WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is making a new push on some of the most criticized judicial nominees he selected during his first two years in office, with the White House announcing late Tuesday the renomination of 50 of the president's picks for the federal bench.
However, the Senate returned 73 federal court nominees when the last Congress ended in early January — meaning there are 23 previous nominees that Trump has decided to drop, or hasn't determined what to do with just yet. The omissions include a handful of nominees opposed by Democrats, as well as all of Trump's nominees for federal courts in California — the state's senior senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, has been in talks with the White House about reconsidering certain names, two sources familiar with the situation tell BuzzFeed News.
The Senate confirmed a record number of federal judges to lifetime appointments in the first two years of Trump's term. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who has an even stronger Republican majority in the Senate following last year's midterm elections — has said judges will continue to be a top priority.
The White House's list of renominations includes Wendy Vitter, the Louisiana district court nominee opposed by Democrats and liberal advocacy groups for her comments about abortion — including directing women to a brochure titled "Abortion Hurts Women" and criticizing Planned Parenthood — as well as her refusal to say if she believed Brown v. Board of Education was correctly decided. (Most of Trump's nominees have declined to comment on whether specific Supreme Court decisions were correct, saying it would not be appropriate.)
Also on Tuesday's list of renominations: DC Circuit nominee Neomi Rao, who faces criticism from the left for columns she wrote in college about race, affirmative action, and date rape; 4th Circuit nominee Allison Rushing — one of Trump's youngest nominees — who fielded questions at her confirmation hearing about her experience and her ties to a group that opposed same-sex marriage; 9th Circuit nominee Eric Miller, who was opposed by Native American groups for his work on tribal issues; Texas district court nominee Matthew Kacsmaryk, whom the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice accused of being “fiercely hostile” to LGBT rights; and 6th Circuit nominee Chad Readler, a senior Justice Department official in the Trump administration.
Not on the list are North Carolina district court nominee Thomas Farr, who never got a final vote after a handful of Republican senators broke ranks and said they would oppose him amid scrutiny of his previous work for political campaigns accused of using voter suppression tactics.
Given the Republican opposition, Farr seemed poised to join Trump's other unsuccessful nominees, but the White House has never officially said it planned to drop him altogether. Earlier this month, North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis told McClatchy that he was still "looking at" whether to advocate for Farr's renomination.
Also not on the list was Gordon Giampietro, who was nominated in December 2017 for a Wisconsin district court seat but never received a Senate hearing. Giampietro's critics on the left have highlighted disparaging comments he made about diversity, same-sex relationships, and birth control.
A White House spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment as to whether previous nominees not on Tuesday's list are still being considered. Farr and Giampietro did not immediately return requests for comment.
Trump's three California nominees for the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit — the court that Trump routinely criticizes for its rulings against his administration — and three nominees for district courts in California were also not on the renominations list. A Democratic staffer and a second source familiar with the situation told BuzzFeed News that Feinstein, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had been talking to the White House about reconsidering certain names, but they declined to share details about those discussions.
The White House in October announced a slate of California federal court nominees that did not include names proposed by Feinstein or California Sen. Kamala Harris. Feinstein sent a letter to the White House before the nominations were announced saying she would consider supporting a "consensus" package. But then–White House counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to Sen. Chuck Grassley, the committee chair at the time, that the administration did not believe they had gotten "meaningful feedback" from Feinstein, and that Harris refused to engage.
The 9th Circuit nominees from California were federal prosecutor Patrick Bumatay and two appellate lawyers in private practice, Daniel Collins and Kenneth Lee. There are six vacancies on the 9th Circuit, which covers the western United States. Trump's previous nominees for two other open 9th Circuit seats representing Arizona and Washington state, Bridget Bade and Eric Miller, were on the renominations list.
Tuesday's list also did not include seven previous nominees for federal district courts in New York, although Trump's two nominees for the 2nd Circuit — Joseph Bianco and Michael Park — as well as two of the president's New York district court nominees were included. A spokesperson for New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The vast majority of judicial nominations returned to the White House at the start of the new Congress this month were for seats on the district and circuit courts. But they also included the president's picks for vacancies on the US Court of Federal Claims — the court that's handling a number of lawsuits filed by federal workers required to work without pay during the partial shutdown — and the US Court of International Trade. The renominations list included two of Trump's three Federal Claims nominees, and both previous nominees for the Court of International Trade.
The White House on Jan. 16 announced six new nominees for district courts in Arizona, Louisiana, North Dakota, and Texas.