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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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Germany warns it will BLOCK extradition of nationals to UK post-Brexit

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GERMANY has vowed to block British requests to arrest German nationals after Brexit.

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Legal experts say Trump’s national emergency comments could undercut him in court

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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump acknowledged Friday in declaring a national emergency on the southern border that the move is likely to face an uphill battle in court.

But what could make its defense more difficult is the announcement itself, legal experts say.

In his remarks, Trump said that while he was successful in securing more than $1.3 billion in funding from Congress for additional border fencing, he wants to build a wall more quickly.

“I could do the wall over a longer period of time,” Trump said. “I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.”

Speaking about the expected legal challenges to his declaration, Trump laid out in a sing-song cadence how he thought those battles would play out.

“And we will have a national emergency, and then we will then be sued, and they will sue us in the 9th Circuit, even though it shouldn’t be there,” Trump said. “And we will possibly get a bad ruling, and then we’ll get another bad ruling. And then we’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake. And we’ll win in the Supreme Court, just like the [travel] ban.”

Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor and legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, said Trump’s remarks in announcing the emergency declaration would make his lawyers’ job harder.

“Trump made his argument, and the job of lawyers trying to convince courts that he has, in fact, declared a legitimate national emergency, much more difficult,” Rocah told NBC News. She added that Trump’s line about not having to make the declaration was “the clincher” for demonstrating that there is not an emergency at the southern border.

On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California — the House Intelligence Committee chairman — also noted Trump’s remarks.

“In saying just the other day that he didn’t really need to do this — he just wanted to do it because it would help things go faster — he’s pretty much daring the court to strike this down,” Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that “it’s hard to imagine a poorer case.”

It was already legally questionable whether the National Emergencies Act of 1976 could be invoked to divert funds that Congress had refused to appropriate. State attorneys general and congressional Democrats have signaled plans to sue the administration over the declaration, and advocacy groups have already filed lawsuits as Trump plans to divert nearly $7 billion from a combination military construction projects, counternarcotics programs, and a Treasury Department asset forfeiture fund the project.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is planning to sue the administration, cited Trump’s remarks as part of his argument that Trump overstepped his legal bounds.

“He has also said he knows he’s going to lose in court, and he’s hoping that he can count on a conservative court in the Supreme Court to give him a victory because he knows he’s going to lose all the way up the ladder of the court — the federal court system,” Becerra said.

Officials familiar with the plans for a legal challenge told NBC News that Becerra is leading several states to file suit “imminently,” and the coalition is expected to include New Mexico, Hawaii, Oregon, Connecticut and Minnesota.

Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, whose legal commentary has found a receptive audience in the Oval Office, told NBC News that Trump’s remarks would no doubt be featured in a challenge.

“His statements will certainly become Exhibit 1 in the lawsuit, just as they did in the previous cases involving the travel ban,” Dershowitz said. “No way of knowing whether the current Supreme Court will take them into consideration.”

As was the case during the challenges to the president’s travel ban, the question of whether outside statements will be taken into consideration is of high importance. Courts could opt to confine any debate over the legality of the national emergency to the “four corners” of the written declaration itself.

“Trump’s speech further undercut his already compromised credibility,” former U.S. attorney and NBC News contributor Harry Litman said, adding it “would be a mistake to see that point as necessarily decisive in the case, and people are generally overestimating the odds that Trump will lose at the end of the day.”

Litman told NBC News that he’d “put at a tossup” the chances of Trump eventually winning or losing in court.

“Even assuming a court believes Trump is lying, the statute seems to leave it up to him to decide whether there’s an emergency, and courts will be cognizant of not hamstringing future, honest Presidents,” Litman continued. “One way they could do that, however, would be to skip past the deference question and find that the emergency powers are not properly invoked based on” the sources of funding Trump seeks to divert.

Rocah added that Trump’s “mocking” of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “won’t help him with any judges.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has “made clear that he does not approve of Trump’s constant politicization of the judiciary for his own purposes,” she said. “Insulting federal judges is not a good strategy.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” however, that he did not think the president’s comments undercut his legal argument.

“I think the president has been making a persuasive case that the border is broken,” he said. “I support his desire to get it done sooner rather than later.”



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Brexit Britain VICTORY as Australia pledge to FAST-TRACK UK trade deal in event of no-deal

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AUSTRALIA will fast-track a trade deal with Britain in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the nation’s trade minister has pledged in a show of support to its UK allies.

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