Conservative dark money groups fight for the seat of the DC Circuit

Apr 4, 2020 1:20 AM ET

Conservative dark money groups are preparing for one of their biggest battles of the year for President Donald Trump’s new election to occupy the seat of a court that once included Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Trump announced on Friday that he would nominate Justin Walker for the DC Circuit’s Court of Appeals. Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October 2018 after a fierce U.S. Senate fight that included allegations of sexual assault that Kavanaugh vehemently denied.

The battle for Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation included millions of dollars in borrowings, either spent on or against the controversial judge.

Walker, who was able to occupy his old seat, was confirmed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky in 2019 after the American Bar Association found him “unqualified.”

This assessment, in addition to the fact that most Democrats have rejected many of the president’s nominations, has conservative external groups such as the Judicial Crisis Network and the Article III project that are preparing for a full-scale war in defense of Walker with people direct knowledge of matter.

“The D.C. Circuit is considered the second highest court in the country. Apart from a vacancy at the Supreme Court, this will be the biggest litigation this year,” said Mike Davis, founder of Article III, in an interview with CNBC on Friday.

Although it is unclear how some of the liberal organizations intend to take over the Walker nomination, Demand Justice, a group that vehemently opposed Kavanaugh’s nomination, has already gone on the offensive.

“The appointment of a sidekick by Mitch McConnell, who was classified by his colleagues as unqualified, as the country’s second highest court is more than suspicious,” said Christopher Kang, chief counsel of Demand Justice on Friday. “We need to know if McConnell contacted Griffith directly, as reports suggest, and if so, what he offered in exchange for his retirement.”

Since Democrats are the minority in the Senate, they are unlikely to block Walker’s nomination. Trump and the Republicans have repeatedly touted their records of judge confirmation across the country.

Nevertheless, the groups want to strengthen Walker’s credibility and defend him against liberal attacks.

During the Kavanaugh hearings, the JCN promised to spend up to $ 10 million on its confirmation.

Their efforts to replace it include organizing Pro Walker television and radio appearances, Op-Eds, and in some cases advising Republican lawmakers on how best to spread the message about why Walker should be confirmed, the people added directly Knowledge. They found that one of the goals will be to form a conservative coalition around the judge.

Article III, along with nearly 20 other conservative groups, sent a letter on Friday to Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the highest-ranking Democratic member of the committee, to insist on Walker’s immediate confirmation.

Read the full letter here

“We strongly support President Trump’s appointment of President Trump to the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. We urge you to confirm him as soon as possible,” the letter said. “Every member of this committee and every goodwill American should support Judge Walker’s nomination for the DC Circuit.”

Others who signed the letter include Turning Point USA founders Charlie Kirk and Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger. The letter was organized by the Article III group.

This group of 501 (c) (4) non-disclosing organizations will highlight Walker’s resume, which includes a job as a former Kavanaugh clerk and retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He also has ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who knows Walker’s grandfather.

Davis was previously the chief nomination attorney under Senator Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, before Graham was given the position. Davis helped Grassley and the Republicans on the committee bring Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Senate, where he was confirmed by a razor-thin majority.

The Judicial Crisis Network would not confirm how they plan to defend themselves against the Walker opposition, but Carrie Severino, who heads the group, indicated how they dealt with previous nominations when asked about their strategy.

“We set up websites, we collect the forces of the conservative coalition, we place ads, we check facts and read people’s records a lot,” said Severino. “We will adjust our position based on the type of response we receive.”

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