Todd Ruger

FBI Details Intelligence Staffer Probe Ahead of Sentencing
Sentencing hearing for James Wolfe scheduled on Dec. 20

The FBI faced a dilemma and had to take “extraordinary” actions when it realized in 2017 that the former director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee appeared compromised in his role safeguarding information and had a clandestine relationship with a national security journalist.

Had James Wolfe been an executive branch employee, the FBI would have notified intelligence agencies if a Top Secret clearance holder was compromised so they could protect national security, federal prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday.

Criminal Justice Bill Could Bring Out Drama in Senate
Tom Cotton threatens Christmas showdown, throws gauntlet at colleagues

The Senate is poised to vote on a bipartisan criminal justice bill as soon as this week, the culmination of behind-the-scenes negotiations and a public campaign by lawmakers, the White House and advocates to press Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring it to the floor this year. But that does not mean the debate will be free of drama. 

McConnell announced Tuesday that the revised bill would be put on the floor agenda this month “following improvements to the legislation that [have] been secured by several members.” That ended weeks of uncertainty about whether the Senate would have a chance to vote on prison and sentencing changes that would be the first in a generation and could become a signature accomplishment right before the end of the 115th Congress.

Senate Could Work Between Holidays for Criminal Justice Bill
More GOP support cited by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

The Senate will take up a bipartisan criminal justice bill this month after changes to the text secured more support from Republicans, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday.

Senators could turn to the new text as early as the end of this week, he said.

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Administrative Power
At heart of case is deference courts have given to federal agencies

The Supreme Court will decide whether federal agencies should stop getting such a strong voice when interpreting their own regulations, in a case that could significantly influence how judges decide challenges to environmental, health care, immigration, veterans benefits and other rules.

The justices on Monday agreed to hear arguments about overturning two Supreme Court rulings at the heart of administrative law, Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co. in 1945 and Auer v. Robbins in 1997. In the case, the court could accomplish part of what some conservative members of Congress have sought to do legislatively.

With Orrin Hatch Retiring, Supreme Court Loses an Active ’Friend’
Utah Republican is one of the more frequent authors of amicus briefs

One of this year’s highest-profile Supreme Court cases gave retiring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch a final chance to broadcast his views beyond the Capitol building to the nine justices across the street.

In a criminal law case set for oral arguments Thursday, the Utah Republican filed a brief known as an amicus curiae — or a “friend of the court” who is not a party in a case. He gave them what he called “an experienced legislator’s perspective on the constitutional and practical issues at play.”

Cohen Among Select Few Charged With Lying to Congress
House Democrats poised to use ex-Trump lawyer’s plea as basis to target others

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress in violation of a law known for ensnaring celebrities, sports figures and other defendants in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — but this time in a way that could reverberate in congressional investigations next year.

Those convicted or who pleaded guilty to violating the criminal statute, Section 1001 of Title 18, include television personality Martha Stewart, politicians such as former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and, in the Russia probe, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

Racial Concerns Fuel Opposition to Judicial Nominee
Thomas Farr under scrutiny for issues traced back to North Carolina politics

To grasp how the long partisan war over the Senate’s judicial confirmation process shapes the nation’s legal landscape, look no further than this week’s floor vote on Thomas Farr to sit on a federal district court in North Carolina.

If confirmed — something that appears uncertain in a narrowly divided Senate — Farr would fill the oldest judicial vacancy in the country in a part of North Carolina with a significant black population. The Eastern District of North Carolina seat has been open for nearly 13 years — and three presidents — because of the Tar Heel State’s contentious politics and the way senators have used traditions to block nominees.

Democratic Senators Sue Trump Over Whitaker Appointment
Blumenthal, Whitehouse, Hirono say move violates Appointments Clause

Three Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee filed a lawsuit Monday challenging the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general, asking a federal court to stop him from leading the Justice Department.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaii argue in the case that President Donald Trump’s move to name Whitaker temporarily as the nation’s top law enforcement official violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution.

Grassley Gave McConnell Judges. Now He Wants His Criminal Justice Bill
‘I look at this in a very personal way,’ Grassley said

Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley is leaning on his track record of processing judicial nominations to get a floor vote on a bipartisan bill he spearheaded to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system.

In an unusual personal plea, the 85-year-old Iowa Republican on Thursday said he wanted “reciprocity” from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for “what I’ve done in our unified effort on judges” during President Donald Trump’s administration.

Political Drama Converges at Supreme Court Ceremony
Kavanaugh investiture event features Trump, acting AG, Ken Starr and more

A Supreme Court sitting Thursday for the ceremonial investiture of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh took only 10 minutes, but it concentrated Washington's political and legal drama in one room.

Matthew Whitaker made his first public appearance as acting attorney general, reading a presidential commission from the courtroom podium less than 24 hours after President Donald Trump forced the resignation of Jeff Sessions as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Court Orders New Maryland Map in Partisan Gerrymandering Case
State officials expected to appeal decision to Supreme Court

A federal court on Wednesday ordered Maryland to adopt a new congressional map for the 2020 elections, ruling that the state’s current map unconstitutionally diminished the value of Republican voters in the 6th District in the western neck of the state.

The three-judge panel’s ruling in the partisan gerrymandering case, which has gone twice to the Supreme Court on preliminary procedural issues, means the Maryland map once again will be before the high court if state officials appeal, as expected. 

Three Reasons House Democrats Likely Won’t Impeach Trump
Key leaders aren’t supporting calls for proceedings

House Democrats will be hesitant to use their newly regained majority to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump unless investigations uncover such major misdeeds that even Republicans would support the effort.

A vocal portion of House Democrats still are expected to call for Trump’s impeachment over allegations he has misused the office or committed crimes, and dozens backed an effort to force the House to consider articles of impeachment within the past year.

Trump Administration Asks Supreme Court to Consider DACA Program
President has made immigration a major issue before midterms

The Trump administration again asked the Supreme Court to step into the legal fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Monday, urging the justices to decide this term whether the government has the power to end the Obama-era immigration policy.

In three petitions from three appeals courts, the Department of Homeland Security and other Trump officials want a speedy high court review of whether the administration’s September 2017 decision to revoke the discretionary program was lawful, and whether the federal courts can review that decision at all.

Senators Press Supreme Court to Lift State Uranium Mining Ban
Domestic production at historic low

Three Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee contend that a case now before the Supreme Court could undermine federal policy about uranium and other assets that are critical to national security and defense.

The justices heard arguments Monday in an environmental case about a three-decades-old Virginia law that prevents mining of the largest deposit of uranium in the United States, in Pittsylvania County, in the southwest region of the state.

Lawmakers Have Cuba in Mind in Supreme Court Brief
They argue case could affect how Congress writes legislation

A bipartisan group of mostly Florida lawmakers wants the Supreme Court to side with fishermen and farmers from India in a dispute about a coal-fired power plant, since the decision could affect similar potential claims related to Cuba.

Seven members of Congress, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., who came to the United States from Cuba as a child a year after Fidel Castro took power, filed a brief in a case now before the court. In it, they urge the justices to allow lawsuits against U.S.-based international organizations such as the one in the India case.

Senate Judiciary Returns to Business as Usual After Kavanaugh
No protesters. No extra security. No media buzz. And Lindsey Graham barely said a word

Life after the Brett Kavanaugh fight got off to a subdued start Thursday for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Gone was the energetic buzz of news media, protesters and police officers that filled the hallway outside the committee’s hearing room in prior weeks. Inside the room, the senators spoke only in muted tones that contrasted sharply with the passionate speeches just two weeks earlier during a committee vote on the Supreme Court pick.

Republicans Restart Push for Lower Court Judges
Democrats object to the process

With the fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh behind them, Republicans on Wednesday restarted the Senate Judiciary Committee’s push to confirm lower court judges with a hearing on a pair of nominees that Democrats staunchly oppose for their legal work on health care, LGBT rights and other issues.

The hearing featured almost everything Democrats have complained about the confirmation process during President Donald Trump’s administration — including scheduling more than one circuit court nominee in a single hearing and doing so over the objections of a home state senator.

Kavanaugh Cautious but Active in First Day at Supreme Court
Shakes hands with Kagan before returning to chambers

Justice Brett Kavanaugh heard oral arguments for the first time Tuesday in cases about one of the Supreme Court’s least favorite criminal laws, jumping into his role with some straightforward questions and little hint of the bitter confirmation process he just went through.

There were no outbursts from protesters in the gallery, as there had been during his Senate confirmation hearings or Saturday’s historic vote. Kavanaugh showed no expression as he took his seat on the right end of the bench, even as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. welcomed him.