With over 120 vacancies to fill on the federal bench, President Donald Trump will reportedly make 10 nominations for federal judgeships on Monday. Trump’s upcoming selections have sounded alarm bells for liberal groups across the nation.
“The Trump administration has made clear its intention to benefit from Republican obstructionism and to pack the federal courts with ultraconservatives given a stamp of approval by The Federalist Society,” said the president of the Alliance for Justice, Nan Aron.
Clearing The Way
What do Preet Bharara, Salley Yates, and James Comey all have in common? They were fired while investigating Donald Trump. Bharara was first to go, despite being told by Trump shortly after the election that he would keep his job.
Bharara’s reputation is that of an aggressive prosecutor in political corruption cases — regardless of the political party of the target. Bharara’s office had many investigations ongoing at the time of his firing, including one involving Fox News. After he was rid of Bharara, Trump turned his attention to Salley Yates.
When Yates refused to implement Trump’s extremely controversial (and unconstitutional) Muslim traveler ban, the White House quickly decried her as a betrayer to her job.
“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a statement.
Interestingly enough, Yates was also involved in a number of ongoing investigations into Donald Trump. A week after Yates was fired, a White House official confirmed Yates warned the Trump administration about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s misleading statements to administration officials about his communications with Russia.
Yates confirmed Monday that she alerted White House officials prior to her firing that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn could be “essentially blackmailed by the Russians.”
Which brings us to this week’s shocking firing of FBI Director James Comey. Days before his firing, Comey reportedly asked the Justice Department for more prosecutors and other personnel to speed up the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Comey was four years into a ten-year term, a term that was established by Congress to insulate the FBI director from undue political pressure. Comey’s dismissal ended his on-again, off-again relationship with Trump.
During the campaign, Trump praised Comey’s decision to investigate Hillary Clinton’s email servers but used that very investigation as justification to can the director.
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Trump told Comey in a letter delivering the news.
A Bipartisan Uproar… Sort Of
Calls to appoint an independent prosecutor for the Russia investigation have been circulating for months. But the ouster of Comey, who insisted on continuing with the investigation despite clear pressure from the Trump administration to drop it, have given those calls some traction.
Republican Senator John McCain said he was “disappointed in the president’s decision,” and that it “bolstered the case for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”
The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard M. Burr agreed with McCain. “I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination,” Burr said.
“Director Comey has been more forthcoming with information than any FBI Director I can recall in my tenure on the congressional intel committees. His dismissal, I believe, is a loss for the Bureau and the nation,” he added.
How Does This Effect The Federal Court?
With his political frenemies out of the way, Trump is free to stack the federal bench with carefully vetted conservative favorites. Trump is sure to try to proclaim these nominations as a win in an effort to deflect attention away from this disastrous week.
The White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, said the nominations will show Trump’s “strong commitment to appoint strong and principled jurists to the federal bench who will enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power, and protect the liberty of all Americans.”
Trump will surely embrace his ability to steer the federal courts to the right, and his list of nominees confirms that.
Campaign Promises Turn Into Federal Judges
The White House has said Trump will pick from the 21 jurists from the list Trump touted during the campaign as proof of his conservative leanings. This list was carefully curated with the help of the far-right conservative Heritage Foundation and the aforementioned Federalist Society.
Trump’s first high court nominee, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, replaced conservative Antonin Scalia, who passed away in February 2016. According to The Times, Trump’s first batch of nominees include two state supreme court judges who were — surprise! — also on the Heritage/Federalist Society list.
What’s The Significance?
And The Nominees Are…
Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana will be nominated to serve on the 7th Circuit. Kevin Newsom of Alabama will be nominated as a circuit judge on the 11th Circuit.
Nominated for federal court positions are David Nye of Idaho, Scott L. Palk of Oklahoma and Damien M. Schiff of California.
The president will also nominate two people for federal judgeships: Dabney L. Friedrich of Washington, D.C., and Terry F. Moorer of Alabama.
While appeals courts tend to not make headlines as much as the Supreme Court does, their role in judging many of the orders and laws put forth by the administration is significant. It was the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who rejected Trump’s immigration ban, ultimately leading to the ban being placed on hold.
It was the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who rejected Trump’s immigration ban, ultimately leading to the ban being placed on hold and Yates being fired from her position as acting Deputy Attorney General of the United States.
Gearing Up For A Fight
But the left isn’t going down without a fight. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York released a statement blasting Trump’s picks:
“With this first slate of lower court nominees, it seems that the President is intent on continuing to outsource the judicial selection process to the hard right, special interest groups rather than consulting with Senators on a bipartisan basis,” Schumer said.
“The president should work with members of both parties to pick judges from within the judicial mainstream, who will interpret the law rather than make it,” he added.
Let’s hope the Democrats were taking notes during all those years of Obama-obstructing because they could really come in handy now that we’re in this Red State Disaster!
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James Kosur is the former Editor-In-Chief and co-founder of Hill Reporter. He recently served as an editor for Business Insider and various other publications. James and his partners sold Hill Reporter to a new owner in July 2019.