Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has been negotiating with the Trump White House over appointments to four federal vacancies in Minnesota (US Marshal, US Attorney and two federal district court judgeships) in exchange for the return of her blue slip blocking consideration of Eighth Circuit nominee David Stras. Stras has received bipartisan support from Minnesota lawyers, judges and former colleagues at the University of Minnesota Law School. It is impossible to conjure a nominee more widely respected for the position than Justice Stras. Klobuchar therefore sought to extract partisan benefit from playing along with the Trump administration on this nomination.
Klobuchar, however, didn’t want her machinations over the Stras appointment publicly disclosed. She refused to comment on our reporting about them. She chafed over our disclosure of them. She resented the bad attitude with which we viewed them. She sought to keep the lid on. She denied that she was blocking Stras’s nomination, although she was — pending some arrangement with the White House that would reward her for turning in her blue slip.
Seeking to appease Klobuchar while it tried to reach an agreement with her, the White House reached out to me. The White House had a favor to ask. It requested that I knock off covering the moves of this highly partisan politician with an incredibly thin skin while it worked something out with her. After all, she prefers to present herself (in the title of her memoir) as the Senator next door and the local media have been happy to play along with her. The Star Tribune, for example, has left the story of Klobuchar’s machinations over the Stras nomination untouched.
Yesterday Senator Franken announced that he would not return his blue slip on Stras’s nomination. Franken asserts that President Trump must deliver a “consensus candidate.” This puts to Senator Grassley the question whether Franken will singlehandedly block Justice Stras’s from consideration by the Judiciary Committee (Ed Whelan takes up the question here), or whether the Trump White House will turn to a qualified candidate from another Eighth Circuit state to fill the position (Klobuchar takes up the question below). Franken’s statement does not touch on these matters; they are of no concern to his patrons and allies at the SEIU and NEA.
With Franken’s announcement, Senator Klobuchar declared that Stras was at least good enough to get a hearing. She would have turned in her blue slip to allow for it. Or course, she left her use of Stras’s nomination for leverage on the Minnesota vacancies unmentioned, and it remains unmentioned in the Star Tribune story by Jennifer Brooks and Stephen Montemayor today. It apparently takes two reporters to overlook the rest of the story.
Franken is supposedly the funny Senator, but Klobuchar’s statement reads like cold political satire. Whoever wrote this statement for Klobuchar seems to be sending a subversive message: I am a joke! Amy Klobuchar loves everybody:
Justice Stras has served on the Minnesota Supreme Court for seven years. While I don’t agree with all of his decisions, I felt it was important to actually look in depth at his record. I learned that for the vast majority of the cases he has respected precedent and sided with the majority, which has included both Democratic- and Republican-appointed judges. He is also supported by former Supreme Court Justice Alan Page. While Justice Stras was not my choice for the 8th Circuit Court, it is my view that he deserves a hearing before the Senate.
I am also concerned that this position could simply go to a less independent judge from another 8th Circuit state (Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota or South Dakota) since this is not a permanent Minnesota position.
I also respect the fact that Senator Franken has an equal role to play here. Under Senate practice, both Senators from a judicial nominee’s home state must allow that nominee to have a hearing. Like Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, I support the practice as it is a check and balance regardless of whether a state is represented by two Democrats, two Republicans or one Democrat and one Republican. The policy has resulted in decision-making for judges across party lines. This policy has held true throughout the entire Obama administration, including when Republicans ran the Senate and when Democrats ran the Senate. Changing this policy would have serious ramifications for judicial nominations in every state in the country. Given this important policy, and given Senator Franken’s view that Justice Stras should not be allowed a hearing in the Senate, the White House will need to provide additional names for the 8th Circuit position.
I have enjoyed getting to know Justice Stras throughout this process and I know he will continue to serve admirably on the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Klobuchar wants us to believe she fits the mold of Minnesota Nice. Her sayonara to Justice Stras in the concluding paragraph, however, shows her to be worse than a phony politician. She is a contemptible human being.