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Exclusive: Grassley urges Trump to reconsider controversial judicial picks

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley issued a rare rebuke Tuesday of two of President Donald Trump's mo...

Posted: Dec 13, 2017 6:28 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 6:28 PM

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley issued a rare rebuke Tuesday of two of President Donald Trump's most controversial judicial nominees, urging the White House to rethink the picks.

Grassley told CNN that he is advising the White House to "reconsider" the nomination of Jeff Mateer, who was selected to become a federal judge in Texas. He said the White House "should not proceed" on the nomination of Brett Talley, whom Trump picked to become a federal judge in Alabama.

Grassley: 'I would advise the White House not to proceed'

Comments amount to an unusual brake on Trump's bid to fill the judiciary with conservatives

"I've advised the White House they ought to reconsider," Grassley said as he left a Judiciary Committee hearing. "I would advise the White House not to proceed."

Grassley's comments amount to an unusual brake on Trump's bid to fill the judiciary with young conservative voices. The Senate has moved at an unprecedented pace this year to seat federal judges but controversy has surrounded the Mateer and Talley nominations.

Talley's nomination has already gone through the Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a vote from the full Senate. Mateer's nomination still needs committee approval.

As judiciary nominees come quick, Democrats cry foul

It's unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will ultimately schedule a floor vote for Talley. A McConnell aide said it's "premature" to say what will happen with any of the pending district court judges because the Senate is currently considering the nominations of three circuit court judges and then will turn to the tax bill, government funding, and other pressing year-end issues.

Talley offered to withdraw his nomination last week, according to a White House official. A person familiar with the situation said the nomination will not move forward.

BuzzFeed News first reported Talley's offer late Tuesday.

Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, asked Talley to back out of the nomination.

"While the senator believes that Brett Talley is a great young attorney, he spoke with him last week and asked for his letter of withdrawal in hopes that Mr. Talley can gain more experience," Shelby spokesperson Blair Bailey Taylor said in a statement.

Both Talley and the Department of Justice declined to comment.

Asked about this story at Tuesday's briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she wasn't sure if Trump and Grassley have "spoken directly" about the issue.

As CNN first reported, Mateer said in 2015 that transgender children are part of "Satan's plan." His home state senator, Republican John Cornyn, is taking issue with the fact that Mateer did not disclose the speeches where he made the eyebrow-raising remarks.

"On the Mateer case, he did not disclose the information before the judicial evaluation committee," he said. "That's a serious breach of protocol."

Meanwhile, controversy has built around Talley since he was approved by the Judiciary Committee last month. An online comment he wrote in 2011 surfaced defending the early KKK. He also didn't disclose his wife's top White House job as a potential conflict of interest on his Senate questionnaire.

The developments have caused other Republicans to break ranks. Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy said Tuesday he wouldn't vote for either Talley or Mateer and that he didn't think they would have the votes to be confirmed on the Senate floor.

"Nor should they," he added. "I think the President, as I've said before, has been given some very, very bad advice."

Even with these nominees in peril, Democrats are still stung by the speed at which Republicans are moving other judicial picks through the process. So far this year, the Senate has voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and 10 circuit court nominees -- the most of any president in his first year since Richard Nixon. Neither of the embattled nominees is for those more powerful circuit court positions.

There are over two dozen judicial nominees pending on the Senate floor.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary committee, said in a statement Tuesday that Talley and Mateer "should not be federal judges" and urged Grassley to slow down the process.

"I would hope that Chairman Grassley's request that the White House pull these nominations leads him to reconsider the breakneck speed at which the Judiciary Committee has been considering nominees," Feinstein said. "Moving so quickly makes it more likely that senators will be caught by surprise and end up having to vote for someone whose record they weren't fully aware of."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 453808

Reported Deaths: 6131
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin941381495
Ramsey40509748
Dakota33463350
Anoka31283368
Washington20471234
Stearns18051190
St. Louis13916247
Scott1213098
Wright11756107
Olmsted1073975
Sherburne827868
Carver703139
Clay657684
Rice621170
Kandiyohi556772
Blue Earth546833
Crow Wing489178
Otter Tail463167
Chisago458138
Benton423288
Winona394248
Douglas378466
Nobles374447
Mower372129
Goodhue355362
Polk330660
McLeod327947
Beltrami315048
Morrison314145
Lyon304738
Becker288839
Itasca287143
Isanti284842
Carlton283543
Steele278510
Pine269614
Freeborn253623
Todd233130
Nicollet227938
Brown217434
Mille Lacs215045
Le Sueur213516
Cass210524
Meeker201233
Waseca192816
Wabasha17413
Martin171726
Roseau166317
Hubbard150238
Redwood141027
Houston139814
Dodge13864
Renville138040
Chippewa132332
Cottonwood128918
Fillmore12646
Wadena120218
Rock111912
Aitkin111233
Sibley10947
Faribault108816
Watonwan10688
Pennington101016
Kanabec99318
Pipestone96423
Yellow Medicine94916
Murray9096
Jackson87310
Swift84418
Pope7465
Stevens7078
Marshall70315
Clearwater68714
Lake66315
Lac qui Parle66016
Wilkin6349
Koochiching60310
Lincoln4892
Big Stone4693
Unassigned44568
Grant4388
Norman4258
Mahnomen4147
Kittson37320
Red Lake3204
Traverse2613
Lake of the Woods1961
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 310915

Reported Deaths: 4432
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46760465
Linn18037279
Scott15838172
Black Hawk14076243
Woodbury13111181
Johnson1228552
Dubuque11615159
Pottawattamie9146115
Dallas907772
Story879438
Cerro Gordo472572
Webster472077
Sioux459657
Warren458039
Clinton457768
Marshall430762
Buena Vista396230
Muscatine395878
Des Moines394943
Plymouth352870
Wapello349898
Jasper331659
Lee324132
Marion308953
Jones274650
Henry267331
Carroll258234
Bremer249848
Crawford234324
Washington222933
Boone222717
Benton213050
Mahaska197637
Jackson194932
Tama190159
Dickinson188329
Kossuth178544
Delaware176036
Clay172021
Wright166624
Fayette165924
Hamilton162230
Buchanan162024
Winneshiek160820
Harrison158162
Hardin156931
Cedar155519
Clayton153849
Butler150924
Page146415
Floyd141436
Cherokee140027
Mills138517
Lyon137533
Poweshiek134924
Hancock131524
Allamakee130930
Iowa127722
Madison123610
Calhoun12349
Grundy122528
Jefferson122125
Winnebago121729
Mitchell116837
Louisa116230
Cass114843
Chickasaw113712
Appanoose112440
Sac112015
Emmet111232
Union111023
Humboldt106619
Shelby105427
Guthrie104224
Franklin103318
Unassigned10110
Palo Alto91711
Montgomery88324
Keokuk86326
Howard85519
Monroe82220
Clarke8108
Pocahontas78111
Ida75930
Davis70121
Greene6977
Adair69620
Monona67018
Lucas66610
Osceola64711
Worth6184
Taylor5999
Fremont5246
Van Buren50215
Decatur4964
Ringgold44811
Audubon4218
Wayne41921
Adams2993
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