- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2019

Steven J. Menashi moved one step closer to confirmation in his pursuit of a federal appeals court seat Thursday, despite Democrats — and some Republicans — blasting him for being mute about his work on the president’s immigration policies.

Mr. Menashi, nominated to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote, 12-10.

Democrats objected to his nomination, raising questions about Mr. Menashi’s work in the White House Counsel’s Office where he provided legal advice on the administration’s immigration policy.

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California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, said he refused to answer whether he worked on the president’s child-separation policy or if he advised the president on the whistleblower complaint and the July phone call with the Ukrainian president, which is at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment probe.

“None of these questions asked him about the substance of his advice,” Ms. Feinstein said. “His refusal to answer these questions really makes it difficult to fulfill our constitutional role to advise and consent.”

During his confirmation hearing in September, Mr. Menashi dodged questions about his past work, which even irritated Republican senators, including Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana.

“With my duties of confidentiality to my client, I’m acknowledging I’ve worked on immigration matters — but can’t speak further about that,” Mr. Menashi told the committee.

The lack of details about his work didn’t sit well with Democrats, but ultimately the GOP majority united to vote Mr. Menashi through. His next hurdle is a confirmation vote in the full Senate.

Mr. Menashi had been a target of the progressive left after MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow aired a 13-minute segment in August, attacking a law review article Mr. Menashi wrote years ago that the TV host suggested was racist.

The 65-page article for the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law in 2010 drew fire over Mr. Menashi’s noting that ethnonationalism is an accepted part of liberal democracies in a defense of Israel as “a Jewish state.”

“I abhor discrimination. I value this country’s traditions of tolerance and equality before the law,” Mr. Menashi said, defending himself from the attacks during his confirmation hearing. He said the point of his article was to note that some liberal democracies have an ethnic basis.

Though Mr. Kennedy initially was apprehensive about supporting Mr. Menashi’s nomination, he voted for him Thursday.

“I’ve spent a lot of time reading his materials and I think it would be fair to say some of his views are eclectic and some of them I don’t agree with, but his views are very, very carefully reasoned,” he said.

Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said Mr. Menashi is someone who has an incredible story “on paper.”

“The only thing I can say about a lawyer representing the executive branch — the question for me is not what the policy was of the executive branch was. Is that person well-founded in the law? Do they have the qualifications? Do they have the experience? Do they have the educational background?” Mr. Graham said.

He also said no Democratic committee members worked with the White House before Mr. Menashi’s hearing to explore which areas they could probe in regards to his legal representation.

The progressive Human Rights Campaign opposed Mr. Menashi, saying he also has past writings with anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

Menashi is not neutral, nor fit to be an arbiter and he has no place deciding the fates of people whose very personhood he will not protect,” said Alphonso David, the organization’s president.

But conservatives such as Carrie Severino with the Judicial Crisis Network said Mr. Menashi is like other judicial nominees appointed by President Trump: fair-minded and high-quality.

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