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Senate GOP advances one of Trump’s most controversial judicial nominees

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/27/18, 9:57 PM ET

Trump judge pick may be too controversial even for Republicans

Rachel Maddow reports on the delay of the confirmation vote for Donald Trump nominee for U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Thomas Farr, and wonders if his record of apparent racist vote suppression may be an obstacle to
To defeat Thomas Farr’s judicial nomination, Senate Democrats needed just two Republicans to break ranks and oppose one of Donald Trump’s most controversial picks for the federal bench. In the end, they fell one vote short.

Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr moved one step closer to final confirmation to become a district judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. With Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, the Senate agreed to limit debate on Farr’s nomination, setting up a final vote Thursday.

President Donald Trump nominated the 64-year-old Farr to be a U.S. District Court Judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina in 2017 and again earlier this year. Though Farr cleared a Senate committee in January, his nomination has languished in the Senate – as Democrats and civil rights groups hammered him as hostile to voting rights for blacks.

The entire Democratic caucus opposed Farr, as did Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who’s vowed to oppose all nominees until the Senate votes on his bipartisan bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), seemed to struggle with the vote, and paused the process for quite a while, before eventually voting the way his party wanted him to.

The result was a 50-50 tie, which Pence broke.

It’s important to emphasize that this was a procedural vote to end the floor debate, not a final confirmation vote. But to defeat Farr’s nomination, one of the 50 Republicans who voted “aye” this afternoon would have to change his or her mind before tomorrow. Since that appears unlikely, he’ll almost certainly be confirmed.

And for Farr’s many critics, that’s a bit of a disaster. Trump has sent some offensive nominees to the Senate for lifetime positions on the federal bench, but few district court nominees have faced this kind of criticism.

As Rachel noted on last night’s show, in 1990, Farr was a lawyer for then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) in a year in which the notoriously racist senator sent 125,000 postcards to black households in North Carolina, trying to intimidate African-American voters. The scheme drew a civil complaint from the Justice Department, which ultimately led Farr to sign a consent decree.

In the years that followed, Farr proceeded to develop and implement some of the most racially-specific voter-suppression tactics ever seen in the United States.

Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Al Gore and Joe Biden, said this week that he’s worked on federal judicial nominations for more than 30 years, and he considers Farr the worst he’s ever seen.

And yet, 50 out of 51 Senate Republicans – including the so-called “moderates” – backed him anyway.

Federal Courts, Federal Judiciary, Judicial Nominees and Tim Scott

Senate GOP advances one of Trump's most controversial judicial nominees