The Judges Republicans Are Doing It All For - 2019-10-23
Photo illustration by Slate
Back in 2016, when a lot of otherwise decent people pulled the lever to elect Donald Trump president, they claimed to have done it solely for the judges. By the same token, a good number of then–"Never Trumpers" have reverted to Team Trump, again, because of the judges. Members of the Trump administration, like his former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who have showed tiny filaments of courage in standing up to him for the rule of law, nevertheless silently allow Trump to fillet the Constitution and American prestige and influence abroad, and why? Because of the judges. If you've stuck with Trump for the judges until now, you are currently playing the dangerous game of "How Many More Judges Can They Ram Through Before Democracy Breaks?" The theory is that teeing up the murder of Kurdish allies and inviting foreign election interference is all worth it, because of the judges.
It's not news that Trump has made packing the federal courts with the youngest, most radical, least qualified jurists ever seen a priority. Nor is it news that this project has been singularly successful because it was contracted out to effective outside groups, and because Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell now cares about no other. Last week, the Senate advanced the nomination for a lifetime tenured position of a 37-year-old associate professor, who had been rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association. Justin Walker, the prospective judge in question, has never tried a case. He's never been co-counsel in a case. His principal qualification for a federal district court judgeship seems to be his important legal work spent "conducting over 70 interviews in which he challenged the account of Christine Blasey Ford." He's a TV judge whom Mitch McConnell somehow touted as "unquestionably the most outstanding nomination that I've ever recommended to Presidents to serve on the bench in Kentucky." Despite his lack of any judicial qualifications and the once-rare not-qualified ABA rating, every Republican on the Judiciary Committee voted to advance his nomination while Democrats broke against him. As Jennifer Bendery noted here, "in his entire eight years in the White House, President Barack Obama didn't nominate anyone to be a lifetime federal judge who earned a 'not qualified' ABA rating." Walker was Trump's fourth. And on Thursday, the Senate is poised to vote on the fifth, Sarah Pitlyk, nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.