Todd Ruger

Podcast: After Charlottesville, Civil Rights Under Trump at the Fore
The Big Story, Episode 67

Last weekend’s bloody Virginia demonstrations incited by white supremacists will focus new attention on how the Trump administration is altering the Justice Department’s approach to hate crimes and other civil rights issues, CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger explains. It’s a big test for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, already under fire from the president and because of his own record on race.

Show Notes:

Transgender Military Ban Lawsuit Could Turn on Trump Tweet
Suit claims White House turned Trump’s Twitter posts into official guidance for DOD

Five transgender service members filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s apparent decision to reinstate a ban on transgender people serving in the military — a case that could turn on whether official policy can be announced on Twitter.

Lawyers for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center for Lesbian Rights represent plaintiffs who are in the Air Force, the Coast Guard and the Army and served from three years to two decades, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. The plaintiffs are not named in the lawsuit filed Wednesday.

Congress Wants More Immigration Judges, and Fast
Appropriators want Justice Department to pick up the pace

Congress wants to fund more judges to tackle the growing backlog of deportation and other immigration cases, even as lawmakers are hammering the Justice Department for not hiring them fast enough.

Both House and Senate Commerce-Justice-Science spending bills would fund an additional 65 immigration judges and support staff in fiscal 2018, on top of 10 new judges provided for in the fiscal 2017 omnibus spending bill. But appropriators in both chambers included language in bill reports questioning the Justice Department’s efforts to fill those positions.

Christopher Wray Faces Challenges as New FBI Director
Senate confirms new director on 92-5 vote, showing bipartisan support

Christopher Wray will lead the FBI as it wrestles with challenges such as cybersecurity and domestic terrorist investigations, as well as the political fallout from the bureau’s role in the 2016 presidential election and its ongoing investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Senate’s bipartisan support for Wray, 50, is rooted in his reputation as well as experience with national security issues and major investigations as a federal prosecutor, a Justice Department official after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and as a lawyer in private practice.

Appeals Court Strikes Down D.C. Concealed Weapons Law
Decision conflicts with other circuit court rulings

A federal appeals court struck down a District of Columbia law Tuesday that required a “good reason” to carry a concealed firearm, ruling that it essentially bans the Second Amendment right for most D.C. residents.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit conflicts with rulings from other appeals courts on concealed-carry rights, potentially ripening the issue for a Supreme Court that for years has stayed on the sidelines of gun control laws.

How the Courts Could Upend Gerrymandering
Democrats and voter rights groups pin hopes on high court case

By RANDY LEONARD and TODD RUGER

Congressional maps in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania have shifted the political balance of Congress toward Republicans — but that could soon change.

Podcast: On Russia, Congress Looks at the Collusion Question
The Week Ahead, Episode 63

Capitol Hill will likely hear from three key figures in the Russia investigation this week, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, his son, Donald Trump Jr., and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. CQ Legal Affairs Reporter Todd Ruger previews what figure to be blockbuster hearings.

John Bush Nomination Exposes Partisan Divide
Kentucky jurist’s anonymous blog posts brings up questions of temperament

The nomination of John Bush to be a federal appellate court judge underscores how swiftly Senate Republicans can help President Donald Trump reshape the nation’s courts in a conservative direction.

Bush, nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday on a 51-48 vote. Democrats now have an opportunity to air their concerns on the floor ahead of a final confirmation vote later this week.

Trump Controls Key Funding Move in Health Care Fight
President could stop cost-sharing subsidy payments to insurers

If President Donald Trump wants to “let Obamacare fail” as he says, there’s a ready way for him to give it a push.

So far, the Trump administration and House Republicans have agreed to keep frozen a case in a Washington appeals court over appropriations as part of a push to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. The case is left over from when House Republicans sued the Obama administration in 2014.

Judge Narrows Trump's Travel Ban Enforcement

The Trump administration can’t stop grandparents and other relatives of someone in the United States from entering the country under its enforcement of the revised travel ban, a federal judge in Hawaii ruled late Thursday.

The ruling is a legal setback for President Donald Trump’s temporary ban against travelers from six majority-Muslim countries, and could prompt the government to take the issue back to the Supreme Court during the justices’ summer recess.

Wray Pledges Impartiality as FBI Director
‘I will never allow the FBI’s work to be driven by anything other than the facts‘

Updated 2:09 p.m. | Amid a deepening federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s contact with Russian operatives, Christopher Wray assured senators Wednesday he would remain independent as FBI director and adhere to the rule of law “no matter the test.”

“If I am given the honor of leading this agency, I will never allow the FBI’s work to be driven by anything other than the facts, the law, and the impartial pursuit of justice,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearing. “Period. Full stop.”

Senators to Grill FBI Pick Wray on Independence, Terrorism
‘I say this without hesitation — Chris simply does not make mistakes’

Christopher Wray won’t be able to escape questions about President Donald Trump at his Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday to be the next FBI director, but he’ll draw on his reputation and experience to make his case.

Wray’s nomination comes at a tumultuous time for the bureau and the presidency. Trump abruptly fired FBI director James B. Comey in May amid the bureau’s probe into connections between the president’s campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 election.

Trump’s FBI Pick Once Praised Comey’s Integrity
Confirmation hearing for Christopher Wray set for July 12

President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next FBI director previously voiced support for two high-ranking Justice Department officials that Trump has since fired: FBI Director James B. Comey and acting Attorney General Sally Yates.

Christopher Wray, whose confirmation hearing is set for July 12, was one of 10 former DOJ officials who submitted a letter to the Senate in 2013 that supported Comey’s nomination to lead the FBI, citing his judgment in the face of difficult decisions as well as his “integrity and independence.”

Justice Nominee’s Dodge Sparks Debate on Personal Views
‘I don’t think that my personal views are relevant.’ Feinstein: ‘I think they’re very relevant.’

Next Supreme Court Term Stacked With Major Cases
Immigration, religion, redistricting on high court’s agenda

The Supreme Court ended its current term this week without deciding the kinds of blockbuster issues that usually draw demonstrators to its plaza at the end of June, but the justices have seeded their next term with high-profile cases.

The addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch in April brought the court back to full strength for the first time in more than a year, and the justices are poised to jump into more contentious and headline-grabbing cases starting in October.

Supreme Court Lets Trump Go Ahead With Most of Travel Ban
President: ‘A clear victory for our national security’

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to implement much of its revised travel ban, but also agreed to review the legality of the controversial executive order in October.

The justices lifted injunctions from two federal appeals courts that had blocked the order, which seeks to stop foreign travelers from six majority-Muslim countries for 90 days and suspend all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. The rulings had stymied one of President Donald Trump’s major policy initiatives in his first months in office — moves that he argued are key for national security.

Court Allows Some of Travel Ban, Will Decide Legality Later
The court also announced decisions on immigration detention, gun rights, same-sex marriage, separation of church and state

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to implement much of its revised travel ban, but also agreed to review the legality of the controversial executive order in October.

The justices lifted injunctions from two federal appeals courts that had blocked the order, which seeks to stop foreign travelers from six majority-Muslim countries for 90 days and suspends all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days. The rulings had stymied one of President Donald Trump’s major policy initiatives in his first months in office — moves that he argued are key for national security.

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Partisan Redistricting
Wisconsin case challenges politically motivated gerrymandering

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear arguments in a Wisconsin case about partisan redistricting and gerrymandering, taking on a longstanding question that could change the way states draw congressional and legislative districts.

The justices have never fully answered when partisan gerrymanders — or maps that benefit one political party to the detriment of another — could be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on the issue in more than a decade and could be sharply divided.

Grassley to Justice Department: No Answers, No Nominee
Judiciary chairman wants responses to at least 15 letters first

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is tired of his requests to the Justice Department going unanswered — and he’s fighting back yet again.

The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that the committee won’t advance the nomination of Stephen Boyd to be assistant attorney general for legislative affairs until he gets responses to at least 15 letters, some due more than six months ago.

Appeals Court Upholds Block on Trump’s Travel Ban
Administration seeks to bar foreign travelers from 6 Muslim-majority nations

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld Monday a nationwide block on the Trump administration’s revised travel ban, a decision that adds to the executive order’s legal setbacks as the Supreme Court considers a similar ruling from another federal appeals court.