- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Conservative activists mounted a full-scale assault Wednesday on Sen. John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, after he expressed concerns over some of President Trump’s judicial nominees and hinted he might not be able to vote for one of them.

His opposition could sink the pick of Kyle Duncan to sit on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Kennedy on Tuesday said the Trump White House has been bungling a number of picks, including selecting one man for a judgeship who Mr. Kennedy said reportedly praised the Ku Klux Klan in an anonymous blog posting.

On Mr. Duncan, meanwhile, Mr. Kennedy questioned the man’s ties to Louisiana, saying there were plenty of capable lawyers and judges within the state who could have been picked instead. Mr. Duncan practices law in Washington, D.C.

“It’s been suggested that if I don’t vote for you I’m not pro-life, I’m not pro-religious liberty. We both know that’s not the case,” Mr. Kennedy told Mr. Duncan as the Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Mr. Duncan countered that he was born and raised in Louisiana, got his undergraduate and law degrees from Louisiana State University and has defended the state’s interests in courts. He served as the state’s solicitor general from 2008 to 2012.

Mr. Duncan does have the enthusiastic support of the state’s other Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, and conservatives rallied to Mr. Duncan’s defense.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry called Mr. Duncan “the Neil Gorsuch of Louisiana,” referring to the newest Supreme Court justice. And tea party and conservative legal pressure groups warned Mr. Kennedy about consequences for blocking Mr. Duncan.

Several conservative groups portrayed Mr. Kennedy’s questions as a challenge to Mr. Trump himself, pointing out the president won the state by 20 percentage points in last year’s election.

“The people of Louisiana are waiting to find out if Senator Kennedy stands with them and President Trump or liberal special interest groups in Washington,” said Carrie Severino, policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network.

Mr. Kennedy said he’s complained to the White House about its picks, but said they’ve been unresponsive.

The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times on his complaints Tuesday.

Mr. Kennedy’s frustrations with the White House showed through on Tuesday when he voted against confirmation of Gregory Katsas, who was Mr. Trump’s pick to take a seat on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Mr. Katsas had served as deputy chief White House counsel, and Mr. Kennedy said that seemed like a conflict of interest to elevate him to the appeals court that could decide the legality of many of the president’s policies.

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