Nov 14, 2019

Senate confirms controversial Trump nominee Steven Menashi to appeals court

Steven Menashi. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Senate on Thursday voted 51-41 to confirm Steven Menashi, President Trump's nominee for a federal appeals court, despite bipartisan criticism over his record and refusal to answer questions about his tenure with the Trump administration, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: While serving as acting general counsel under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Menashi helped craft a plan to use private Social Security earnings data to deny debt relief to people who had been scammed by for-profit colleges, according to reporting by the New York Times.

  • A federal judge ruled that the plan violated privacy laws and ordered the practice to be halted.

Senators also grilled Menashi on his controversial past writings, including a 2010 article in which he invoked "ethnonationalism" as a defense for Israel's existence as a "Jewish state" and another that accused gay rights activists of exploiting the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay student who was tortured and killed in 1998, to further their agenda.

What they're saying: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Menashi "showed a breathtaking contempt for senators on both sides of the aisle,” per the Post.

  • "You're really a smart guy but I wish you would be more forthcoming. This isn't supposed to be a game," said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) during a September hearing, per The Hill. "We're supposed to try to understand not how you're going to rule but how you're going to think."
  • "In no way does Menashi deserve this lifetime appointment," wrote Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Twitter. "I implore my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to listen to the red flags raised by communities and advocates across the country, do the right thing, and vote against this toxic nomination."
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, called Menashi an "impressive" nominee who earned an endorsement by the Senate Judiciary Committee "on the basis of strong academic and legal qualifications," per the Post.

Go deeper: Trump nominee Steven Menashi aided in illegal debt relief effort

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Lindsey Graham wants to "deep-six" Trump’s impeachment trial

House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler opens the markup of the articles of impeachment yesterday. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Axios: "I'm not in the camp of calling a bunch of witnesses [in President Trump's impeachment trial]. ... I think as an American, the best thing we do is deep-six this thing."

The big picture: Many Senate Republicans told Axios that they trust Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's judgment on whether to accelerate the vote to acquit the president.

Go deeperArrowDec 12, 2019

Lindsey Graham says he won't call Adam Schiff as witness in Senate trial

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is gearing up for a likely impeachment trial in the Senate, but said on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" that he does not plan to call House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) as a witness.

Why it matters: Schiff has been under consistent fire from Republicans throughout the impeachment inquiry, especially in the wake of revelations that his staff met with the whistleblower prior to them filing an official complaint. Schiff has also drawn ire for releasing phone records in the House Intelligence Committee's Ukraine report that showed contacts between ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Rudy Giuliani.

Go deeperArrowDec 8, 2019

Senators' year-end push on privacy

After months of talks on bipartisan legislation, Senate Commerce Committee leaders have unveiled dueling privacy bills ahead of a hearing this week. But insiders believe the process might still yield a compromise both parties can embrace.

What they're saying: "Now there’s actually opportunity for serious negotiations between the different positions," said Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, which did a comparison of the two bills. "These bills have more in common than they have dividing them."

Go deeperArrowDec 3, 2019