DOJ RELEASES 144,000 PAGES OF GORSUCH DOCUMENTS: “The Wednesday night release of the more than 144,000 pages of documents — pursuant to a February 21 request from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking member Dianne Feinstein — comes less than two weeks before Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing and could shed light on his work during his relatively brief tenure serving in the George W. Bush administration,” reported CNN. While the majority of the documents will be made available to the public, 3,100 pages “will be made available only to selected committee staff members because they are protected under ‘constitutional or common law privileges’ and DOJ has ‘certain confidentiality interests’ in them,” according to Politico.
PUBLIC PUSHBACK AGAINST GORSUCH NOMINATION FOR SCOTUS: “The GOP-controlled Senate is setting the stage for a full vote on the Supreme Court nominee before April’s two-week recess,” according to Politico. Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said she sees energy among protesters rising as “people are flooding town halls and running for office at unprecedented rates” and asserted that “they want elected officials to do their job, and part of that job is digging really hard at the hearings into his record.”
“This is the real fight. This is the most important fight,” said Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, in an interview with C-SPAN’s Newsmakers. “Neil Gorsuch is not the right judge for this seat, given his record.”
Marge Baker, executive vice president of People for the American Way, wrote in a letter to the editor of The New York Times that Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch “should rank high on any list of ways that Mr. Trump has betrayed his promises to make America better…Far from a mainstream nomination, we must see Judge Gorsuch for what he represents: an extreme, dangerous assault on the well-being of working people.”
Meanwhile, calls have begun for Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing to be postponed. “Because they cannot be checked by the voters, the justices’ sole claim to legitimacy is the constitutionally mandated process that puts each of them on the court. That process, the Constitution explicitly tells us, is that the president nominates while the Senate advises and consents. In this instance, both steps have been deeply compromised…The only acceptable answer at this point is to hold off on the Gorsuch hearings until we can be sure that this president, and this nomination, are on the up and up,” according to Slate.
SCOTUS WON’T HEAR GRIMM CASE: “In a one-sentence order, the Supreme Court vacated an appeals court decision in favor of a Virginia transgender boy, Gavin Grimm, and sent the case back for further consideration in light of the new guidance from the administration,” reported The New York Times.
ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS WITH RUSSIAN LEADERSHIP: Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the United States during the 2016 campaign – a fact he omitted during his hearing to become attorney general, The Washington Post reported. One of the meetings occurred in September “at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”
Democrats and Republicans alike are calling for Sessions to recuse himself from investigations into Russia’s involvement with the presidential election, according to The Washington Post. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz tweeted that “AG Sessions should clarify his testimony and recuse himself.” Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted, “We need a special prosecutor totally independent of the AG. We need a real, bipartisan, transparent Congressional investigation into Russia.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, “If there is something there and it goes up the chain of investigation, it is clear to me that Jeff Sessions, who is my dear friend, cannot make that decision about Trump.”
Top Democrats have also called for Sessions’ resignation, reported CNN Politics. “After lying under oath to Congress about his own communications with the Russians, the Attorney General must resign,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi asserted.” Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted that “we need Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who should have never been confirmed in the first place – to resign. We need it now.”
SCHUMER: JEFF SESSIONS MUST RECUSE HIMSELF: Attorney General Jeff Sessions must recuse himself from the investigation into Michael Flynn’s contact with Russians, asserted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “Sessions’s recusal is required by the Justice Department’s own rules and regulations,” said Schumer in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “Most important, Sessions’s recusal from this matter is important not only to comply with the law but also to ensure that the public can have faith that the investigation is being conducted in a thorough and impartial way.”
OPINION: GORSUCH IS A DANGER TO LGBT+ RIGHTS: Harper Jean Tobin, the Director of Policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality expressed concern over Gorsuch’s record on LGBT+ rights in a letter to the editor of The New York Times that Gorsuch’s “’religious liberty’ opinions are truly sweeping”, citing cases where he ruled against LGBT+ people. She concluded that “the signs are simply too strong that Judge Gorsuch’s America is one in which L.G.B.T. people can be refused service at restaurants, hotels and doctors’ offices, and employers could hang an ‘L.G.B.T. Need Not Apply’ sign.”
DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION TO GORSUCH: Concerns are mounting that Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, will not be willing or able to function independently from the president. “Given the administration’s disdain for the judiciary, any nominee to the Supreme Court, particularly by this president, must be able to demonstrate independence from this president,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in an opinion piece at The New York Times. On Sunday, Trump’s administration made it clear that they expect the judicial branch to be loyal to Trump when Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to Trump, expressed his belief that “a district judge in Seattle cannot force the President of the United States to change the laws and our Constitution because of their own personal views” and that “the President’s power…will not be questioned,” reported People for the American Way.
More than 200 groups are actively working to inform the public about the danger of Gorsuch, reported Bloomberg Politics. Some conservatives are comparing the progressive opposition to the Gorsuch nomination to the controversy over Robert Bork in 1987, using the comparison to argue that Democrats are being too harsh. But an article in The Daily Beast argues that “Rather than remembering the Bork appointment as something to avoid, this is a time to look back at Senator Kennedy’s campaign as a model for how to handle Gorsuch in the coming weeks.”
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WITHDRAWS OBJECTION TO INJUNCTION AGAINST TRANSGENDER STUDENTS: The Trump administration submitted a legal brief “withdrawing the government’s objections to an injunction that had blocked guidance requiring that transgender students be allowed to use restrooms that match their gender identity,” reported The Chicago Tribune.
The Obama administration had appealed the injunction. But the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, decided to no longer challenge it in court – leaving in place a ruling that effectively thwarts the rights of transgender students.
The decision “signaled a significant change in the government’s approach to transgender issues under President Trump” according to The New York Times.
APPEALS COURT RULES NOT TO REINSTATE TRAVEL BAN: A panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously agreed to uphold the decision that blocked Trump’s executive order on travel, The Washington Post reported. After the decision, Trump tweeted “SEE YOU IN COURT,” leading many to believe the case will reach the Supreme Court.
Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, released a statement on the decision, writing, “[t]he action by the Ninth Circuit shows us once again just how important an independent judiciary is, as a check on overreach or misguided actions of the other branches. It also highlights the importance of all the federal courts, including the ones at the circuit and district levels. Of course, all eyes are now on the Supreme Court, not just because this case could well be headed there – but also because we have a nominee about to be considered for a seat on the Court. And it’s more important than ever that the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, answer all questions about whether he can be an independent check on an executive whose disregard for the law has put his administration in crisis-a-day mode.” A portion of the statement appeared in an article at The Washington Examiner.
SENATE CONFIRMS JEFF SESSIONS AS ATTORNEY GENERAL: After long and tense partisan debate, the Senate voted to confirm Jeff Sessions to be Attorney General. Senator Joe Manchin was the only Democrat to vote for him, NPR reported.
Nan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, criticized Republicans for their conduct in the hearing and confirmation process and said it “represents a low point in the history of the Senate” in a statement. Aron argued that this “raises the stakes for the upcoming hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. It is essential that the process for Gorsuch be thorough, deliberative, and respectful of all sides, and that Gorsuch fully answer questions about his ability to be an independent check on the executive branch as the Constitution prescribes.”
TRUMP ACCUSES BLUMENTHAL OF LYING ABOUT GORSUCH CRITICISMS: Senator Richard Blumenthal said that Judge Neil Gorsuch told him he found Trump’s attacks on Judge Robart, the federal judge who blocked his travel ban, “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” Gorsuch’s spokesman Ron Bonjean confirmed that Gorsuch used those words in his meeting with Blumenthal. The quotes were also confirmed by other senators, reported CNN.
Despite the criticisms being confirmed, Trump accused Blumenthal of lying about what Gorsuch said in a tweet: “Sen.Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?”
In response to Trump’s disbelief, Blumenthal stated “there’s no question that Judge Gorsuch said to me that he found these attacks on the judiciary to be disheartening and demoralizing,” quoted The Washington Examiner. “He made that statement to me, his spokesperson confirmed it, in fact he has made that same statement to many of my colleagues.”
Blumenthal went onto urge Gorsuch to “make that statement publicly,” yet Gorsuch declined. “Behind closed doors, Judge Gorsuch expressed disappointment with President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, but a Supreme Court Justice must prove that he has the courage and independence to stand up to a President in public,” Blumenthal said, according to The Hill.
ELIZABETH WARREN SILENCED BY SENATE GOP: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell charged Senator Elizabeth Warren with violating Senate rules against impugning another senator during a Tuesday night floor speech opposing Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, reported CNN.
Warren was reading from a letter written in 1986 by Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., which opposed Sessions’ nomination for a federal judgeship. The letter stated that “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.”
McConnell claimed that Warren’s reading of the letter violated Rule XIX, which prohibits Senators from ascribing “to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” Senate Republicans upheld the rebuke by a vote of 49 to 43, which removes Warren’s ability to speak during the remaining hours of debate on Sessions’ nomination, according to NBC.
Senator Cory Booker stated that he was “proud tonight of Sen. Warren. She stood and told her truth. To see this body act as it did tonight is disappointing to me,” reported The Hill. Booker tweeted that McConnell didn’t just silence Warren – “he silenced civil rights icon Coretta Scott King.”
TRUMP TO MEET WITH MODERATE DEMOCRATS TO GAIN GORSUCH VOTE: President Trump invited Senate Democrats from multiple red states to lunch “in hopes of wooing their support for his Supreme Court nominee,” reported CNN. The four senators invited are all up for reelection in 2018, and among the 10 senators facing pressure from conservative and liberal groups – including our sister organization Alliance for Justice, reported Time.
“It’s full steam ahead,” Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice, told Time. “We plan to win this fight.”
Alliance for Justice was also listed among SCOTUSblog’s key groups in the Supreme Court confirmation process.
IMMIGRATION BAN LIKELY TO GO TO SCOTUS: “A Justice Department lawyer on Tuesday said courts should not second-guess President Trump’s targeted travel ban, drawing skepticism from a three-judge federal appeals panel weighing the limits of executive authority in cases of national security,” reported The New York Times.
The court is expected to deliver its decision on President Trump’s immigration ban within days. However, “no matter how the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rules — in a decision that is expected within days — an appeal to the United States Supreme Court is likely,” the Times continued.