Impeachment Puts Pause on Trump’s Reshaping of Courts

WASHINGTON (CN) – Beyond deciding the momentous question of whether President Donald Trump will remain in office, the Senate impeachment trial slated to begin Thursday will also hold up the Republican project of confirming the president’s judicial nominees.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters in October 2019. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said at a Thursday business meeting that the committee will not meet during the Senate impeachment trial.

The committee advanced five judicial nominees on Thursday morning, just before the trial officially gets underway. Noting the month-long standoff in which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi refused to transfer the articles of impeachment to the Senate to kick off the trial, Graham said the nominees would be the last the committee considers until the trial wraps.

“We’ve had an unusual situation between the speaker and the majority leader about transmitting the articles of impeachment,” Graham said. “We go into impeachment today, I think, and this committee will cease to meet until that’s done and everybody will have their say about the impeachment of President Trump. But these folks have been waiting a long time. There are bipartisan picks here and I would like to proceed if possible.”

The committee held a nominations hearing for five of Trump’s nominees to federal district courts on Jan. 8 amid the standoff, and conducted a business meeting last Thursday during which it delayed votes on a slate of nominees under normal procedure.

Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat and former presidential candidate, on Wednesday called on Senate Republicans to hold up their judicial confirmation pipeline during Trump’s impeachment trial. The call came after a group of civil rights organizations, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, delivered a letter making the same request to Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Other Democrats at Thursday’s business meeting echoed Harris’ call, saying the full Senate should also not confirm any judges during the trial.

“We should not be proceeding with business as usual,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Thursday. “We should not be giving the appearance to the American people that it will be business as usual, that impeachment is going to be a quick and dirty kind of routine matter, which is what we will be saying and the signal we’ll be sending if we proceed to confirm nominees to the federal judiciary.”

It is not clear whether the Senate will take up other business once the trial begins. The chamber cannot hold votes on legislation or nominations during the hours the trial is in session, but it is possible it could before or after the trial convenes each day.

In addition to advancing five nominees on Thursday, the committee delayed action on six others, who will await the end of the trial, whenever that may be.

“With that, we’ll see you after impeachment,” Graham said as he gaveled out Thursday’s meeting.

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