Sessions Should Recuse Himself from Flynn Investigation: Schumer

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.”

Opposition to Gorsuch’s Nomination Continues

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 Won’t Reinstate Travel Ban

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 Sessions as Attorney General

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.

CNN: Sen. Warren Silenced During Sessions Debate

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.

Opinion: American People Will Reject Gorsuch Nomination

NAN ARON: TRUMP MUST PICK AN ALTERNATIVE NOMINEENan Aron, president of our sister organization Alliance for Justice, predicted that “the American people and Senate will reject the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch” in an opinion piece at The Nation. “We are confident Americans will conclude that to avert a disaster, Donald Trump will have to find an alternative nominee who is unflinchingly independent; who recognizes the progress made in our nation over the past 100 years; and who when seated on the Court will take the American people not forward, not backward,” stated Aron.

In response to the criticism leveled at Gorsuch, Trump has repeated his calls for the Senate to “go nuclear” to get Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. “If we end up with that gridlock I would say if you can, Mitch, go nuclear,” Trump said, according to The New York Times. “That would be an absolute shame if a man of this quality was caught up in the web.” McConnell has thus far denounced Trump’s urgings to use the nuclear option, stating that it will be a decision made by the Senate – not the president.

INCREASING PENALTIES FOR PROTESTERS: Lawmakers in Republican-controlled statehouses are introducing legislation that will restrict the rights of protesters. In North Dakota, “a lawmaker has introduced a bill that would allow motorists to run over and kill any protester obstructing a highway as long as the driver did not do it intentionally. Bills that would increase penalties on unauthorized protests have also been introduced in Michigan and Washington. Last week in Minnesota, a House committee approved legislation that would increase penalties and charge demonstrators the cost of policing protests,” reported NPR.

Judges Halt Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDER SPARKS PROTESTS, REINFORCES NEED FOR COURTS: On Saturday night, several rulings across the nation temporarily halted certain components of Trump’s executive order targeting Muslims and refugees.U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly’s ruling “blocked part of the president’s actions, preventing the government from deporting some arrivals who found themselves ensnared by the presidential order. But it stopped short of letting them into the country or issuing a broader ruling on the constitutionality of Mr. Trump’s actions,” The New York Times reported.

In her order, Judge Donnelly stated, “The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioners and others similarly situated violates the rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

The order had the potential “for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country. Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders. On week one, Donald Trump suffered his first loss in court,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a statement.

The ACLU was also successful in Massachusetts, when “two federal judges there decreed that travelers who are legally authorized to be in the United States shouldn’t be detained at or deported from Logan International Airport for a period of seven days,” according to the The Huffington Post.

Senate Democrats responded to the executive order by planning a rally at the Supreme Court, reported The Hill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged House and Senate Democrats to “come to express our solidarity” and “demand the President withdraw his disreputable executive order.”

TRUMP SCOTUS NOMINEE TO BE ANNOUNCED TUESDAY: Trump announced via Twitter that he will announce his nominee to the Supreme Court on television at 8:00PM EST Tuesday, January 31st. This is two days earlier than he had previously planned to announce his nominee.

MCCONNELL BALKS AT TRUMP’S ‘NUCLEAR OPTION’ ENDORSEMENT:  “That’s not a presidential decision. That’s a Senate decision,” Senator Mitch McConnell told Politico in an interview Friday. “What I’ve said to him, and I’ve stated publicly and I’ll say today: We’re going to get this nominee confirmed.” However, McConnell has still not ruled out the use of the nuclear option.

Trump to Announce SCOTUS Pick February 2nd

TRUMP NARROWS SCOTUS LIST TO FOUR?: Above the Law reported that Judges Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman, William Pryor, and Raymond Kethledge top Trump’s list for the Supreme Court. The National Law Journal outlined a few key facts on Gorsuch, including his opposition to class actions.

Judge Gorsuch has “challenged the notion that courts should defer to administrative agencies when they interpret the law,” according to CNN. Gorsuch’s position on the issue “is more extreme than Justice Scalia…it would be hard to overstate the damage it would cause this nation and the American people,” Dan Goldberg, legal director of our sister organization Alliance for Justice told CNN.

“We are prepared to oppose every name on Trump’s list,” Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, said in a New York Times article. “The progressive, civil rights community will be united in opposition to either of those prospects or anyone else on the list.”

President Trump announced via Twitter that he will name his nominee next Thursday, February 2nd.

LAWSUIT SEEKS MORE INFORMATION ON SESSIONS: A suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asserts that eight federal agencies have failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to Sen. Jeff Sessions’ record. According to The Hill, journalist Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro, who filed the suit, feel the record will “shed light on Sessions’ history as a state and federal attorney general and as a lawmaker.”

At the Montgomery Advertiser, Constitutional Accountability Center President Elizabeth Wydra warned that Sessions “misrepresents ‘equal and impartial justice,’” stating that “his extensive record – at times defying fundamental protections written in the text and underscored by the history of the U.S. Constitution – offers little evidence that he can be ‘the People’s lawyer’ and fairly execute the mission of the Department his is nominated to lead.”

Politico: Trump Plans to Announce SCOTUS Nominee Next Week

TRUMP TO DISCUSS SCOTUS WITH MCCONNELL, SCHUMER, FEINSTEIN: “President Donald Trump will meet Tuesday afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, to discuss his Supreme Court choice, according to an administration official,” Politico reported.  

McConnell stated that he is “confident we’ll get a Supreme Court nominee confirmed,” in a FOX News Sunday interview. McConnell has also refused to rule out the use of the “nuclear option,” which would reduce the majority needed to confirm the nominee from 60 to 51 votes.

According to the LA Times, Judge Neil Gorsuch is now the leading contender for Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. 

SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE DELAYS SESSIONS VOTE: Senator Dianne Feinstein requested to delay the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Jeff Sessions’ Attorney General nomination until next week, citing the need for more time to review the nominee and his records. “This nomination is a very big deal,” said Feinstein in an article at The Hill. “Our staff needs time to go through these answers, and we need time to put them in context.”

The vote will be held next week.

SESSIONS WILL NOT RECUSE HIMSELF FROM DOJ TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS: Sessions expressed to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he is “not aware of a basis to recuse myself” from investigations involving the president and does not see a problem in impartiality, despite his role in Trump’s campaign for the presidency, reported Politico. “If a specific matter arose where I believed my impartiality might reasonably be questioned, I would consult with Department ethics officials regarding the most appropriate way to proceed,” said Sessions.

CNN: Trump Has “a Good Sense” of His SCOTUS Nominee

“I THINK IN MY MIND I KNOW WHO IT IS”: Trump has “a good sense” of who he plans to nominate to the Supreme Court, according to CNN. CNN reported that Judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes are widely considered to be at the top of his list. 

Bloomberg BNA put out a short profile on Judge Steven Colloton, who is also thought to be near the top of Trump’s list. Bloomberg drew attention to two of Colloton’s opinions in favor of Tyson Foods Inc., which “are a prime example of how a more conservative court could make it harder for workers to bring wage claims against employers,” according to our sister organization Alliance for Justice. 
OBAMA’S JUDICIAL LEGACY: President Obama nominated over 300 federal judges in his presidency – most of whom were “either women, African Americans or persons of color,” reported NBC. The piece quoted the president of our sister organization, Nan Aron, who noted that unfortunately, “Republicans slow-walked or stonewalled dozens of federal judicial nominations.”