WASHINGTON ― Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said Wednesday that he’s not inclined to support President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee Steven Menashi, a major blow for an already controversial court pick with strong opposition from progressive groups.
“I’m real doubtful,” Kennedy, who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told HuffPost. “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 he was “very annoyed” by Menashi’s performance in his confirmation hearing last week, where he visibly angered Republicans and Democrats by refusing to provide details about what he’s worked on in his current role as a White House legal adviser (yes, Trump nominated one of his own aides to be a federal judge).
“I don’t know enough about him to be able to say he’d be a good judge. And that was the whole point of having a hearing,” Kennedy said Wednesday. “I’m tired of it. He should answer the questions.”
The Louisiana Republican said after the hearing, he asked Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman, to bring Menashi back in for another hearing so senators could have a “second shot at it.” It’s not clear if Graham supports doing so.
When asked for comment last Friday, a Graham spokesman wouldn’t say either way how the senator is feeling about Menashi.
Menashi, Trump’s choice for a lifetime seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, doesn’t have support from either of his home-state senators. Progressive groups are trying to sink his nomination because of his long record of opposing and undermining equality for communities of color, women and LGBTQ people. Protesters showed up outside of his hearing last week and got arrested for loudly chanting “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.
As CNN first reported, Menashi, 40, 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.
Asked about the Pershing article in his confirmation hearing, Menashi said he wrote it 20 years ago (he was a public affairs fellow at the Hoover Institution at the time) and believed back then that the offensive anecdote was true, only to discover in later years that it was not.
“I regret having repeated it,” he said.
Graham has not yet scheduled a committee vote on Menashi.