Jan 30, 2019

Conservatives accuse White House counsel of undermining Trump's judicial agenda

White House counsel Pat Cipollone. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Several key figures within the conservative movement are condemning White House counsel Pat Cipollone following an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, which claims Cipollone is holding up three of President Trump’s judicial nominations for the Ninth Circuit Court because of ongoing negotiations with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

The big picture: The growing criticism on the right is that Cipollone and other White House staff are trying to undermine what they consider one of the president’s greatest achievements — packing the courts with conservatives — to appease liberal Democrats.

  • A GOP consultant texted me: “Negotiating with two senators who led the smear assault on Kavanaugh and Catholic nominees totally messes with the base on one of the most cherished achievements of Trump’s first term ... talk about pulling the rug out from under the base.”
  • Meanwhile, conservatives from radio host Erick Erickson to Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin and the Family Research Council’s Ken Blackwell, among others, have respectively called Cipollone's alleged deal “insane,” “hugely demoralizing” and “a huge mistake.”

Why it matters: Trump loves to boast about appointing a record number of federal judges to the courts, an accomplishment that fires up his base and will be felt long after he's gone. Any slowing of this momentum — especially at the hands of Democrats — could hammer him politically.

Yes, but: Feinstein’s office told Axios that the WSJ editorial is “riddled with errors,” and specifically debunked the claim that Feinstein and Harris are demanding Trump “dump” 40-year-old nominee Patrick Bumatay for political reasons.

  • “In fact, he was never mentioned by the White House before he was nominated and has no judicial experience,” Feinstein’s press secretary Ashley Schapitl told Axios.
  • Schapitl also emailed Axios four letters that Feinstein and Harris sent to the White House (one to the president, one to former White House Counsel Don McGahn and two to Cipollone) about coordinating their efforts to fulfill California judicial vacancies. Two of the letters noted that the senators were looking to reach an agreement “similar to the one that the White House struck with [Illinois] Senators Durbin and Duckworth … in that case each party selected one candidate from the other party’s list for the Circuit to fill two vacancies.”
  • Feinstein also mentioned in an October statement that she had met with McGahn in 2017 to discuss the court’s previous vacancies, but said the White House chose to move forward with certain nominees without consulting her.

The bottom line: Consulting with senators about judicial vacancies in their states is not a new practice, and it's a courtesy that even the Trump administration has previously extended. But given the divisiveness of modern day politics and the politicization of filling the courts, conservatives are increasingly looking at any coordination between the White House and Democrats as politically dangerous.

Update: Trump names judicial nominees to California’s Ninth Circuit Court following pressure from conservatives.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Almost 5.5 million people have tested positive for the virus as of Monday, and more than 2.2 million have recovered. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world (over 1.6 million from 14.6 million tests). The U.K. is reporting over 36,900 deaths from the coronavirus — the most fatalities outside the U.S.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 5,498,849 — Total deaths: 346,306 — Total recoveries — 2,233,180Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,662,768 — Total deaths: 98,223 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

LATAM Airlines files for U.S. chapter 11 bankruptcy

A LATAM air attendant aboard one of the company's planes in March. Photo: Kike Calvo/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

LATAM Airlines Group SA said in a statement early Tuesday the firm and its affiliates in in the United States, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S.

Why it matters: Latam is Latin America's largest airline and its shareholders include Delta Air Lines. CEO Roberto Alvo noted in the statement the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on the airline industry.