Politics November 18, 2016: Trump causes controversy naming Sessions, Flynn and Pompeo to Cabinet

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By Bonnie K. Goodman

BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, NJ - NOVEMBER 20: President-elect Donald Trump steps outside the clubhouse to greet Jonathan Gray, member of the Board of Directors at Blackstone, before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

BEDMINSTER TOWNSHIP, NJ – NOVEMBER 20: President-elect Donald Trump steps outside the clubhouse to greet Jonathan Gray, member of the Board of Directors at Blackstone, before their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey. Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump is beginning to fill up his cabinet, adding three more to the two positions he has already filled. On Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, Trump named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his National Security Adviser according to sources. On Friday, Nov. 18, Trump added to his cabinet by naming Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general, and Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo as CIA Director. Sessions nomination is causing the most controversy because he had been accused of racist comments against African Americans that led him not to be confirmed for a circuit judgeship in 1986 when the President Ronald Reagan nominated him. Flynn is also causing a stir, for his racist comments against Muslims.

On Friday, Nov. 18, the Trump transition team officially released a statement announcing President-elect Trump decisions on those appointments. That included statements by the president-elect and Sessions, Flynn and Pompeo. Sessions is a member of Senate Judiciary Committee member, Flynn is “a retired United States Army Lieutenant General and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency,” while Pompeo is currently a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Sessions was an early contender for a top cabinet post since he was the first Senator to endorse Trump back in February and since then has been a loyal advisor to Trump during the campaign on immigration and Supreme Court nominations. Sessions is facing criticism for remarks that haunted his 1986 confirmation hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee for the position of U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Alabama. Then Sessions was accused of saying the ACLU and NAACP were “un-American” and he used racially derogatory remarks to African American employees. In 1986, Sessions responded, “I am not a racist. I am not insensitive to blacks. I have supported civil rights activity in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality, and fairness for all.”

Trump campaign manager defended Sessions against the old allegations. Conway told CNN, “We’re aware of what was said and done 30 some years ago and we’re also aware of the incredible career Jeff Sessions has had throughout his life… I think if anyone had a problem with his record they would have run against him. Senator Sessions would be qualified for any number of positions.” Senate Democrats including new minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are against Sessions being confirmed, but also one Republican, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul opposes his nomination.

Flynn is a registered Democrat, who criticized President Barack Obama’s foreign policy after leaving his post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, which he held from 2012 to 2014. Flynn also has been a loyal Trump advisor and campaign surrogate, especially on issues regarding national security, and on Trump’s Muslim ban that morphed into a ban on immigrants terrorist countries. His views and comments, however, towards Muslims, are problematic and are being criticized.

In February, Flynn tweeted, that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” Flynn revealed in a New York Post op-ed that “the stand I took on radical Islam,” was the real reason for his departure from DIA. Flynn later wrote a book “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win The Global War Against Radical Islam And Its Allies” which was released earlier this year outlining his views  on the “global war against radical Islam.” Flynn is also a board member on ACT for America considered “the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America.” American Muslim groups are outraged at Trump’s appointment of Flynn. The position of National Security Advisor, however, does not require Senate confirmation.

Pompeo is the least controversial of Trump’s three appointments, but he is still facing opposition from Sen. Paul. Rep. Pompeo was a sharp “critic of President Obama’s foreign policy including the Iran deal” and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her term as Secretary of State. Pompeo was not an early Trump supporter as his other early picks; Pompeo first endorsed Florida Senator Marco Rubio in the primary. Pompeo has served three terms in the House and is a member of the House Energy Committee and the Intelligence Committee and a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Pompeo co-wrote a supplement to the report on the way the Obama Administration and Clinton as Secretary of State dealt with the 2012 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Previously, Trump named Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus his chief of staff and former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon his chief strategist and senior counselor, both positions do not require Senate confirmations. Trump has spent all week and weekend meeting with prospective candidates for top White House and Cabinet posts, but he still is at the at the start of filling in these positions, with only two months to spare before Inauguration Day.

Politics November 16, 2016: Senate leadership McConnell re-elected, Democrat Schumer elected, Sanders grabs post

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By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After the House Republicans had voted on their leadership posts, the Senate had their turn. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2016, as predicted Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) was re-elected majority leader by acclamation, while New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to minority leader, as departing minority leader Sen. Harry Reid’s heir apparent. Vermont Sen. and 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also grabbed his first Senate leader post as Chair of Outreach.

The Republicans retained their leaders in their election for the 115th Congress. In a meeting of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, McConnell was re-elected “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” as his spokesman Don Stewart told the press. Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) nominated McConnell, while Sen.-elect Todd Young, (R-IN) second the motion, both were instrumental to the GOP maintaining their majority.

McConnell was expected to remain in his post, and there were no surprises in the GOP leadership votes. McConnell, 74 will be serving his second term as majority leader, previously he was minority leader for four terms, and is “Kentucky’s longest-serving senator;” he was first elected in 1984.

All the action was with the Democrats after they shook up their leadership with the retirement of longtime leader Sen. Reid. Reid already named Schumer, his successor, but Wednesday’s vote made that a reality. After the being elected Schumer expressed, “I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it.” While Schumer told reporters, “We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans.” Although the minority leader acknowledged, “When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch. You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it.”

Schumer, 66 has served in the Senate since 1998, and he was in the House representing Brooklyn and Queens for 18 years before that. In 2006, Reid tapped Schumer to be the party’s number three in the Senate as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, a position her served for ten years. When Reid announced his retirement in 2015, he made it clear he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader.

Overshadowing Schumer’s election was the addition of Sanders to the enlarged leadership team. The popular Sanders will be the outreach chairman, a newly created post within the ranks. Senate Democrats were pressured to add the formerly independent Senator to their leadership ranks after his historic run for the Democratic nomination, with a still very loyal supporter base.

After his appointment, Sanders spoke to reporters, telling them he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires.” Sanders will also retain his post as the senior minority member of the Budget Committee.

Otherwise, in the Democratic ranks, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill) remains minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the new assistant Democratic leader, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) moves up to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) becomes Democratic Conference secretary, the fourth ranking in leadership, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) takes over as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The Democrats enlarged their team from seven to 10 posts. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) now moved up to newly titled posts of vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) position title changed from chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to just chair of the Steering Committee.

Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA ) becomes the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, while longtime-Judiciary member Patrick Leahy (D-VT)  moves to the Appropriations Committee.

Politics November 16, 2016: Senate leadership McConnell re-elected, Democrat Schumer elected, Sanders grabs post

By Bonnie K. Goodman

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 16: U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) leaves after an election meeting of Senate Democrats to elect new leadership at the Capitol November 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. Sen. Schumer was elected as the incoming Senate minority leader. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After the House Republicans had voted on their leadership posts, the Senate had their turn. On Wednesday morning, Nov. 16, 2016, as predicted Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) was re-elected majority leader by acclamation, while New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer was elevated to minority leader, as departing minority leader Sen. Harry Reid’s heir apparent. Vermont Sen. and 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders also grabbed his first Senate leader post as Chair of Outreach.

The Republicans retained their leaders in their election for the 115th Congress. In a meeting of the GOP conference on Wednesday morning, McConnell was re-elected “by acclimation by his colleagues with a standing ovation,” as his spokesman Don Stewart told the press. Sen. Marco Rubio (R- FL) nominated McConnell, while Sen.-elect Todd Young, (R-IN) second the motion, both were instrumental to the GOP maintaining their majority.

McConnell was expected to remain in his post, and there were no surprises in the GOP leadership votes. McConnell, 74 will be serving his second term as majority leader, previously he was minority leader for four terms, and is “Kentucky’s longest-serving senator;” he was first elected in 1984.

All the action was with the Democrats after they shook up their leadership with the retirement of longtime leader Sen. Reid. Reid already named Schumer, his successor, but Wednesday’s vote made that a reality. After the being elected Schumer expressed, “I am going to wake up every single day focused on how Senate Democrats can effectively fight for America’s middle class and those struggling to join it.” While Schumer told reporters, “We are ready to go toe to toe with Republicans.” Although the minority leader acknowledged, “When you lose an election like this, you can’t flinch. You can’t ignore it. You need to look it right in the eye and ask why, analyze it and learn from it.”

Schumer, 66 has served in the Senate since 1998, and he was in the House representing Brooklyn and Queens for 18 years before that. In 2006, Reid tapped Schumer to be the party’s number three in the Senate as vice chairman of the Democratic Conference, a position her served for ten years. When Reid announced his retirement in 2015, he made it clear he wanted Schumer to succeed him as Senate Democratic leader.

Overshadowing Schumer’s election was the addition of Sanders to the enlarged leadership team. The popular Sanders will be the outreach chairman, a newly created post within the ranks. Senate Democrats were pressured to add the formerly independent Senator to their leadership ranks after his historic run for the Democratic nomination, with a still very loyal supporter base.

After his appointment, Sanders spoke to reporters, telling them he has a “heavy responsibility to help shape the priorities of the United States government. I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that the budget that leaves the United States Congress is a budget that represents the needs of working families and a shrinking middle class and not billionaires.” Sanders will also retain his post as the senior minority member of the Budget Committee.

Otherwise, in the Democratic ranks, Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill) remains minority whip. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will be the new assistant Democratic leader, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) moves up to chair the Democratic Policy and Communications Center. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, (D-WI) becomes Democratic Conference secretary, the fourth ranking in leadership, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) takes over as vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

The Democrats enlarged their team from seven to 10 posts. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) now moved up to newly titled posts of vice chairs of the Senate Democratic Conference. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) position title changed from chairwoman of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee to just chair of the Steering Committee.

Additionally, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-CA ) becomes the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, while longtime-Judiciary member Patrick Leahy (D-VT)  moves to the Appropriations Committee.

Politics August 6, 2016: Trump finally endorses Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte

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Trump finally endorses Paul Ryan, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After a couple of days of drama, Republican nominee Donald Trump endorsed Speaker of the House and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, Arizona Senator John McCain and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte in their re-election bids for their Congressional and Senate seats. Trump made the endorsements official on Friday evening, Aug. 5, 2016, at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Trump expressed that he wanted to be a “big tent” Republican like Ronald Reagan in a speech that was rather unusual for Trump in that he read it off prepared remarks.

Trump in announcing his endorsements stated, “This campaign is not about me or any one candidate, it’s about America. I understand and embrace the wisdom of Ronald Reagan’s big tent within the party. So I embrace the wisdom that my 80 percent friend is not my 20 percent enemy.” Trump emphasized that he would need the support of the House and Senate as president.

Then after 10 minutes into his speech, Trump endorsed Speaker Ryan. Trump remarked, “We will have disagreements, but we will disagree as friends and never stop working together toward victory. And very importantly toward real change. So in our shared mission to make America great again, I support and endorse our speaker of the house Paul Ryan.” Trump’s endorsement comes only days before Ryan’s primary on Tuesday, Aug. 9, where he leads his opponent Paul Nehlen by 66 percent.

Continuing Trump endorsed McCain, both have been highly critical of the other. The GOP nominee said, “And while I’m at it, I hold in the highest esteem Senator John McCain for his service to our country in uniform and public office, and I fully support and endorse his reelection Very important. We’ll work together.”

After the rally, Trump’s campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters touting party unity and the endorsements. The email read, “It’s time to unite our Party and deny the third term of Obama. I have officially endorsed Paul Ryan — and together, we will fight for YOU, and together we will Make America Great Again!”

The controversy over the Ryan endorsement commenced on Tuesday, Aug. 2 when Trump spoke to the Washington for an interview. Trump echoed Ryan earlier comments about endorsing him back in May. The GOP nominee said, “I like Paul, but these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet.”

Trump running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence broke with Trump over the endorsements choosing to endorse Ryan on Wednesday, Aug. 3. Pence endorsed Ryan in a phone interview with Fox News, stating, “I strongly support Paul Ryan, strongly endorse his re-election. He is a longtime friend. He’s a strong conservative leader. I believe we need Paul Ryan in leadership in the Congress of the United States.”
Pence later tweeted that he told his running mate in advance of his decision, “I talked to @realDonaldTrump this morning about my support for Paul Ryan and our longtime friend ship….” According to a Trump campaign insider, the GOP nominee is giving Pence “latitude” to speak his mind and convictions, and Pence’s endorsement was hardly a falling out.

Trump’s withholding the endorsement, however, was causing friction with fellow Republicans, who were quickly abandoning the GOP nominee. Even Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, a friend of Ryan’s and also from Wisconsin, was upset at Trump veering off the script.

Trump’s decision to endorse Ryan came only hours after Ryan suggested he could be easily unendorsed Trump if he sees fit. On Friday morning, Ryan told local Wisconsin radio WTAQ’s Jerry Bader, “None of these things are ever blank checks, that goes with any situation in any kind of race.” Continuing Ryan explained why he endorsed Trump in the first place, “he won the delegates, he won the thing fair and square it’s just that simple.”

 

Politics July 7, 2016: McConnell wants the FBI to release Clinton’s interview

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McConnell wants the FBI to release Clinton’s interview

By Bonnie K. Goodman

A day after FBI Director James B. Comey announced that the FBI would not be prosecuting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is calling for the FBI to release Clinton’s interview. On Wednesday, July 7, 2016, McConnell joined Republican leaders’ chorus criticizing the FBI for deciding not to prosecute Clinton for using a private email server during her tenure and risking national security.

McConnell requested the FBI release Clinton’s interview transcript during his weekly press briefing. The majority leader said, “It’s pretty clear … that the American people would like to see what Hillary Clinton said to the FBI.” McConnell and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) believe Clinton might have perjured herself. The FBI conducted the three-hour interview with Clinton on Saturday, July 2.

Full Text Political Transcripts March 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Announcing Judge Merrick Garland as his Nominee to the Supreme Court

Source: WH, 3-16-16

 

Rose Garden

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Everybody, please have a seat.

Of the many powers and responsibilities that the Constitution vests in the presidency, few are more consequential than appointing a Supreme Court justice — particularly one to succeed Justice Scalia, one of the most influential jurists of our time.

The men and women who sit on the Supreme Court are the final arbiters of American law.  They safeguard our rights.  They ensure that our system is one of laws and not men.  They’re charged with the essential task of applying principles put to paper more than two centuries ago to some of the most challenging questions of our time.

So this is not a responsibility that I take lightly.  It’s a decision that requires me to set aside short-term expediency and narrow politics, so as to maintain faith with our founders and, perhaps more importantly, with future generations.  That’s why, over the past several weeks, I’ve done my best to set up a rigorous and comprehensive process.  I’ve sought the advice of Republican and Democratic members of Congress.  We’ve reached out to every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to constitutional scholars, to advocacy groups, to bar associations, representing an array of interests and opinions from all across the spectrum.

And today, after completing this exhaustive process, I’ve made my decision.  I’ve selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness, and excellence.  These qualities, and his long commitment to public service, have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle.  He will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the Supreme Court, an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately.

Today, I am nominating Chief Judge Merrick Brian Garland to join the Supreme Court.  (Applause.)

Now, in law enforcement circles, and the in the legal community at large, Judge Garland needs no introduction.  But I’d like to take a minute to introduce Merrick to the American people, whom he already so ably serves.

He was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln — in my hometown of Chicago, in my home state of Illinois.  His mother volunteered in the community; his father ran a small business out of their home.  Inheriting that work ethic, Merrick became valedictorian of his public high school.  He earned a scholarship to Harvard, where he graduated summa cum laude.  And he put himself through Harvard Law School by working as a tutor, by stocking shoes in a shoe store, and, in what is always a painful moment for any young man, by selling his comic book collection.  (Laughter.)  It’s tough.  Been there.  (Laughter.)

Merrick graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law, and the early years of his legal career bear all the traditional marks of excellence.  He clerked for two of President Eisenhower’s judicial appointees — first for a legendary judge on the Second Circuit, Judge Henry Friendly, and then for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.  Following his clerkships, Merrick joined a highly regarded law firm, with a practice focused on litigation and pro bono representation of disadvantaged Americans.  Within four years, he earned a partnership — the dream of most lawyers. But in 1989, just months after that achievement, Merrick made a highly unusual career decision.  He walked away from a comfortable and lucrative law practice to return to public service.

Merrick accepted a low-level job as a federal prosecutor in President George H.W. Bush’s administration.  He took a 50-percent pay cut, traded in his elegant partner’s office for a windowless closet that smelled of stale cigarette smoke.  This was a time when crime here in Washington had reached epidemic proportions, and he wanted to help.  And he quickly made a name for himself, going after corrupt politicians and violent criminals.

His sterling record as a prosecutor led him to the Justice Department, where he oversaw some of the most significant prosecutions in the 1990s — including overseeing every aspect of the federal response to the Oklahoma City bombing.  In the aftermath of that act of terror, when 168 people, many of them small children, were murdered, Merrick had one evening to say goodbye to his own young daughters before he boarded a plane to Oklahoma City.  And he would remain there for weeks.  He worked side-by-side with first responders, rescue workers, local and federal law enforcement.  He led the investigation and supervised the prosecution that brought Timothy McVeigh to justice.

But perhaps most important is the way he did it.  Throughout the process, Merrick took pains to do everything by the book.  When people offered to turn over evidence voluntarily, he refused, taking the harder route of obtaining the proper subpoenas instead, because Merrick would take no chances that someone who murdered innocent Americans might go free on a technicality.

Merrick also made a concerted effort to reach out to the victims and their families, updating them frequently on the case’s progress.  Everywhere he went, he carried with him in his briefcase the program from the memorial service with each of the victims’ names inside –- a constant, searing reminder of why he had to succeed.

Judge Garland has often referred to his work on the Oklahoma City case as, and I quote, “the most important thing I have ever done in my life.”  And through it all, he never lost touch with that community that he served.

It’s no surprise then, that soon after his work in Oklahoma City, Merrick was nominated to what’s often called the second highest court in the land — the D.C. Circuit Court.  During that process, during that confirmation process, he earned overwhelming bipartisan praise from senators and legal experts alike.  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, supported his nomination.  Back then, he said, “In all honesty, I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position.”  He actually accused fellow Senate Republicans trying to obstruct Merrick’s confirmation of “playing politics with judges.”  And he has since said that Judge Garland would be a “consensus nominee” for the Supreme Court who “would be very well supported by all sides,” and there would be “no question” Merrick would be confirmed with bipartisan support.

Ultimately, Merrick was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, the second highest court in the land, with votes from a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans.  Three years ago, he was elevated to Chief Judge.  And in his 19 years on the D.C. Circuit, Judge Garland has brought his trademark diligence, compassion, and unwavering regard for the rule of law to his work.

On a circuit court known for strong-minded judges on both ends of the spectrum, Judge Garland has earned a track record of building consensus as a thoughtful, fair-minded judge who follows the law.  He’s shown a rare ability to bring together odd couples, assemble unlikely coalitions, persuade colleagues with wide-ranging judicial philosophies to sign on to his opinions.

And this record on the bench speaks, I believe, to Judge Garland’s fundamental temperament — his insistence that all views deserve a respectful hearing.  His habit, to borrow a phrase from former Justice John Paul Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing,” and then disagreeing without being disagreeable.  It speaks to his ability to persuade, to respond to the concerns of others with sound arguments and airtight logic.  As his former colleague on the D.C. Circuit, and our current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, once said, “Any time Judge Garland disagrees, you know you’re in a difficult area.”

At the same time, Chief Judge Garland is more than just a brilliant legal mind.  He’s someone who has a keen understanding that justice is about more than abstract legal theory; more than some footnote in a dusty casebook.  His life experience –- his experience in places like Oklahoma City –- informs his view that the law is more than an intellectual exercise.  He understands the way law affects the daily reality of people’s lives in a big, complicated democracy, and in rapidly-changing times.  And throughout his jurisprudence runs a common thread -– a dedication to protecting the basic rights of every American; a conviction that in a democracy, powerful voices must not be allowed to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.

To find someone with such a long career of public service, marked by complex and sensitive issues; to find someone who just about everyone not only respects, but genuinely likes –- that is rare.  And it speaks to who Merrick Garland is — not just as a lawyer, but as a man.

People respect the way he treats others — his genuine courtesy and respect for his colleagues and those who come before his court.  They admire his civic-mindedness — mentoring his clerks throughout their careers, urging them to use their legal training to serve their communities, setting his own example by tutoring a young student at a Northeast D.C. elementary school each year for the past 18 years.  They’re moved by his deep devotion to his family — Lynn, his wife of nearly 30 years, and their two daughters, Becky and Jessie.  As a family, they indulge their love of hiking and skiing and canoeing, and their love of America by visiting our national parks.

People respect Merrick’s deep and abiding passion for protecting our most basic constitutional rights.  It’s a passion, I’m told, that manifested itself at an early age.  And one story is indicative of this, is notable.  As valedictorian of his high school class, he had to deliver a commencement address.  The other student speaker that day spoke first and unleashed a fiery critique of the Vietnam War.  Fearing the controversy that might result, several parents decided to unplug the sound system, and the rest of the student’s speech was muffled.

And Merrick didn’t necessarily agree with the tone of his classmate’s remarks, nor his choice of topic for that day.  But stirred by the sight of a fellow student’s voice being silenced, he tossed aside his prepared remarks and delivered instead, on the spot, a passionate, impromptu defense of our First Amendment rights.

It was the beginning of a lifelong career — as a lawyer, and a prosecutor, and as a judge — devoted to protecting the rights of others.  And he has done that work with decency and humanity and common sense, and a common touch.  And I’m proud that he’ll continue that work on our nation’s highest court.

I said I would take this process seriously — and I did.  I chose a serious man and an exemplary judge, Merrick Garland.  Over my seven years as President, in all my conversations with senators from both parties in which I asked their views on qualified Supreme Court nominees — this includes the previous two seats that I had to fill — the one name that has come up repeatedly, from Republicans and Democrats alike, is Merrick Garland.

Now, I recognize that we have entered the political season  — or perhaps, these days it never ends — a political season that is even noisier and more volatile than usual.  I know that Republicans will point to Democrats who’ve made it hard for Republican Presidents to get their nominees confirmed.  And they’re not wrong about that.  There’s been politics involved in nominations in the past.  Although it should be pointed out that, in each of those instances, Democrats ultimately confirmed a nominee put forward by a Republican President.

I also know that because of Justice Scalia’s outsized role on the Court and in American law, and the fact that Americans are closely divided on a number of issues before the Court, it is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics — the squabbling that’s going on in the news every day.  But to go down that path would be wrong.  It would be a betrayal of our best traditions, and a betrayal of the vision of our founding documents.

At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable — this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves.  Because our Supreme Court really is unique.  It’s supposed to be above politics.  It has to be.  And it should stay that way.

To suggest that someone as qualified and respected as Merrick Garland doesn’t even deserve a hearing, let alone an up or down vote, to join an institution as important as our Supreme Court, when two-thirds of Americans believe otherwise — that would be unprecedented.

To suggest that someone who has served his country with honor and dignity, with a distinguished track record of delivering justice for the American people, might be treated, as one Republican leader stated, as a political “piñata” — that can’t be right.

Tomorrow, Judge Garland will travel to the Hill to begin meeting with senators, one-on-one.  I simply ask Republicans in the Senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up or down vote.  If you don’t, then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.  It will mean everything is subject to the most partisan of politics — everything.  It will provoke an endless cycle of more tit-for-tat, and make it increasingly impossible for any President, Democrat or Republican, to carry out their constitutional function.  The reputation of the Supreme Court will inevitably suffer.  Faith in our justice system will inevitably suffer.  Our democracy will ultimately suffer, as well.

I have fulfilled my constitutional duty.  Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs.  Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term.  Neither should a senator.

I know that tomorrow the Senate will take a break and leave town on recess for two weeks.  My earnest hope is that senators take that time to reflect on the importance of this process to our democracy — not what’s expedient, not what’s happening at the moment, what does this mean for our institutions, for our common life — the stakes, the consequences, the seriousness of the job we all swore an oath to do.

And when they return, I hope that they’ll act in a bipartisan fashion.  I hope they’re fair.  That’s all.  I hope they are fair.  As they did when they confirmed Merrick Garland to the D.C. Circuit, I ask that they confirm Merrick Garland now to the Supreme Court, so that he can take his seat in time to fully participate in its work for the American people this fall. He is the right man for the job.  He deserves to be confirmed.  I could not be prouder of the work that he has already done on behalf of the American people.  He deserves our thanks and he deserves a fair hearing.

And with that, I’d like to invite Judge Garland to say a few words.  (Applause.)

JUDGE GARLAND:  Thank you, Mr. President.  This is the greatest honor of my life — other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago.  It’s also the greatest gift I’ve ever received except — and there’s another caveat — the birth of our daughters, Jessie and Becky.

As my parents taught me by both words and deeds, a life of public service is as much a gift to the person who serves as it is to those he is serving.  And for me, there could be no higher public service than serving as a member of the United States Supreme Court.

My family deserves much of the credit for the path that led me here.  My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of Western Russian and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism, and hoping to make a better life for their children in America.  They settled in the Midwest, eventually making their way to Chicago.

There, my father, who ran the smallest of small businesses from a room in our basement, took me with him as he made the rounds to his customers, always impressing upon me the importance of hard work and fair dealing.  There, my mother headed the local PTA and school board and directed a volunteer services agency, all the while instilling in my sister and me the understanding that service to the community is a responsibility above all others.  Even now, my sisters honor that example by serving the children of their communities.

I know that my mother is watching this on television and crying her eyes out.  (Laughter.)  So are my sisters, who have supported me in every step I have ever taken.  I only wish that my father were here to see this today.  I also wish that we hadn’t taught my older daughter to be so adventurous that she would be hiking in the mountains, out of cell service range — (laughter) — when the President called.  (Laughter.)

It was the sense of responsibility to serve a community, instilled by my parents, that led me to leave my law firm to become a line prosecutor in 1989.  There, one of my first assignments was to assist in the prosecution of a violent gang that had come down to the District from New York, took over a public housing project and terrorized the residents.  The hardest job we faced was persuading mothers and grandmothers that if they testified, we would be able to keep them safe and convict the gang members.  We succeeded only by convincing witnesses and victims that they could trust that the rule of law would prevail.
Years later, when I went to Oklahoma City to investigate the bombing of the Federal Building, I saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system as a way of resolving grievances, and instead takes matters into his own hands.  Once again, I saw the importance of assuring victims and families that the justice system could work.  We promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do it in a way that honored the Constitution.  The people of Oklahoma City gave us their trust, and we did everything we could to live up to it.

Trust that justice will be done in our courts without prejudice or partisanship is what, in a large part, distinguishes this country from others.  People must be confident that a judge’s decisions are determined by the law, and only the law.  For a judge to be worthy of such trust, he or she must be faithful to the Constitution and to the statutes passed by the Congress.  He or she must put aside his personal views or preferences, and follow the law — not make it.

Fidelity to the Constitution and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life, and it’s the hallmark of the kind of judge I have tried to be for the past 18 years.  If the Senate sees fit to confirm me to the position for which I have been nominated today, I promise to continue on that course.

Mr. President, it’s a great privilege to be nominated by a fellow Chicagoan.  I am grateful beyond words for the honor you have bestowed upon me.  (Applause.)

END
11:30 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on House Speaker Boehner’s Resignation: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

McConnell on House Speaker Boehner: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Speaker Boehner:

“Grace under pressure.

“Country and institution before self.

“These are the first things that come to mind when I think of John Boehner.

“He is an ally. He is a friend. And he took over as Republican Leader at a difficult time for his party.

“When some said Republicans could never recover, he never gave up.

“When some gave in to defeatism, he kept up the fight.

“Because he did, Speaker Boehner was able to transform a broken and dispirited Republican minority into the largest Republican majority since the 1920s.

“That’s a legacy few can match.

“He flew across the country more times than he can count to support members of his conference, and to recruit new members to the cause. As leader of a new majority, he turned the tide in Congress and brought conservative reform in many areas. He worked tirelessly to provide hope to those who dreamed of a better life and to middle-class families who struggled under the weight of this Administration.

“John knows what it’s like to struggle and to dream of something better. He’s lived it.

“That a young man from Reading, Ohio wielding a bar towel could one day wield the gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives — it reminds us of the continuing promise of this country.

“I know yesterday was an incredibly important event for the Speaker. It was his aim to bring the same spirit of grace that has always guided his life, to others. You only had to look out onto the Capitol lawn to see what he achieved. And that he chose this moment to make this decision, means he will be leaving us in a similar spirit.

“I know we’ll all have more to say in the weeks to come. But for now, thank you, my friend.”

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s on the Passage of the USA FREEDOM Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on the USA FREEDOM Act

Source: WH, 6-2-15

For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe.  That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.

After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.

I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation. I particularly applaud Senators Leahy and Lee as well as Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Nadler for their leadership and tireless efforts to pass this important bipartisan legislative achievement.

Political Musings May 18, 2015: Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Senate moves toward passing fast track trade bill

May 18, 2015

After agreeing to a compromise earlier last week, the Senate passed two bills moving forward on the fast track trade, trade promotion authority (TPA) bill. On Thursday, May 14, 2015, the Senate voted 78 to 20 on a customs and…

Political Musings March 12, 2015: Americans find 47 Senators traitors guilty of treason in WH petition and polls

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Americans find 47 Senators traitors guilty of treason in WH petition and polls

March 12, 2015

Americans believe the 47 Republican senators who wrote and signed an open to Iran about the potential nuclear weapons deal went too far in crossing the line. Not too long after the senators released their letter on Monday, March 9…

Political Musings March 11, 2015: Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Did the 47 GOP Senators commit treason, violate the Logan Act with Iran letter?

March 11, 2015

Law professors and liberal pundits and news media are taking their criticism of the letter to Iran 47 Republican Senators signed against a potential nuclear weapons deal on Monday, March 9, 2015 to a new level charging that the Republican…

Political Musings January 29, 2015: Senate passes Keystone Pipeline despite Obama veto threat

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Senate passes Keystone Pipeline despite Obama veto threat

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Despite President Barack Obama threat to veto any bill passed by Congress approving the Keystone XL pipeline the Republican controlled Senate passed their bill on Thursday afternoon Jan. 29, 2015 with bipartisan support and a vote of 62 to 36…READ MORE

Political Musings January 6, 2015: 114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Senate Majority Leader

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

114th Congress convenes: Boehner reelected Speaker McConnell new Majority Leader

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Despite some opposition from conservative tea party wing of the Republican Party John Boehner, R-OH was reelected for his third term as Speaker of the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 6, 2016 the first day of…READ MORE

Political Musings January 2, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid injured hospitalized after exercising accident

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid injured hospitalized after exercising accident

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Adding injury to insult, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV first lost his leadership position after the Democratic lost control of the Senate in the 2014 Midterm Elections, now he was injured after falling in an exercising accident…READ MORE

Political Musings December 15, 2014: Senate confirms anti-gun Vivek Murthy as surgeon general year after nomination

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Senate confirms anti-gun Vivek Murthy as surgeon general year after nomination

By Bonnie K. Goodman

More than a year President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy for surgeon general, the Senate just barely confirmed with a vote of 51 to 43 on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014 the controversial nominee. Only one Republican voted in…READ MORE

Political Musings December 7, 2014: Heller says lame duck Congress will not vote on unemployment benefits extension

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Heller says lame duck Congress will not vote on unemployment benefits extension

By Bonnie K. Goodman

As the lame duck, 113th Congress enters its last few days trying to complete all its unfinished business, one bill it will not be trying to pass is the long-term unemployment benefits extension. It is not as if the…READ MORE

Political Musings December 6, 2014: Republican Bill Cassidy wins Louisiana Senate seat from Mary Landrieu in runoff

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Republican Bill Cassidy wins Louisiana Senate seat from Mary Landrieu in runoff

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Republicans have won their 54th seat in the Senate, the ninth seat they picked up this midterm election over a month ago. Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy won the Louisiana Senate runoff over the incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu on Saturday…READ MORE

 

Political Musings November 13, 2014: McConnell unanimously voted as Senate majority leader, Reid agrees to compromise

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

McConnell unanimously voted as Senate majority leader, Reid agrees to compromise

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Republican Senate caucus unanimously voted the current Senate Minority Leader Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY, on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 as the Senate’s majority leader for the 114th Congress. Thursday, Nov. 13 was the day for…READ MORE

Political Musings November 7, 2014: Gillespie concedes to Warner in Virginia Senate race, Examiner called it wrong

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Gillespie concedes to Warner in Virginia Senate race, Examiner called it wrong

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Three days after the midterm elections Republican Ed Gillespie finally conceded on Friday afternoon, Nov. 7, 2014 the race for Virginia’s Senate seat to incumbent Democrat Mark R. Warner in a press conference. With news of Gillespie’…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks Before Meeting with Congressional Leadership

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Before Meeting with Congressional Leadership

Source: WH, 11-7-14 

Old Family Dining Room

12:52 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to thank the leadership of both the House and the Senate for being here for this lunch, post-election.  As I said the other night, obviously Republicans had a good night, and I’ve congratulated both Mitch McConnell as well as Speaker Boehner for running very strong campaigns.

As I also said the day after the election, what we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington.  I think they’re frustrated by the gridlock.  They’d like to see more cooperation.  And I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen.  And so this gives us a good opportunity to explore where we can make progress on behalf of the people who sent us here.

The good news is, today we saw another good set of jobs numbers.  We’ve now had 56 consecutive months of job growth; more than 10.6 million jobs have been created.  And the unemployment rate now is down to 5.8 percent.

So business is out there investing, hiring.  The economic indicators are going in the right direction.  As I travel to Asia for the G20 Summit, I’m going to be able to say that we’ve actually created more jobs here in the United States than every other advanced country combined.  And they notice that we’re doing something right here.  But what we also know is that the American people are still anxious about their futures, and that means that what we can do together to ensure that young people can afford college; what we can do together to rebuild our infrastructure so we’re competitive going forward; what we can do together to make sure that we’ve got a tax system that is fair and simple, and unleashes the dynamism of the economy; what we can do together to make sure that we keep the progress that we’ve been making in reducing the deficit while still making the investments we need to grow.

Those are all going to be areas where I’m very interested in hearing and sharing ideas.  And then the one thing that I’ve committed to both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell is that I am not going to judge ideas based on whether they’re Democratic or Republican; I’m going to be judging them based whether or not they work.  And I’m confident that they want to produce results, as well, on behalf of the American people.

So I appreciate their graciousness in coming here.  And I’m very much looking forward to giving them some updates on progress we’ve been making on issues like Ebola and ISIL.  There’s going to be some specific work that has to get done during the next several weeks before the new Congress commences.  And my hope is, is that even as we enter into a new Congress, the previous Congress has the opportunity still to make progress on a whole bunch of fronts, and I’m confident we can get that done.

So thank you again.

Q    Have you made a decision on an Attorney General, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re going to be the first to find out, Major, along with everybody else.

Thank you, everybody.

END
12:56 P.M. EST

Political Musings November 6, 2014: Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama held his first post-midterm elections press conference in the White House East Room on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. The president said he heard voters after his Democratic Party’s historic losses, but with his…READ MORE

Political Musings November 5, 2014: Republicans take control of the Senate win 52 seats in 2014 midterm elections

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Republicans take control of the Senate win 52 seats in 2014 midterm elections

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Just before 11:30 PM on election night, Tuesday, Nov. 4,2014, the Republicans won 52 seats in the Senate and the control they were looking for this election cycle. The GOP picked up seats from Democrats in Arkansas…READ MORE

Campaign Headlines November 4, 2014: 2014 Midterm Elections Results: Live Blog

CAMPAIGN BUZZ

Campaign_Headlines

CAMPAIGN HEADLINES….

2014 Midterm Elections Results: Live Blog

LIVE UPDATES

READ MORE

Campaign Headlines November 4, 2014: Midterm Elections 2014: Live Updates & Blog

CAMPAIGN BUZZ

Campaign_Headlines

CAMPAIGN HEADLINES….

Midterm Elections 2014: Live Updates

Political Musings November 4, 2014: 2014 midterm elections results: Democrats or GOP take control of the Senate?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

2014 midterm elections results: Democrats or GOP take control of the Senate?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The midterm elections on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 will decide 36 seats, six of which will determine which party will control the chamber, specifically seats Democrats hold in states where 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney won. Additionally all 435 seats…READ MORE
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