The ABA’s attack on Steve Grasz — behind the curtain

I wrote here about the ABA’s unfair attack on Steve Grasz, President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The ABA rated Grasz “not qualified” based on what amounts to character assassination.

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee were not amused. Chairman Grassley stated:

This rating is very surprising to me and to many other Senators on the Committee. When I look at Mr. Grasz’s resume, it appears that he’s eminently qualified to be a Circuit Court judge.

Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, the Senators from Grasz’s home state, also weighed in. Fischer cut to the chase, declaring:

I am sad to say that after thoroughly examining the substance of the ABA’s report, it is evident to me that the ABA evaluation of Mr. Grasz was a baseless political character assassination.

Sasse took to the Senate to castigate the ABA. He said: “We should completely dispel with the fiction that the American Bar Association is a fair and impartial arbiter of facts.” Based on Ed Whelan’s research, Sasse also documented the bias of the left-wing law professor who led the smear campaign against Grasz. Sasse’s speech is worth watching in full.

During his questioning of Grasz, Sen. Jeff Flake did a fine job of pulling back the curtain on the ABA interview process. In response to Flake’s questions, Grasz testified that during his interview with the ABA interviewer, he was repeatedly asked about his substantive view on social issues, including abortion.

In addition, the interviewer kept using the words “you people.” When Grasz finally asked to whom the interviewer was referring, the response was “conservatives and Republicans.”

The interviewer also asked Grasz what kinds of schools his children attend school. They attend a Lutheran school. Why does that matter?

According to Grasz, the interviewer devoted considerable time to the candidate’s past criticism of the ABA’s outsized role in Nebraska judicial nominations. One wonders whether the ABA held this criticism against him.

Flake stated:

[T]he ABA’s long history of liberal, political activism makes it very hard to see how their process isn’t biased.

Grasz’s testimony reinforces that view.

I think the ABA, by attacking Grasz, has lost what little was left of its credibility with regard to evaluating judicial nominees. The ABA very rarely gives a fully “non qualified” rating. As Ed Whelan has demonstrated, the record doesn’t justify that rating. Why did the ABA use up its capital on an Eighth Circuit nominee whose resume screams “qualified”, at a minimum?

Some are speculating that Sen. Dianne Feinstein colluded with the ABA. I’m told that her staff was furious with Chairman Grassley’s staff for holding a June 28 hearing on two other nominees — Trevor McFadden and Tim Kelly (both district court selections) — before the ABA ratings were in. Feinstein has expressed her concern (both privately and publicly) that the Committee needs ABA ratings before a hearing. She is said still to be furious about the June 28 hearings.

Waiting for the ABA’s rating to come in before holding a hearing enables Democratic Senators to use a low rating by that left-leaning outfit publicly to embarrass a nominee. Senate Dems certainly tried to accomplish that yesterday, to the delight of their allies in the left-wing media.

Waiting for the rating might also deter the Chairman from calling the witness. It may well be that Feinstein wanted a test case for a nominee rated fully “non-qualified” to see whether Grassley would call the witness. The ABA provided one.

If so, I think the strategy backfired. In two weeks, the Judiciary Committee will hear testimony from the ABA about its evaluation process. It has some explaining to do.

Whatever its explanation, GOP Senators are unlikely to take its ratings at all seriously going forward.