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By Leigh Ann Caldwell and Frank Thorp V

WASHINGTON — A controversial judicial nominee is in danger of being derailed in the U.S. Senate because of objections over his past work defending state laws viewed as discriminatory and senate leadership’s refusal to vote on legislation aimed at protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Thomas Farr, President Donald Trump’s nominee to be a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, has come under fire because of his work on cases that Democrats say have disenfranchised African Americans from voting. That issue has at least one GOP senator, Tim Scott of South Carolina, undecided on whether to support Farr’s confirmation.

When asked on Monday if he would support Farr, Scott said,”that’s a good question.”

Another Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is blocking all judicial nominees, including Farr’s, until GOP leaders agree to hold a vote on a bill to put up guardrails against any threat of Trump firing Mueller.

“I was uncomfortably moving ahead (with Farr’s nomination) in October because people raising some other issues, so it was delayed until this month,” Flake said, telling reporters he would vote no “if we haven’t voted on the special counsel bill.”

Senate Democrats are united in opposition and if two Republicans join them to vote against Farr, his nomination would be defeated.

Thomas Farr is an employment lawyer at Ogletree and Deakins in Raleigh, where he has been the lead counsel defending clients against racial discrimination and workplace violation complaints.

Democrats say that he was instrumental in keeping minorities from voting, including working to defend North Carolina’s restrictive voter identification law. They also point to his legal work on the campaign of former Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., who was investigated for intimidating black voters in 1990.

“Mr. Farr was chief cook and bottle washer for the state that probably did more to prevent people, particularly African Americans, from voting than any other state,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said. “This is despicable. Absolutely despicable.”

Sen. Scott has helped defeat a Trump judicial nominee in the past for racially insensitive writings, raising objections about Ryan Bounds, a nominee for the ninth circuit. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sided with Scott and came out in opposition to Bounds, resulting in the nomination being pulled just moments before the final vote was set to take place.

Rubio’s spokeswoman, Olivia Perez-Cubas, said the senator would support Farr in this vote. “The Senator sees no reason not to support his nomination, so he’ll be a yes,” she said.

The NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus oppose the nomination and held a protest outside a Senate hearing room last January when the committee advanced his nomination on a party-line vote.

Two African American gubernatorial candidates, Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Andrew Gillum of Florida, released a joint statement of opposition to Farr on Tuesday. “When it comes to the trifecta of voter disenfranchisement — voter suppression, racial gerrymandering, and restriction of voting rights — Thomas Farr is, sadly, one of the most experienced election lawyers in the country,” they wrote.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said he will support Farr’s nomination after reviewing his work “a lot.”

“This is an attorney doing his job working for different clients,” Lankford said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a moderate who sometimes bucks her party, said she’d support him, too, citing his rating of “well qualified” with the American Bar Association.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed.



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California lawmaker arrested on child cruelty suspicion

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By Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California state lawmaker Joaquin Arambula was arrested Monday on suspicion of misdemeanor child cruelty, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

The arrest came after officials at Dailey Elementary Charter School discovered an injury on a child who came into an office Monday afternoon, Dyer said. He did not describe the injury or Arambula’s relationship to the child. He was cited for willful cruelty to a child,

Arambula, a Democratic state assemblyman, is married with three young daughters.

“Joaquin is a committed father who wants what is best for his children,” his spokeswoman Felicia Matlosz said in a Tuesday statement. “He is fully supportive of the process, which will show he is a loving and nurturing father.”

Arambula is a former emergency room physician who won a 2016 special election to represent part of Fresno and the surrounding rural areas. His father Juan Arambula was a state assemblyman in the early 2000s.

Officials at the elementary school reported the child’s injury to child protective services, which called Fresno police, Dyer said. Officers called Arambula and his wife, Elizabeth, who both arrived at the scene.

The child described how the injury occurred and said Arambula inflicted it, Dyer said. The police determined the injury happened Sunday evening. Arambula was cooperative and cordial, but he did not provide a statement to officers based on advice from his attorney, Dyer said.

Officers were “confident that a crime had occurred” and arrested Arambula on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child, Dyer said. He was taken in a patrol car to police headquarter, finger-printed, photographed and then released because his crime is a misdemeanor. The injury did not rise to the level of a felony.

All school district employees in California are considered “mandated reporters” under state law, meaning they are required to report known or suspected child abuse. They are not responsible for determining if an allegation is valid, according to the state Department of Education’s website. They are expected to report if abuse or neglect is suspected or a child shares information leading them to believe it took place.

They are then required to call law enforcement or child protective services, and law enforcement is required to investigate. A physical injury inflicted on a child by someone else intentionally is considered child abuse or neglect.

Officials at the elementary school and Fresno Unified School District did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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