Bullet Dodged: Trump Rejected Shoddy Feinstein-Harris Deal On Federal Judges

|
|
Posted: Jan 31, 2019 6:05 AM
Bullet Dodged: Trump Rejected Shoddy Feinstein-Harris Deal On Federal Judges

There was a lot of rancor over this alleged deal on judges. If it went through, it would’ve been seen as another loss for the Trump White House. The judiciary is one of the few areas where Trump could leave a lasting impact without House Democrats clogging up the works. Yesterday, there was a fear that Trump was mulling a deal with some Senate Democrats, specifically Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, to moderate his judicial appointments list. We’re talking the Ninth Circuit here, one of the most liberal in the country. The Wall Street Journal editorial board fired of flares about this alleged deal, and how it was straight trash:

President Trump’s best achievement has arguably been judicial selection. From the Supreme Court to the appellate circuits to district-court nominees, he is remaking the federal courts. So more than a few eyes widened this month when the White House omitted three names from the list of 50 judges Mr. Trump sent back up to the Senate. What intrigue gives?

The three missing names were Californians nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year. Two other Ninth Circuit nominees, Eric Miller of Washington and Bridget Bade of Arizona, were renominated. But Daniel Collins, Kenneth Lee and Patrick Bumatay were withheld because we’re told the White House is negotiating with California Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

Ms. Feinstein and the White House counsel’s office have been pen pals on this for some time. In a November letter to new White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Ms. Feinstein and Ms. Harris requested “that the White House work with us to reach an agreement on a consensus package of nominees.” The Democrats want to pick one name from the White House list, one from their own, and a third consensus nominee.

[…]

A concession to them now on nominees would rightly be seen as political weakness. It would concede influence that neither Senator has earned and set a precedent for other Democrats who would demand similar consideration. The result would be nominees who aren’t nearly as qualified, or as originalist in their thinking, as Mr. Trump’s nominees have been.

And the conservative blogosphere soon responded, while teetering on panic mode (via NRO):

This begs the question: why in the world would the White House agree to such a deal?

There are currently six vacancies on the Ninth Circuit (three in California, one in Oregon, one in Washington state, and one in Arizona).  Confirming judges to these six seats would bring the balance of active judges to 13-Republican-appointed and 16-Democrat-appointed—within just two seats of a flip.  This, on the “Ninth Circus”—the most notoriously-liberal appellate court in the land.

Reports are that the California senators are particularly focused on dropping Bumatay from the deal. Bumatay, 40, is a federal prosecutor from San Diego, presently on detail to Main Justice.  Bumatay, a Filipino, would be the first openly-gay judge to serve on the Ninth Circuit.

Of course, it makes perfect sense that Feinstein and Harris would want to ditch Bumatay: the last thing they want is an originalist minority on the bench.

[…]

…letting Senators Feinstein and Harris get away with dropping Bumatay from the deal would deprive the country of a highly-qualified jurist with impeccable credentials. Bumatay is a Yale College and Harvard Law School graduate.  He clerked for the distinguished Tim Tymkovich of the Tenth Circuit, and he has had an impressive career serving as a federal prosecutor and as counselor to senior Department of Justice leaders in the George W. Bush and Trump administrations.  His prosecutorial background would bring sorely needed balance to a circuit known for liberal abuses and lawless decision-making.

Well, fear not, folks. President Trump nominated or re-nominated his own picks for the Ninth Circuit last night (via Washington Times):

President Trump announced a new slate of judicial picks from California, moving Wednesday to head off a brewing conservative rebellion over reports the White House was considering striking a deal with Democratic senators to water down his list.

The new list includes three nominees for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the liberal-leaning court that oversees the West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii, and which has been a frequent target of Mr. Trump’s ire. The president also named four picks for district judgeships in California.

The announcement came after conservatives said they feared the president was working on a deal with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala D. Harris, California’s two Democrats, to submit a consensus list that wouldn’t dramatically shift the court’s ideological balance.

Mr. Trump’s list should put those fears to rest.

Two of the appeals court nominees — Daniel P. Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee — were names he’d submitted last year, while a third, Daniel A. Bress, is considered a rising star.

And who can we thank for this temporary logjam in moving forward on judicial nominees? That would be ex-Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who insisted on blocking Trump judicial nominations until a binding protect Robert Mueller (i.e. Russia probe) bill was put up for a vote on the Senate floor. It’s a bill whose constitutionality is questionable, and it’s something that President Trump would have never signed. It was a fool’s errand. It's the last tantrum from a man who’d rather go down being a thorn in the side of his party—and Flake was very much that in the end. We can beat up on Flake later, however. The Senate should move as quickly as possible to get the nominees Flake blocked through the confirmation process.