Senate GOP confirms highly controversial Trump judicial nominee

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/6/19, 9:26 PM ET

Trump nominee worked on illegal plan to deny help to scam victims

Rachel Maddow reports on a memo that shows that controversial Donald Trump judicial nominee Steven Menashi helped craft an illegal plan to deny debt relief to victims of a scammy for-profit college.
It’s not just the quantity of Donald Trump’s judicial nominees who’ve been confirmed by Senate Republicans, it’s also the quality that’s striking.

Steven Menashi, one of Donald Trump’s far-right lawyers, has become one of the year’s most controversial judicial nominees for good reason. The New York conservative, nominated for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, has a tough-to-defend record of radicalism that includes an argument about democratic countries working better when everyone is of the same ethnicity. Demand Justice’s Brian Fallon described Menashi as “a perfect storm of awful.”

What’s more, as regular readers may recall, his confirmation hearing did not go well. Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) chided Menashi for not being more forthcoming, as did Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

As Jennifer Bendery explained, it didn’t matter.

The Senate voted Thursday to make Steven Menashi a lifetime federal judge, despite his inflammatory writings about women’s rights and diversity, his refusal to answer senators’ questions and his role in devising an illegal Education Department effort to deny debt relief to students cheated by for-profit colleges.

Every Democrat present voted against confirming Menashi, who is President Donald Trump’s choice for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Every Republican present but one, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), voted to confirm him. The final tally was 51-41.

A majority of the judges on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals have now been nominated by Republican presidents – a first since the early 1990s.

That said, Menashi, who’s only 40 years old, is an especially difficult jurist to defend.

To go along with confirming him, Senate Republicans had to overlook Menashi’s ugly record on matters related to race, women, and the LGBTQ community. And then they also had to overlook the fact that Menashi has never tried a case, made oral arguments, or conducted a deposition.

And then they also had to overlook the nominee’s role in devising an illegal scheme at the Department of Education that punished victims of scam for-profit colleges.

For 51 Senate Republicans, none of this was a deal-breaker. Menashi will likely now serve on the federal appellate bench – just one level below the U.S. Supreme Court – for the next several decades.

I’ve long believed the lasting effects of the Trump era can be boiled down to the three C’s: the climate, the nation’s credibility, and the federal courts. Health care benefits can be restored, alliances can be rebuilt, and tax breaks can be scrapped, but the lost years on dealing with the climate crisis are tragic; it’ll be a long while before the world forgets that we’re a country capable of electing someone like Trump; and with Republicans confirming young, far-right ideologues to the bench at a brutal clip, we can expect a generation’s worth of conservative court rulings.