WASHINGTON ― White House legal adviser Steven Menashi, who is also President Donald Trump’s nominee to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, is ignoring questions from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee about what he knew about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Menashi, 40, has been a White House attorney for more than a year, which means he could know details about Trump’s July 25 phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump urged Zelensky to probe Biden’s family during a discussion on U.S. military aid to Ukraine. He could also know details about the subsequent whistleblower complaint that corroborated the conversation that took place in that phone call. He could also have been involved in the White House’s apparent cover-up of all of it.
All 10 Democrats on the committee wrote to Menashi last month with detailed questions about what he knew about that phone call, the bombshell whistleblower complaint and whether he advised Trump on either matter.
They gave him until Oct. 7 to respond. He never did.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the committee, says the committee should deny Menashi a vote until he answers their questions.
“Steven Menashi has left questions unanswered about his work at the White House, including his involvement in the White House’s response to the whistleblower complaint,” Feinstein told HuffPost in a Tuesday statement. “Mr. Menashi is seeking a lifetime appointment to the court, so his record must be thoroughly examined. The committee shouldn’t vote on his nomination without all of the facts. He must stop evading our questions.”
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on whether Menashi should respond to the senators’ questions.
It’s not a great look for Menashi, who already irritated Republicans and Democrats in his confirmation hearing by refusing to answer questions about what issues he’s worked on at the White House. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), for one, told HuffPost last month that he is “real doubtful” about supporting Menashi because of the way he disregarded senators’ questions.
“My thought is, look, if he’ll treat a United States senator the way he treated us, I wonder how he would treat the people,” Kennedy said at the time.
It only takes one Republican on the committee to vote no to tank a nomination, assuming all Democrats vote no. Other GOP committee members, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.), have not responded to requests for comment on whether they will support Menashi.
Progressive groups, meanwhile, are trying to sink Menashi’s nomination over his long record of opposing and undermining equality for communities of color, women and LGBTQ people. Among other things, Menashi has denounced women’s marches as sexual assault, opposed the “radical abortion rights 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.
Protesters filled the hall outside his Senate confirmation hearing last month and got arrested as they shouted “Title IX is on the line!,” a reference to Menashi serving as legal counsel to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos when she rolled back Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault on campuses.
A spokesman for Graham, the committee’s chairman, did not respond to a request for comment on whether Menashi needs to answer Democratic senators’ questions.
It’s not clear if or when Graham will schedule Menashi’s committee vote.