Justice Dept. to Honor Team That Worked on Kavanaugh Confirmation Process

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will present one of its most prestigious awards to the lawyers who worked on the highly contentious Supreme Court nomination process of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Next month, Attorney General William P. Barr will present the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service to those who worked “to support the nomination” of the judge, according to an email reviewed by The New York Times.

Mr. Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh in July 2018 to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who was retiring. Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed to the court last October.

That team being awarded includes prosecutors and lawyers from the department’s tax division, the environment and natural resources division, the civil appellate section and several United States attorneys offices.

Lawyers who worked in the office of legal policy, which carries out significant policy initiatives, and in the federal programs branch, which defends the administration in court, were also part of the team.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Typically, the distinguished service honor, the department’s second highest, is given to employees who worked on significant prosecutions, rather than on judicial nomination processes. In addition to the award to the Kavanaugh nomination team, 10 other distinguished service honors will be presented this year. Those recipients include the prosecutors who worked to end a bid-rigging conspiracy against the Defense Department.

In July 2018, Rod J. Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general, asked federal prosecutors to help review the many government documents involved in Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination process.

After many years of public service — including work for the independent counsel’s investigation of President Bill Clinton and on the 2000 Florida recount — Justice Kavanaugh had generated a lengthy paper trail that lawyers needed to comb through.

Mr. Rosenstein estimated that he would need about 100 lawyers working around the clock to review all of the documents. His broad request for volunteers from United States attorneys offices was seen by some former officials as a reflection of the huge amount of work required by Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination; others saw it as an unusual insertion of politics into federal law enforcement.

Lawyers in the department’s office of legal policy in Washington had helped with previous Supreme Court nominations.

Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination was imperiled after a California university professor, Christine Blasey Ford, testified before Congress that he had sexually assaulted her while they were teenagers.

In his own testimony before lawmakers, Justice Kavanaugh sometimes shouted and teared up as he accused Democrats of persecuting him. His nomination became a touchstone battle in a country in the middle of its own reckoning with sexual harassment and assault, often referred to as the #MeToo movement.

Last year, the award was given to the prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Washington and to the F.B.I. agents who investigated and prosecuted Ahmed Abu Khattala, a Libyan militia leader who played a key role in the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Four Americans died in the attacks, including the American ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens.

At the annual awards ceremony, Mr. Barr will also present the Justice Department’s highest honor, the David Margolis Award for Exceptional Service, to the team of prosecutors and agents who successfully convicted Joaquín Guzmán Loera, a Mexican crime lord better known as El Chapo, on drug, murder and money laundering charges. Mr. Guzmán, 62, was sentenced in July to life in prison.

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