Democrats are desperately trying to block a Trump judicial nominee who civil rights leaders say has 'practiced white supremacy'

  • The Senate is planning to vote next week on the nomination of Thomas Farr – a deeply controversial conservative lawyer who civil rights leaders say has “practiced white supremacy” – to a federal district court in North Carolina.
  • The chamber narrowly voted to advance Farr’s nomination on Wednesday, but Democrats are hoping that at least two Republicans will oppose him in a final vote.
  • Democrats are centering their attacks on Farr’s “sordid history” of defending voter ID laws, some of which have been struck down as racially discriminatory.

The Senate is scheduled to vote next week on the nomination of Thomas Farr – a deeply controversial conservative lawyer who civil rights leaders say has “practiced white supremacy” – to a federal district court in North Carolina.

With a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, the chamber advanced Farr’s nomination on Wednesday. However, Democrats are hoping at least one Republican will oppose Farr in a final confirmation vote along with Sen. Jeff Flake, the retiring Arizona Republican who has pledged to oppose all of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees until his party allows a vote on legislation that would protect the special counsel’s Russia probe.

Democrats have their eyes on the Senate’s only black Republican, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who has not committed to a final vote in Farr’s favour.

Flake said on Thursday that he was “uncomfortable” with Farr and wouldn’t have voted to confirm him even without his boycott on nominations.

The seat on the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina has gone unfilled since 2005 after Democrats first rejected Farr’s nomination by former President George W. Bush in 2006 and Republicans did not provide hearings to President Barack Obama’s two nominees, both black women.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats are pointing to Farr’s “sordid history” of defending and implementing voter suppression tactics.

Over the last decade, Farr and his law firm colleagues have defended voting restrictions and voter ID laws that courts have struck down as deliberately discriminatory – in one case an appeals court said a North Carolina law Farr defended targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

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Schumer slammed Farr this week as the “chief cook and bottle washer for the state that probably did more to prevent people, particularly African-Americans from voting, than any other state.”

Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams, both black gubernatorial candidates in Florida and Georgia who lost their elections to Trump-supporting Republicans this month, also issued a statement condemning Farr’s record.

“When it comes to the trifecta of voter disenfranchisement – voter suppression, racial gerrymandering, and restriction of voting rights – Thomas Farr is, sadly, one of the most experienced election lawyers in the country,” they wrote in a joint statement on Tuesday.

The Congressional Black Caucus has voiced strong opposition to Farr since he was first nominated by the president last year.

“It is no exaggeration to say that had the White House deliberately sought to identify an attorney in North Carolina with a more hostile record on African-American voting rights and workers’ rights than Thomas Farr, it could hardly have done so,” the Congressional Black Caucus wrote of Farr in a September 2017 letter opposing his nomination.

Farr began his career as counsel to former US Sen. Jesse Helms, a segregationist who represented North Carolina for 30 years. The Justice Department accused Farr of helping to orchestrate the mailing of postcards to 100,000 black voters during Helms’ 1990 Senate campaign that wrongly suggested the black citizens were ineligible to vote and warned they could be arrested and prosecuted for fraud if they tried to.

Farr has denied any involvement in the incident, but civil rights leaders, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, have accused Farr of lying to the Senate about his role. Scott has said he’s investigating Farr’s role “at every facet of the process.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said on Thursday that Scott has “legitimate concerns that we’re trying to resolve” before next week’s vote.

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