them out of the public light and expressing frustration about the last-minute release on Monday night of tens of thousands of additional documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House.

Republicans defended the process, arguing that Democratic complaints amounted to playing politics and that Kavanaugh's judicial record was far more important than the shielded White House documents.

Senators and the nominee weren't the only ones making themselves heard in the hearing room, as around two dozen protesters who tried to weigh in as the panel met were arrested by Capitol police.

Here are some of the most memorable moments from the day-long hearing:

Hearing starts with immediate interruptions

The fireworks began just moments after Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called the hearing to order, kicking off a flurry of Democratic objections.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., immediately interrupted Grassley to criticize the last-minute document release, which turned into a snowballing of other Democratic objections. "The committee just received just last night less than 15 hours ago 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to review or read or analyze," she said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., repeatedly called for the panel to adjourn the hearing to give senators time to read those new documents, as he and his fellow Democrats cast the process as rushed and illegitimate. Grassley dismissed the calls as Democratic objections delayed opening statements for more than an hour, at one point asking in frustration just how long they planned to keep raising complaints.

Flood of protesters escorted out of hearing room

Protesters remained a constant fixture of the hearing throughout the day, with Capitol Police repeatedly kicking out people who stood up and began shouting. By 10:19 a.m., 22 people had already been arrested, with more escorted out throughout the day.

Leahy: 'What are we trying to hide?'

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the former chairman of the committee, accused Republicans of holding the hearing with what he sees as flimsy documentation.

"The integrity of the documents we have received — there really is no integrity. They have alterations, they have auditees, attachments are missing, emails are cut off half way through, recipients names are missing," Leahy said. "What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?"

Tillis hammers Democrats over report on hearing strategy

More than half an hour into the Democratic dissent, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., began to question their motives, pointing to NBC reporting about the party's coordinated strategy. Reading a tweet from NBC News's Kasie Hunt aloud on the floor, Tillis suggested that Democrats were protesting not because of the late release of the documents, but for political gain.

"I'm confused because I heard earlier this was a reaction to the document releases last night," Tillis said.

"I want to be clear, no members participated in the strategy before the documents were released yesterday? Are you suggesting this allegation is false?"

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., confirmed the reporting but argued that their frustration stems from the secrecy surrounding many documents related to Kavanaugh's time in the White House.

Cornyn: The hearing has devolved into 'mob rule'

Soon after, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, described the repeated Democratic objections and protester interruptions as a descent into "mob rule."

He raised frustration with Democratic senators who had already announced they wouldn't support Kavanaugh before Tuesday's hearing, questioning whether he should entertain their concerns. If the hearing were a court of law, he said, Democrats "would be held in contempt."

"I haven't been in as many confirmation hearings as some of my colleagues, but this is the first confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court Justice nominee I've seen courting the mob rule," Cornyn said.

"It is hard to take seriously their claim that, somehow, they can't do their job because they've been denied access to attorney-client or executive privilege documents, when they've already made up their mind before the hearing."

Feinstein raises Democratic concerns on abortion

Democrats have fretted that Kavanaugh would weaken the landmark Roe v. Wade law that established a legal right to an abortion.

While Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has previously said Kavanaugh told her Roe v. Wade is "settled law," Democrats say they still fear he could weaken abortion rights from the bench.

"The president that nominated you has said: 'I will nominate someone who is anti-choice and pro-gun,'" said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

"We cannot find the documents that absolve from that conclusion, so what women have won through Roe and a host of privacy cases — to be able to control their own reproductive systems, to have basic privacy rights — [is] really extraordinarily important to this side of the aisle."

Hatch decries Democrats looking for 'moment in the spotlight'

Fighting to get his words in as hecklers attempted to shout over him, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, lamented that outside groups are "putting pressure on my Democratic colleagues to make this hearing about politics." And he questioned the motivations of Democrats challenging committee leadership.

"We have folks who want to run for president, who want their moment in the spotlight, who want that coveted TV clip," he said.

"Judge Kavanaugh is unquestionably qualified," he added. "Anyone who wants to argue otherwise wants to banish half the country from the mainstream."

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris are among those viewed as potential White House contenders in 2020.

Durbin challenges Kavanaugh to side with Democrats on delay

Just before noon, Durbin made a direct appeal to Kavanaugh to join Democratic calls for a delay, arguing that his words would help legitimize the process.

"There are many people are watching carefully. I'm going to make a suggestion to you today and it won't be popular on the other side of the aisle," he said.

"If you believe your public record is one you can stand behind and defend, I hope at the end of this, you will ask this committee to suspend until we are given all the documents, until we have the time to review them and then we resume this hearing."

Cruz: Democrats trying to 'relitigate' the 2016 election at hearing

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz framed the Democratic laments over Kavanaugh as playing politics.

"It's not about documents, it's not about qualifications, it's not about record. What it is about is politics — it is about Democratic senators trying to relitigate the 2016 election and, just as importantly, working to begin litigating the 2020 election," he said.

"But we had an opportunity for the American people to speak, they did, they voted in 2016 and they wanted judges and justices who will be faithful to the Constitution."

Parkland victim's father's attempt to shake Kavanaugh's hand rebutted

A father of a teenage girl killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. earlier this year unsuccessfully attempted to shake Kavanaugh's hand during a break in the hearing, with the nominee walking away from him.

White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, who is one of the administration's point-people on the nomination, tweeted shortly after that security had "intervened" because it didn't know who the man was approaching the judge.

Booker: Does Trump want Kavanaugh to bail him out of trouble?

The New Jersey senator highlighted another major Democratic line of attack on Kavanaugh: that President Donald Trump could soon be looking to his nominee for a legal lifeline, with the judge added to the list of potential high court nominees "after the president was in jeopardy."

"The president pulled the one person from all of that list that was added late, that would give him in a sense the ability to pick a judge that has already spoken vastly about a president's ability to dismiss or end an investigation," Booker added.