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New Group Plans Aggressive Defense of Trump Court Picks (2)

May 20, 2019, 5:19 PMUpdated: May 20, 2019, 8:36 PM

President Donald Trump’s nominees have a new and combative ally in the judicial battles that could include another Supreme Court appointment and hot-button advocacy around the 2020 presidential campaign.

The newly-launched Article III Project will “punch back” and help Trump appointees during the confirmation process and even after they’ve taken the bench, the effort’s founder and president Mike Davis said in a release announcing A3P.

Trump nominees are facing “unprecedented obstruction and baseless attacks by Senate Democrats and their left-wing allies,” the former Senate Judiciary Committee chief nominations counsel said.

A3P plans to get involved in confirmation fray immediately, including this week’s fights over the nominations of Daniel Collins and Daniel Bress to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Davis said in an interview. Collins likely will get a confirmation vote this week, and Bress has a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

The confirmation fight last year over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was ferociously partisan. Democrats since have amplified their frustration with Trump and Senate Republicans over the accelerated nomination process and their drive to reshape the courts with conservatives.

One of the biggest motivating factors that prompted Davis to launch the group was the effort to stop Brett Kavanaugh from teaching at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School this summer.

The school is located in Arlington, Va., but Kavanaugh will be teaching a course about the origins of the U.S. Constitution to Scalia Law School students in Runnymede, England.

Some students protested the decision to hire Kavanaugh following the furor over a sex assault allegation against him from his high school days that surfaced during his confirmation. Kavanaugh, who denied the allegation, formerly taught at Harvard Law School, but severed his ties there after the confirmation battle.

“Just about any law school would love to have a sitting Supreme Court justice come teach a course,” but “cupcake undergrads,” “whacky faculty,” and George Soros-funded outside groups “unfairly claimed that some felt threatened by Justice Kavanaugh’s presence at George Mason University–even though he is teaching the course 3,600 miles away in England,” Davis said.

More than 100 judges have been seated since Trump took office in January 2017, including Kavanaugh and fellow justice Neil Gorsuch, as well as dozens of circuit and district court appointments.

The opportunity for Trump to fill as many vacancies as he’s had is partly due to major Senate Republicans keeping seats open during the Obama administration.

In recent months, Kamala Harris and other Democratic presidential hopefuls have placed more emphasis on the judiciary on the campaign trail in raising the political stakes. Some also suggest that seats could be added to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has nine justices.

‘Combat Assaults’

Davis oversaw nominations for former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, and helped steer Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, Trump’s first high court nominee, through confirmation.

A3P is hiring a small team of attorneys, researchers and communicators, and will prepare “for the next Supreme Court nomination battle,” the announcement said.

He said the advocacy group also would combat “assaults on judicial independence” including “radical court-packing, term-limit, and even impeachment schemes.”

The project’s tactics will include supporting senators who vote for Trump’s nominees and opposing those who don’t, according to it’s website. The group also will provide rapid-response communications in support of the nominees and “against misinformation from the Left,” it said.

For example, the project will be “going after” Harris and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) “for opposing Collins and other ABA unanimously well-qualified nominees from their home state,” Davis said.

Davis is a former federal prosecutor who clerked for Gorsuch at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and at the Supreme Court.

Federal judges with lifetime appointments are also known as Article III judges, which corresponds to the passage in the U.S. Constitution that lays out the role of the judiciary.

Crowded Field

The project “doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, a progressive association that has opposed Trump nominees.

That’s because other conservative organizations are already spending millions on getting nominees confirmed, Aron said.

Aron disputed claims of baseless Democratic attacks, pointing to nomination withdrawals.

For instance, Jeff Mateer’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas was withdrawn after it was revealed that he described for describing transgender children as being part of “Satan’s plan.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick L. Gregory in Washington at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com; Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com