- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The renewed fight over Confederate history snared one of President Trump’s judicial picks Wednesday, as a Democratic senator demanded to know why the judge had a portrait of Jefferson Davis hanging in his chambers.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, Hawaii Democrat, asked Judge Liles Clifton Burke, Mr. Trump’s pick to be a trial judge for the Northern District of Alabama, about the portrait during his confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I absolutely reject racism in all forms, but the reason that I hung that has really nothing to do with my views on race and everything to do with its historical significance,” Judge Burke said.

The judge, who currently serves on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, said the portrait of the president of the Confederacy hung in his chambers from 2011 to 2012. He said he’s had portraits of influential politicians in Alabama’s history on display as well, such as Booker T. Washington.

Ms. Hirono then asked Judge Burke if he thinks Confederate symbols should be removed from public grounds. He demurred, saying the issue is likely to come before him as a judge and he shouldn’t voice his personal opinion in order to remain impartial.

The questions come amid a new push to re-evaluate symbols linked to the Confederacy, which have grown in the wake of August’s clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It’s the newest attack against Mr. Trump’s judicial nominees from Democrats, who have typically criticized judges’ records on campaign finance laws and socially conservative views.

Democrats also raised concerns during the hearing with John Demers, Mr. Trump’s nominee to be assistant attorney general at the Justice Department’s National Security Division. They questioned whether or not he would serve as a back channel for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

“I will pledge to you that I will not do anything illegal or inappropriate in my role in that investigation,” Mr. Demers said.

Democrats also took issue with Stephanos Bibas, Mr. Trump’s nominee for the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, over his prosecution of a Veterans Affairs hospital cafeteria worker who was accused of stealing $7. The woman was acquitted of the charge.

Mr. Bibas admitted the prosecution of the cafeteria worker was a mistake.

“There is a difference one learns between intelligence and wisdom,” said Mr. Bibas, who is currently a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “There is a learning that comes from running a Supreme Court clinic where in a lot of years, I’ve represented a lot of little guys.”

Three other district court nominees appeared before the committee on Wednesday for their confirmation hearings: Michael Joseph Juneau for the Western District of Louisiana; A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. for the District of South Carolina; and Tilman Eugene Self III for the Middle District of Georgia.

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