Senators Grill Trump Judicial Nominees On Provocative Blog Posts Two judicial nominees' blogging dominated their confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The posts featured conspiracy theories and an ad hominem attack on a Supreme Court justice.
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Senators Grill Trump Judicial Nominees On Provocative Blog Posts

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Senators Grill Trump Judicial Nominees On Provocative Blog Posts

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Senators Grill Trump Judicial Nominees On Provocative Blog Posts

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There are more than 130 vacancies on the U.S. federal courts. And now, President Trump has started to fill some of those jobs. The number is unusually large because in the last years of the Obama administration, Republicans blocked dozens of Obama appointments. Now, the Trump nominees to fill those same judicial seats are coming before the Senate Judiciary Committee. And there are some surprising results. Here's NPR's Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: You might call this week's group of nominees the bloviating bloggers. At their confirmation hearing, 2 of the 3 nominees found themselves trying to explain hundreds of what they admitted were often intemperate and very political blog posts, posts that range from the radical rant to those full of conspiracy theories and false allegations.

The two bloggers took different approaches in their testimony. John Bush, a Kentucky lawyer nominated for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, said he regretted some of his 400-plus blog posts all under a fake name. And he maintained that the beliefs he expressed there would not carry over to his conduct as a judge.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN BUSH: Blogging is a political activity. It is not appropriate to bring politics to the bench. And if I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed, I will not bring politics to the bench.

TOTENBERG: Among the posts Bush said he now regrets is one that equated the Supreme Court's 1857 decision upholding slavery with the court's 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade. Questioned by a skeptical Senator Dianne Feinstein, Bush said this.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BUSH: I would follow Roe v. Wade and all the decisions that have come after that.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN: You're under oath.

BUSH: I am. I understand that.

FEINSTEIN: Correct.

BUSH: My role as a circuit judge is to apply the law of the Supreme Court.

TOTENBERG: Democrat Al Franken asked Bush about a variety of his posts that cited alt-right reports containing conspiracy theories and false information, such as the claim that President Obama was not born in the United States. Franken repeatedly asked Bush how he decided which sources to rely on for information, pointing to one source which Franken called a, quote, "white nationalist propaganda organ filled with hate speech."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AL FRANKEN: How did you decide that World News Daily is a credible source?

BUSH: I don't know whether I decided that or not. I just really cannot remember that particular...

FRANKEN: So you were free - you felt free to put posts out that cite sources that you knew were not credible?

BUSH: No, Senator, I'm not saying that.

FRANKEN: What are you saying?

BUSH: I'm saying that as a blogger, I was making political statements.

TOTENBERG: Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana seemed unpersuaded.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN KENNEDY: Mr. Bush, I've read your blogs. I'm not impressed.

TOTENBERG: While Bush adopted an apologetic tone, a second nominee, Damien Schiff, was far more confrontational. Schiff, named to the Court of Federal Claims, has a very conservative record, challenging everything from environmental regulations to health and safety rules and gay rights laws.

In one of his many blog posts, Schiff called Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy a judicial prostitute. He said that Kennedy, who often casts the fifth and deciding vote in closely divided cases, is, quote, "selling his vote to four other justices in exchange for the high that comes from aggrandizement of power and influence and the blandishments of the fawning media." Schiff only marginally backed away from those words yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAMIEN SCHIFF: I'd also like to clarify that the point of that blog post was not to impugn or malign any person but rather to attack a certain style of judging that is frequently applauded in the media.

TOTENBERG: That seemed to satisfy the committee's Republicans except for Louisiana's Kennedy, who looked disgusted at the end of the hearing but said he'd not decided how he'll vote. Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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