South Carolina’s Scott Sinks Trump Judicial Nominee

In this Sept. 20, 2017, photo, Thomas Farr is sworn in during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination to be a District Judge on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Senator Tim Scott, R-S.C., on Thursday announced his opposition to Trump’s nominee for federal court in North Carolina, effectively sinking the pick due to the lawyer’s involvement with a political effort described as an attempt to intimidate African American voters.

The Senate earlier on Thursday pushed back a scheduled vote on Thomas Farr, an attorney with the Raleigh, N.C., firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart who is nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Farr worked on the 1990 campaign of Senator Jesse Helms, which sent out postcards with information about voter fraud that were criticized as an effort to intimidate African American voters. Farr has denied knowing about the postcards ahead of time and told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he played no role in drafting them and did not participate in any meetings in which they were discussed.

In a statement Thursday to The State, Scott, the only African American Republican in the Senate, said after reviewing a Justice Department memo detailing the mailers he could not support Farr’s nomination.

“I am ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge,” Scott said in a statement. “This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns. Weighing these important factors, this afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination.”

In addition to his work with the Helms campaign, Farr also defended a North Carolina voting law a federal court found targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.” He also was part of a legal team that defended the state’s legislative map following the 2010 census. A district court panel invalidated portions of the map, calling it “among the largest racial gerrymanders ever encountered by a federal court.”

It is not the first time Scott has been the decisive vote against a Trump judicial nominee, as he was key earlier this year in sinking Ninth Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds, who faced scrutiny for racially insensitive writings as an undergrad.

With a 51-49 split in the Senate, Republicans can afford few defections on controversial nominees. Farr’s nomination already required Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie on a procedural vote, thanks to united Democratic opposition and Senator Jeff Flake’s vow to oppose all judicial nominees until the Senate votes on a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

But on Thursday, Flake said he planned to oppose Farr whether or not he gets his desired vote on the special counsel legislation, making Scott’s ultimate vote decisive in sinking Farr’s nomination.

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