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Judge Pick Would Ax Tweets on Clinton, Obama, if Confirmed (1)

Jan. 8, 2020, 8:06 PMUpdated: Jan. 8, 2020, 10:15 PM

A Trump judicial nominee who disparaged the Clintons and mocked Barack Obama on Twitter said he’d probably disable his account if confirmed to a federal district court seat but didn’t commit to taking down the posts before then.

In an exchange with Hawaii Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono at his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 8, Mississippi state court Judge Cory T. Wilson agreed that some of his past comments wouldn’t be appropriate for a federal judge to make, and said he’d stopped using the account months ago.

When pressed by Hirono about whether he’d delete them, Wilson said he understood that his role as a federal judge would be different than when he was involved in Mississippi state politics, and that he’d likely do away with the account.

“I think, senator, if confirmed, I would disable my Twitter account,” the former state legislator said.

In tweets sent from his Twitter account, Wilson called New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s agenda a “claptrap,” used a “#CrookedHillary” hashtag in a post about then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails, and referred to former President Barack Obama as a “king” when he said he would advance immigration policy on his own.

Hirono, referencing several of the entries, questioned Wilson over those comments and asked how those views would impact his impartiality, if confirmed.

“You have not hidden your extremely clear views about political people,” Hirono said in asking him whether he thought his statements were appropriate for a judge.

Wilson agreed that the statements wouldn’t be appropriate for a sitting federal judge, and said he shared Hirono’s concern about the need for an impartial judiciary.

He pointed to his role at the time the tweets were written to defend himself.

“I haven’t been actively tweeting anything for several months, actually through this process,” Wilson said in response to Hirono’s questions. “As I said earlier, senator, there was a time when I was active in partisan elective politics, and I spoke out on a number of issues and a number of campaigns during that time.”

The Code of Conduct for United States Judges prohibits them from taking stances on politicians, though nothing bars them from having a Twitter account. Several judges maintain Twitter accounts, including Trump appointee Judge Don Willett, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Several of Wilson’s posts, like his comments on Ocasio-Cortez’s policies and tweets about Clinton, took place when he was state lawmaker from 2016 to 2019 and others, like his remarks on Obama acting like a “king,” came before he took office.

Committee Democrats, including Hirono, focused most of their attention on Wilson during the hearing, questioning him on his conservative positions on issues like abortion, LGBT rights, and Obamacare.

But Republicans echoed Wilson’s defense that the nominee’s role as a state lawmaker and private citizen would be separate from his role as a judge.

The exchange between Hirono and Wilson occurred at the first Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of the new year on President
Donald Trump’s judicial nominees. So far, Trump has appointed 183 judges to lifetime tenures on the federal bench, including Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

The other district court nominees at the hearing were:

  • William Scott Hardy, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania;
  • John F. Heil III, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma; and
  • David Cleveland Joseph, nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.
(Updates with additional information throughout about judges tweeting and timeframe of Wilson's posts.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com

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

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