November 07, 2019
Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today highlighted concerns with Steven Menashi, President Trump’s nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Video of the remarks is available here.
“We will be voting this morning on six judicial nominees. I would like to address one of them and that’s Steven Menashi for the Second Circuit Court.
Mr. Menashi, as I think everyone knows, is an advisor to White House aide Stephen Miller and a member of Mr. Miller’s White House immigration strategic working group.
This working group helped push the White House’s policy of separating children from their families, which still has not been fully rectified—despite a court order to do so.
Mr. Menashi also worked as the acting general counsel under Secretary Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education from 2017 to 2018, where he was involved in “all aspects of the Department’s operations.”
During Mr. Menashi’s tenure, the department pushed new rules on campus sexual assault that the administration’s own analysis concluded would dramatically reduce the number of sexual assault investigations.
The department also eliminated rules to hold for-profit colleges accountable for defrauding their students and saddling them with debt.
During Mr. Menashi’s hearing, I asked about his work in the White House. Specifically, I asked if he had worked or advised on the administration’s family separation policy. He refused to answer. I gave him another chance in written questions for the record. He still would not give a straight answer.
Mr. Menashi also refused to answer written questions about whether he’s worked or advised on matters relating to the whistleblower complaint and President Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President.
Importantly, none of these questions asked him about the substance of his advice.
A number of us—on both sides of the aisle—expressed frustration at his unwillingness to answer basic questions about what he has worked on in the Trump White House.
His refusal to answer these questions really makes it difficult for us to fulfill our constitutional role to “advise and consent.”
Mr. Menashi’s earlier career is equally troubling. He has a long history of attacking those with whom he disagrees.
He compared trial lawyers to cannibals, writing that they “have been feeding on the public for long enough.” That’s in the New York Sun, December 21, 2004.
He wrote that a major LGBT-rights organization had “incessantly exploited the slaying of Matthew Shepard for both financial and political benefit.”
And he compared affirmative action in college admissions with the Nuremberg Laws.
I also want to note what came to light regarding Mr. Menashi’s record just last night, thanks to reporting by The New York Times. Late yesterday, The New York Times reported on a legal memo that Mr. Menashi authored while general counsel at the Department of Education.
In that memo, he argued against allowing debt relief for students who had been defrauded by for-profit colleges. This memo was used to support the Trump administration’s decision to roll back the Obama administration’s decision to afford these students relief.
I think it’s really appalling that this committee only learned about this memo and Mr. Menashi’s legal position on this issue through a leak in The New York Times. During his hearing he was asked multiple times by multiple members to explain topics he worked on while general counsel at the Department of Education and in the White House. He refused to do so. And in questions for the record, he remained evasive.
I think the committee cannot meaningfully “advise and consent” on lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary if nominees are allowed to evade legitimate questions about their records. So, this is another reason why I urge a no vote on Mr. Menashi’s nomination.”
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