WASHINGTON (CN) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed forward with President Donald Trump’s judicial pick for an Ohio federal court on Tuesday as most Republicans continue to deny President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
While four GOP senators and a lineup of world leaders — among them British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — have congratulated Biden, Republicans on the whole are propping up Trump’s unsupported claims of widespread voter fraud.
Proceeding with business as usual, the GOP-majority Senate voted 64-24 to seat James Ray Knepp as a district judge for the Northern District of Ohio. Currently a magistrate judge in the same court, Knepp has a long history of serving in the district, dating back to a clerkship in 1992.
His confirmation comes as tension grips the Senate over the outcome of the presidential election.
McConnell from the Senate floor on Monday refused to acknowledge Biden’s electoral win and supported Trump’s right to pursue legal battles and look into election “irregularities.”
“In the United States of America, all legal ballots must be counted. Any illegal ballots must not be. The process should be transparent or observable by all sides and the courts are here to work through concerns,” the Kentucky Republican said.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately after said the sitting president does not have the right to file frivolous claims not based in fact.
“Make no mistake, there has been no evidence of any significant or widespread voter fraud,” he said. “Joe Biden won this election fair and square.”
The New York Democrat called on Republicans to “unequivocally condemn the president’s rhetoric” and work toward a peaceful transition of power. So far, Republican Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska have extended a hand to Biden after his electoral win.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee had questioned Knepp on hot issues they sparred with Trump over, including immigration, gun control and abortion rights.
The judge defended his decision in a case brought by several immigrant rights organizations claiming Customs and Border Patrol had targeted Hispanics in conducting stops, detentions, interrogations and searches.
While the organizations had objected that the judge allowing immigration officials to access the Social Security numbers of the plaintiffs in the case could “chill numerous other victims of law enforcement misconduct from bringing actions to vindicate their own rights,” Knepp told the committee the ruling was appropriate.
The government, he wrote in response to a question from California Senator Dianne Feinstein, was entitled to discover the true identities of the plaintiffs in the case.
Knepp also confirmed that he is a member of the National Rifle Association, writing in response to questions on the record: “I am a life member and have no present plans to resign.”
He declined to commit to recuse himself from any cases involving the NRA, writing that he was aware after a decade on the bench of the need to obtain ethics guidance where appropriate.
Asked if he agrees that the landmark abortion rights case Roe v. Wade is settled law, or “super-precedent,” Knepp dodged the question but agreed to hold to the judicial standard set by the Supreme Court decision.
“As a sitting United States Magistrate Judge and District Judge nominee, I am both bound to apply all Supreme Court precedent and prohibited from commenting as to the degree to which I may believe any decision has obtained greater precedential status than another. If I am confirmed, I will continue to faithfully apply all Supreme Court precedent,” he wrote.
The issue of Roe as super-precedent was hotly debated at then-Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination hearing last month. Democrats at the time raised sharp concern over the recently seated justice’s originalist judicial philosophy.
Asked whether he considers himself an originalist, Knepp said he was “reluctant to categorize myself into any particular nomenclature,” finding them to be “imprecise and sometimes fluid.”
“As I understand the term, ‘originalism’ is a method of interpreting the U.S. Constitution with primary reference to the original public meaning of the constitutional provision at issue, at the time that provision was ratified. I can state that such would be my preferred methodology of constitutional interpretation,” he wrote.
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