Advance Notice: Briefs

Progressives take aim at Trump judicial pick as ‘Betsy DeVos in a robe’

By: - September 12, 2019 10:38 am

Betsy DeVos | Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Updated, 11:55 a.m. with comments from the Michigan Democratic Party

President Donald Trump has been filling federal court slots with right-wing nominees at record speed, with a big assist from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Steven Menashi

Trump’s latest high-profile pick for the influential Second U.S. Court of Appeals is Steven Menashi, associate counsel to the president. Menashi also was a top lawyer for the U.S. Department of Education, which is run by West Michigan native Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Progressives have lined up against Menashi, noting the department’s new rules for college sexual assault reporting that survivors have widely criticized, Yahoo News reports.

“Steve Menashi would be Betsy DeVos in a robe,” said Lena Zwarensteyn of the progressive Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “He is undeserving and unqualified for a lifetime position on the Second Circuit.”

Michigan Democratic Party spokesman Paul Kanan added in a statement to the Advance, “Betsy DeVos already owns the vast majority of Republican lawmakers — Americans and our democracy cannot afford her having a U.S. Court of Appeals judge in her pocket, too.”

Menashi also helped shape the Trump administration’s restrictionist immigration policy. U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) criticized him at a hearing this week for not being forthcoming about his role.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member, asked Menashi if he had a role in the Trump administration policy of separating children from their families at the border.

Progressives pointed to Menashi’s prolific writings for conservative outlets, Yahoo News reports:

In those writings, Menashi routinely expressed opinions that, today, would make many Republicans uncomfortable. As a wealthy student at an elite college, he once called recipients of financial aid “grasshoppers.” In another article, he praised the “noble aims” of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. And in a law review essay, he criticized “ethnically heterogeneous societies,” leading to accusations that he was a white nationalist — a claim his proponents say is outrageous.

Although Trump has gotten the vast majority of his nominees confirmed, Menashi is expected to face a tough fight.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.