Colleen Shogan, President Biden’s nominee to head the National Archives, portrayed herself as nonpartisan during her confirmation hearing on Wednesday as she faced questioning from GOP senators about her past writings and tensions between the agency and former President Trump.
“The archivist serves in the capacity in a nonpartisan, apolitical capacity, and I vow, if I am confirmed as archivist, to serve in that fashion,” Shogan told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The Archives has come into the spotlight in recent months as controversy grows over Trump’s handling of his presidential records, leading some GOP senators to sound alarm bells over what is typically an uneventful confirmation process.
After receiving 15 boxes of documents from the former president, the Archives referred Trump’s handling of classified records to the Justice Department earlier this year, eventually leading the FBI to execute a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in August.
“I have not been briefed on any of the details of what has happened, so I have no information about those decisions or the sequence of events,” Shogan told Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) when asked about the controversy.
Shogan previously served as an associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University. She has also worked at the Library of Congress and the White House Historical Association.
Multiple lawmakers, namely Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), raised concerns about an article Shogan wrote while working at George Mason in 2007, titled “Anti-Intellectualism in the Modern Presidency: A Republican Populism.”
Portman and Hawley questioned Shogan as to how she could consider herself nonpartisan given her analysis of past Republican presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.
“You wrote an article saying basically that Republican voters are stupid, that Republican presidents deliberately appeal to anti-intellectualism,” Hawley said. “You roll it all up in this thing called Republican populism, yet you’re trying to present yourself here as a nonpartisan. In fact, you’re an extreme partisan, and your record shows that.”
Shogan repeatedly voiced disagreement with the insinuation of partisanship, stressing she wrote the article as an academic and that it was published more than 15 years ago.
“Absolutely not,” Shogan responded. “The point of the article is that the presidents that I featured in it have a rhetorical connection with the American people.”
Hawley appeared skeptical of her claims, reiterating his belief that the investigation into Trump’s handling of records is politically motivated.
“We are living through the weaponization, the political weaponization of the National Archives,” the Missouri Republican said, also attacking the Justice Department.
Not all GOP senators, however, appeared concerned about Shogan’s nomination.
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who described herself as a friend of Shogan, introduced her during the hearing, calling it a “real pleasure” and touting her qualifications to carry on the agency’s long-standing mission.
“I believe her to be a person who will honor that past … while leading that institution into the future,” Capito said.