Even as Donald Trump faces almost certain impeachment, he continues to send far-right, unqualified judicial nominees to the Senate, and Mitch McConnell continues to fast-track them.
Take Steven Menashi, a White House legal aide (and former counsel to Betsy DeVos) who’s now up for a lifetime seat on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Despite his well-known extremist views on race, gender equality, and gay rights, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to move forward with a confirmation vote. Menashi will likely soon be involved in deciding crucial cases in New York—some concerning none other than Trump.
So far, 158 federal judges have been approved during this presidency. On Wednesday, the White House crowed in a press briefing that this represented “a historic transformation of the judiciary.” It also noted that “President Trump [is] on pace to have more judges confirmed this year than in 2017 and 2018 combined.” A crook is stacking the courts. That’s the Signal this week.
“President Trump’s historic appointments have already tipped the balance of numerous Federal courts to a Republican appointed majority,” the briefing boasts. “This includes flipping the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit from a Democrat-appointed majority to a Republican-appointed majority. Numerous other Federal courts have been tilted from an even split to a Republican-appointed majority. The Second and Eleventh Circuits are likely to flip by the end of this year. Progress has been made in reshaping courts that have long been dominated by Democrat-appointed majorities, like the Ninth Circuit.”
And the kicker: “Judges appointed by President Trump are expected to give the Nation more than 2,600 years of combined judicial service. The average age of circuit judges appointed by President Trump is less than 50 years old—a full 10 years younger than the average age of President Obama’s circuit nominees.”
The GOP Senate is willing to tie itself into knots to defend Trump against impeachment because it’s playing for keeps: aiming to transform the courts and, by extension, American society and its values for generations.
Trump’s judges will be ruling on an array of issues vital to the survival of American democracy, not least of these being voting rights. A couple recent examples: Earlier this year, Tennessee—a state with one of the country’s lowest voter registration rates—passed a law imposing criminal and civil penalties on voter registration groups that hand in incomplete forms or miss deadlines for submitting paperwork. (In September, a federal court blocked the law from being implemented after the ACLU and other groups sued; they argue that the law aims to scare groups off from registering low-income voters.)
Meanwhile, in Texas, the ACLU and Texas Civil Rights Project are awaiting a decision regarding their request for a new trial in the Crystal Mason case. Mason, an African American woman, was sentenced to five years in prison for trying to vote in the 2016 election while on supervised release after serving time for a felony. She didn’t know she wasn’t allowed to vote.
These are the sorts of cases Trump’s judges will be ruling on. It’s a terrifying prospect. But it’s also a wake-up call: The courts won’t save American democracy—only massive progressive political mobilizations could do that.
And the Noise? GOP senators vying to each be coarser than the next: Lindsey Graham calling Adam Schiff “full of crap”; John Kennedy of Florida saying of Nancy Pelosi, “It must really suck to be that dumb.” Filter that out. Keep focused on the Signal.