WASHINGTON — A controversial nominee for a life-time judicial appointment drew the ire of U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and other Judiciary Committee members on Wednesday after he repeatedly refused to answer specific questions during his confirmation hearing.
President Donald Trump in August nominated Steven Menashi, a 40-year-old White House attorney, for a post on the influential, New York-based Second U.S. Court of Appeals. His nomination has been fast-tracked amid controversial writings from his past and questions over what role he has played in the White House's immigration policies.
"You're a really smart guy but I wish you'd be more forthcoming," Kennedy, R-Madisonville, said during Wednesday's hearing. "This isn't supposed to be a game."
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Menashi repeatedly cited his attorney-client relationship with the Trump administration in declining to answer senators' questions.
When Kennedy asked him hypothetical questions about how he would rule in various cases, Menashi avoided direct answers.
"I’m out of time," Kennedy ultimately ended his turn questioning. "You took a lot of it by not answering my questions."
It’s not the first time a Trump nominee has drawn visible annoyance from Kennedy, a former constitutional law professor at LSU.
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Protesters disrupted Menashi's hearing Wednesday with outbursts of chants questioning his background.
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Menashi has faced backlash over editorials and blog posts he wrote two decades ago decrying “leftist multiculturalism” and “PC orthodoxy," as first reported by CNN. The writings include ones against the "Take Back The Night" anti-sexual violence campaign, the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign and "academic multiculturalism."
Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee repeatedly asked him Wednesday about his role in the White House but he repeatedly declined to provide specifics.
“I have provided advice to policymakers within the White House on many policy issues including immigration, but I can’t, consistent with my duty of confidentiality to the White House, talk about particular, you know, particular instances on which I worked,” he said.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, called the hearing a “worthless exercise” if Menashi was not going to answer questions with “candor and honesty.”
“It is inappropriate for you to sit there and stonewall this committee on and refuse to answer any questions about who you are and what you believe.”