The nation’s leading racial justice legal organization announced that it is opposing President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee Steven Menashi, an already contentious court pick drawing the ire of progressives and at least one key Senate Republican.
“On behalf of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), I write to strongly oppose the confirmation of Mr. Steven Menashi for a seat on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals,” said the group’s president, Sherrilyn Ifill, in a Friday letter to Senate leaders.
Menashi “has dedicated the majority of his legal career to rolling back critical civil rights protections for minority communities. He has an extensive portfolio of writings which offend and demean almost all protected classes, including the African-American community,” Ifill said. “During his confirmation hearing, Mr. Menashi made no serious effort to assuage any of the concerns of the civil rights community.”
Here’s a copy of the LDF letter.
Menashi, 40, is currently a White House legal adviser to Trump, meaning the president nominated his own staffer to a lifetime seat on a U.S. circuit court.
Ifill’s concerns with Menashi echo progressive groups like Demand Justice and Center for Popular Democracy, whose supporters have protested and even gotten arrested in their efforts to sink Menashi’s nomination. They have singled out Menashi’s record when he served as legal counsel to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In 2017, he helped her roll back Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault on campuses.
Beyond that, Menashi has a long record of opposing and undermining equality for communities of color and women. As CNN first reported, Menashi has complained about “gynocentrists” participating in Take Back the Night marches, accused the Human Rights Campaign of having “incessantly exploited the slaying of Matthew Shepard” for political benefit, and claimed that a Dartmouth fraternity wasn’t being racist when it held a “ghetto party” attended by white partygoers wearing Afro wigs and carrying toy guns.
He has also denounced women’s marches as sexual assault, opposed the “radical abortion rights advocated by campus feminists and codified in Roe v. Wade,” and spread the Islamophobic myth that Gen. John Pershing executed Muslim prisoners in the Philippines in 1913 with bullets dipped in pig fat.
Menashi didn’t do himself any favors last month in his confirmation hearing, either. Not only does he lack support from both of his New York home-state senators, but he also visibly angered Republicans and Democrats on the committee by refusing to give details on what he’s worked on at the White House.
That led to at least one Republican on the committee, Sen. John Kennedy (La.), telling HuffPost in mid-September that he’s “real doubtful” he can support him.
In light of the House launching an impeachment inquiry into the president, Democrats on the committee wrote to Menashi on Friday with follow-up questions about his potential involvement in Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate political rival former Vice President Joe Biden. The call is at the center of the investigation into the president’s actions.
It only takes one Republican “no” on the committee to kill a nomination, assuming all Democrats vote no. Kennedy told HuffPost on Friday that he’s still undecided. Aides to Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), both on the committee, have not responded to repeated requests for comement on whether they plan to support Menashi.
It’s not clear when ― or if ― the Judiciary Committee will schedule a vote to advance Menashi’s nomination to the full Senate floor.