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Senate panel advances judicial nominee who ignored request in impeachment probe

Todd Ruger, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- An appeals court nominee has ignored a request from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to say whether he played a role in White House events now at the heart of the accelerating House impeachment probe -- and Republicans haven't let that halt his move through the confirmation process.

The committee voted 12-10 along party lines Thursday to advance the nomination of Steven Menashi, who works in the White House counsel's office. President Donald Trump picked him for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit based in New York.

That means the Senate could vote on Menashi as early as next week, when the House plans its first public impeachment hearings focused on the events surrounding Trump's controversial July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Democrats wrote Menashi six weeks ago with questions about his part in the White House counsel's handling of a whistleblower complaint that jump-started the House impeachment inquiry.

Menashi gave them nothing back.

"He didn't cite a privilege. He didn't even provide the courtesy of responding," Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., said before the vote. "He just said, 'You know, Judiciary Committee, you're irrelevant. You rubber stamp my confirmation, so I'm not going to bother to answer.'"

 

Among the questions the Democrats want Menashi to answer: Did he work or advise on whether the whistleblower complaint could be turned over to Congress, and was he involved in any conversations about how to handle the complaint?

Democrats also want to know whether Menashi was involved in the decision, according to the whistleblower, to "lock down" a record of the call on a computer system usually reserved for sensitive national security information.

Democrats already had expressed concern Menashi was not forthcoming enough about his role in the Trump administration at his confirmation hearing.

Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas responded to criticism of Menashi, but did not directly address his decision not to reply about the whistleblower situation.

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