New Advocacy Group Will ‘Punch Back’ To Protect Trump’s Judicial Nominees

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Kevin Daley Supreme Court correspondent
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A new conservative advocacy group called the Article III Project (A3P) launched Saturday, promising to promote and defend President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees at the confirmation stage and after they take the bench.

The Article III Project is the latest addition to the GOP’s formidable judicial confirmation architecture, which significantly outpaces its leftwing counterparts.

“A3P will punch back and help confirm President Trump’s judicial nominees, defend these new judges from left-wing attacks once confirmed, defend the integrity of the confirmation process, and fight back against the assaults on judicial independence — including radical court-packing, term-limit, and even impeachment schemes,” A3P president Mike Davis said in a statement announcing the group’s launch.

Davis led a volunteer team that helped guide Justice Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. After a short stint in the Gorsuch chambers, Davis joined the Senate Judiciary Committee as chief counsel for nominations, where he served through Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation.

His determined professional efforts match a pugnacious social media presence. In recent weeks Davis has traded barbs with Michael Avenatti, the celebrity litigator and Trump antagonist who represented Kavanaugh-accuser Julie Swetnick. GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa referred Avenatti and Swetnick to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, suggesting the pair made false statements to Congress.

Davis said additional outside efforts are needed to protect Trump’s nominees from “unprecedented obstruction and baseless attacks.” Though judicial politics have inflamed partisan passions for decades, recent confirmation hearings have taken an especially acerbic tone. (RELATED: The Supreme Court Is Struggling To Conceal A Heated Rift Over Capital Punishment)

For example, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island regularly inveighs against the “Roberts Five,” the senator’s shorthand for the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. In one such oration — which was typical of his other remarks on the subject — Whitehouse accused the high court of setting off on “partisan excursions” to protect “big Republican interests.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questions Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the second day of his confirmation hearing on September 5, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse questions Justice Brett Kavanaugh during the second day of his confirmation hearing. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The religious beliefs of judicial nominees have also featured in Trump-era confirmation hearings. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Roman Catholic, fielded questions about Catholicism and judicial duty during her September 2017 confirmation hearing. More recently, Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey asked Judge Neomi Rao whether she believes homosexuality is sinful, while Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii pressed trial court nominee Brian Buescher about his membership in the Knights of Columbus.

“The attacks are only getting uglier, more personal, and more radical,” Davis said.

Republicans have raised the stakes in their own right, abolishing the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees and reducing post-cloture debate time on district court nominees from 30 hours to two hours.

Progressives have founded competitor groups like Demand Justice, hoping to close the right’s competitive advantage in fundraising, organizing, and messaging around judicial nominations.

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