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By Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans are working to soon fill the nation’s longest judicial vacancy with a North Carolina lawyer whose nomination has raised objections from black lawmakers and civil rights groups concerned about his work defending state laws found to have discriminated against African-Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has helped push 84 of President Donald Trump’s nominees over the finish line and is itching for more. With just a few more weeks to go before Congress adjourns for the year, he has teed up a vote on the nomination of Thomas Farr, 64, to serve as a district court judge in North Carolina.

The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Farr’s confirmation with a party-line vote back in January, meaning McConnell has waited about 10 months and until after the midterm elections to hold a vote on the floor.

Senators tend to save their biggest fights in the judicial arena for Supreme Court and appeals court nominees, but Farr’s nomination has proved an exception.

“It’s hard to believe President Trump nominated him, and it’s even harder to believe the Senate Republicans are considering it again,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York in one of about 20 tweets he has sent out in recent days concerning Farr.

Farr has the backing of home-state Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, both Republicans. They have noted that Farr was also nominated to the same position by President George W. Bush and has a “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association. They have protested the implication that Farr is racially insensitive or biased.

“I think absolutely destroying a good man’s reputation is inappropriate,” Tillis said before the committee advanced Farr’s nomination.

In introducing Farr last year, Burr said the judiciary needs good people and he “fills every piece of the word good.”

But Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., described Farr as “probably the worst of the litter” when it comes to Trump’s judicial nominees.

At the same committee hearing, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said: “Could this administration have picked an individual who is more hostile to the rights of minorities than this man? It is hard to imagine.”

GOP leaders in charge of the North Carolina Legislature hired Farr and others at his firm to defend congressional and legislative boundaries that the Legislature approved in 2011. A federal court eventually struck some boundaries down as racial gerrymanders and the Supreme Court affirmed that decision.

Farr also helped defend a 2013 law that required photo identification to vote, reduced the number of early voting days and eliminated same-day registration during that period.

North Carolina Republicans said that requiring voter ID would increase the integrity of elections. But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state provided no evidence of the kind of in-person voter fraud the ID mandate would address. The Richmond, Virginia-based court said the law targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

Farr told lawmakers that, as an advocate, he vehemently disagreed with the argument that the North Carolina Legislature sought to curtail the voting rights of people of color or any other voter. But, said, “I am obligated to follow the decision by the 4th Circuit and pledge that I will do so.”

The history of the particular judicial opening Farr would fill has also contributed to the acrimony.

President Barack Obama nominated two African-American women to serve on the court, but neither was granted a hearing and their nominations stalled. If confirmed, they would have been the first blacks to serve in that particular district, which is about 27 percent black.

Farr also served as a lawyer for the re-election campaign of Republican Sen. Jesse Helms in 1990. The Justice Department alleged that about 120,000 postcards sent overwhelmingly to black voters before that election was intended to intimidate them from voting.

Farr said he was not consulted about the postcards and did not have any role in drafting or sending them. He said that after he had been asked to review the card, “I was appalled to read the incorrect language printed on the card and to then discover it had been sent to African Americans.”

The explanation has failed to win over the NAACP.

“The courts are supposed to be where we can find and seek justice. But Farr’s lifetime crusade is to disenfranchise African-Americans and deprive them of their rights,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau. “He belongs nowhere near a bench of justice.”

Democratic lawmakers called on the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to schedule Farr for another round of testimony about his role in the Helms’ campaign, but Grassley declined.

With a 51-49 majority, Republicans will have little margin for error in confirming Farr.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has already pledged to oppose all judicial nominees until he gets a vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller.

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Theresa May no confidence results: What time will vote of no confidence results be in?



THERESA MAY will be facing a vote of no confidence after Conservative MPs turned their backs on the Prime Minister amid her negotiated Brexit deal. So what time will results on the no confidence vote be in?

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Nikki Haley says she leveraged Trump’s outbursts to get things done at the U.N.



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By Alex Johnson

Nikki Haley, who is leaving as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations at the end of the year, told NBC’s “Today” that she got things done by using President Donald Trump’s “unpredictable” nature to her advantage.

“He would ratchet up the rhetoric, and then I’d go back to the ambassadors and say: ‘You know, he’s pretty upset. I can’t promise you what he’s going to do or not, but I can tell you if we do these sanctions, it will keep him from going too far,'” Haley said in an exclusive interview which aired Wednesday morning.

“I know all of it,” she said in response to a question about the president’s bombastic, sometimes false statements in public and on Twitter. “But I’m disciplined enough to know not to get into the drama.”

At the United Nations, “I was trying to get the job done,” she said. “And I got the job done by being truthful, but also by letting him be unpredictable and not showing our cards.”

On one of the more delicate diplomatic issues on her watch, Haley said the United States must be careful in confronting Saudi Arabia over the brutal killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Haley made it clear that she blamed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government for Khashoggi’s death, even as the president has said repeatedly that the United States has reached no final conclusion about the prince’s involvement.

“It was the Saudi government, and MBS is the head of the Saudi government,” Haley said Tuesday, referring to the prince by his initials. “So they are all responsible, and they don’t get a pass, not an individual, not the government — they don’t get a pass.”

At the same time, Haley stopped short of recommending giving Saudi Arabia anything more than stern talking-to, saying the Saudis were helping the United States defeat Houthi insurgents in Yemen, Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and “Iranian proxies” around the world.

“We do have to work with them in that case,” she said of the Saudis, adding: “I think we need to have a serious hard talk with the Saudis to let them know we won’t condone this. We won’t give you a pass. And don’t do this again.

“And then I think that the administrations have to talk about where we go from here. What I can tell you that’s so important is that the Saudis have been our partner in defeating and dealing with Iran. And that has been hugely important.”

Haley said that, in general, she was aware that some people believe that she and Trump aren’t always on the same page, but she said that’s only because “our styles are very different.”

“And, you know, I’ve always found that funny,” she said. “But the truth at the end of the day is I may be harder on some things or I may be tougher in some ways, but I’ve never strayed from where the president was or never strayed from where his policy wants to go.”

As for Heather Nauert, the State Department spokeswoman whom Trump has said he will nominate to succeed Haley at the United Nations, Haley said that while “I want her to be successful,” only time will tell whether her appointment was a good one.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee whom Haley endorsed for president in 2016, has questioned Nauert’s qualifications for the sensitive post, asking whether she “has the detailed knowledge of foreign policy to be successful at the United Nations.”

But Haley noted, “a lot of people said that about me.”

“I think that we should give her the opportunity to prove to the American public what she can do,” she said. “I think that she has been working at the State Department on multiple issues for a long time.

“You know, time will tell how this works out, but I can tell you I’m going to support and help in her transition and her ability to move forward and be successful,” Haley said.

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May's ROCK: Husband Philip appears in Commons gallery for heartwarming moral support



THERESA May’s husband Philip made a rare appearance in the pubic gallery of the House of Commons today in a show of support for the embattled Prime Minister.

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