Todd Ruger

Brett Kavanaugh could decide how redistricting is done
Newest justice will be center of attention when court hears gerrymandering cases next month

Voters keep voicing their frustration with the politically fraught way that state lawmakers redraw congressional districts every 10 years, and have approved ways to outsource the work with hopes of making fairer maps.

Colorado and Michigan approved ballot measures in November to create independent redistricting commissions to prevent one party from carving up a state in such a way as to entrench itself in office. Missouri approved a plan in which a state demographer and a statistical test will help determine lines. Utah approved the creation of an advisory commission.

‘Domestic terrorist’ planned to target Democrats, prosecutors say
Pelosi, Schumer among several lawmakers on U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant’s list

A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant assigned to the headquarters in Washington “is a domestic terrorist” whose potential victims included numerous Democratic members of Congress, federal prosecutors said in a court filing.

A federal search of Christopher Hasson’s basement apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, found 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as drugs he illegally possessed, prosecutors told a judge Tuesday in a bid to keep him in custody pending a trial.

Supreme Court will decide census citizenship question
Decision could affect congressional delegations and appropriations

The Supreme Court will decide by the end of June whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a quick schedule so questionnaires can be printed on time.

In a one-line order Friday, the justices agreed to hear oral arguments in the case the second week of April. The Justice Department asked for the rapid review because the government must finalize the census questionnaire by the end of June, which is also when the Supreme Court term ends.

Trump’s wall words will be used against him
President may have undercut his own argument that the border emergency is, well, an emergency

If there were a hall of fame of legal self-owns, there would be a spot of honor for a line Friday from President Donald Trump as he announced that he would declare a national emergency to fund a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

To do so, Trump plans in part to use the National Emergency Act of 1976, but he undercut his argument that it was an emergency at all.

Senate confirms Barr amid questions about Mueller report
The Senate voted to confirm Barr as the next attorney general, mostly along party lines

William Barr takes over the Justice Department on Thursday at a pivotal moment for the nation’s legal landscape, with his tenure closely tied to how he will handle the special counsel’s Russia investigation and any political pressure from the White House.

The Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Barr as the next attorney general, mostly along party lines. Senators have strong clues that he will continue the Trump administration’s conservative policies and legal arguments on immigration, civil rights enforcement and LGBT employment discrimination.

House Judiciary panel advances background check bill
Democrats are using new majority to press gun control legislation

A sharply divided House Judiciary Committee approved legislation Wednesday to bolster background checks for gun sales, the opening barrage in Democrats’ push to use their new majority to press gun control legislation they have backed for years.

To do so, Democrats needed to defeat numerous efforts from Republicans to amend the bill. It was one of two measures considered during a marathon meeting, highlighting not only the political hurdles to enacting the legislation but also how Democrats believe it could make a difference with voters in 2020.

Whitaker tells House he hasn’t messed with Mueller probe
The acting AG told the committee his department complied with and hasn’t changed special counsel regulations during his tenure

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told the House Judiciary Committee on Friday that he has not interfered with the special counsel’s Russia investigation and hasn’t promised the White House anything about the probe or informed anyone there about it.

Not that it was easy for Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., to get him to say that.

Appeals court nominee backpedals from college writings
“I cringe at some of the language I used,” Neomi Rao tells Senate Judiciary

President Donald Trump’s pick for an influential appeals court distanced herself Tuesday from prior writings about sexual assault and other topics during a Senate Judiciary confirmation hearing.

“To be honest, looking back at some of those writings and reading them, I cringe at some of the language I used,” Neomi Rao, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, testified. “In the intervening two decades, I like to think that I have matured as a thinker and writer, and indeed as a person.”

Contentious nominee kicks off push to fill federal court seats
Senate Judiciary to hear from Neomi Rao, nominee for Kavanaugh’s old circuit seat

Senate Republicans this week renew their push to confirm conservative federal judges, including a nominee for a key appeals court who could evoke the contentiousness of last year’s all-out battle over Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s first confirmation hearing of the year Tuesday features Neomi Rao, nominated to the seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit left open when Kavanaugh moved to the Supreme Court.

Sheldon Whitehouse takes aim at funding disclosure for court briefs
Rhode Island Democrat writes to chief justice about planned legislation

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse told the Supreme Court that he intends to introduce legislation this year meant to shed light on the funding behind groups that frequently file briefs aimed at influencing the outcome of high-profile cases.

The Rhode Island Democrat often decries how high-dollar, dark money donations can be funneled through advocacy groups to anonymously press political agendas through the Supreme Court and lower appeals courts — what he dubs “judicial lobbying efforts.”

Judiciary panel sets Barr vote, ‘ginormous loophole’ or no
Lingering questions for attorney general nominee aren’t enough to slow confirmation process

Updated 3:40 p.m. | The Senate Judiciary Committee will press attorney general nominee William Barr about a possible “ginormous loophole” in his commitment to make public what the special counsel investigation finds about President Donald Trump.

Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, on Tuesday highlighted two possible ways in which Barr’s commitment to transparency could actually mean he would release no information about Trump or anyone else who is not charged with a crime.

Barr says he’d resign rather than fire Mueller without cause
Attorney general nominee fills in some blanks with new answers on special counsel probe, border wall, abortion

Attorney General nominee William Barr assured senators that he would not fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III without good cause or change Justice Department regulations for the purpose of firing him.

“I would resign rather than follow an order to terminate the special counsel without good cause,” Barr said in written answers to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee members released Monday.

Barr assures senators of his independence
AG nominee says Mueller investigation isn’t a ‘witch hunt,’ Sessions ‘probably did right thing’ in recusing himself

Updated 5:59 p.m. | William Barr appeared to be on a path to confirmation as the next attorney general Tuesday, after he gave senators key assurances about the special counsel probe into the 2016 elections and distanced himself from some of President Donald Trump’s comments about the investigation.

During more than seven hours of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr avoided the kind of missteps that might cost him votes of Republicans, who have a 53-47 advantage in the chamber. But some Democrats say he did not do enough to reassure them that he would protect Robert S. Mueller III’s probe and make the results public.

Six things William Barr will tell senators at his AG confirmation hearing

Attorney general nominee William Barr will tell the Senate Judiciary Committee at a confirmation hearing Tuesday that he did not pursue the position and was reluctant to be considered for his second stint as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Barr, 68, plans to say he put off his partial retirement because he believes he can do a good job leading the department during a time when the country is “deeply divided” and the American people must know there are places in government where the rule of law holds sway over politics.

Health law appeal paused as shutdown affects federal courts
Justice Department also asks for pause in suit concerning acting AG Whitaker

The partial government shutdown halted a major challenge to the 2010 health care law among other civil litigation on Friday, as Justice Department lawyers sought the same in a challenge from three Senate Democrats to the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit issued a two-page order granting the Trump administration’s request to halt the 2010 health care law case “in light of lapse of appropriations.”

Senate Sends Criminal Justice Bill to the House
Action comes after years of debate, bipartisan support

The Senate voted 87-12 to pass an amended criminal justice overhaul bill on Tuesday, sending a bipartisan measure that almost did not make it to the floor to what backers said was a clear and swift path to becoming law.

The bill, which was brought to the floor as an amendment to an unrelated measure, survived initial indifference from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a series of amendments from Republican opponents, and the addition of some other amendments before ultimately earning an overwhelming bipartisan final vote.

For Stripped-Down Criminal Justice Bill, Less Could Be More
Sen. Kamala Harris: It’s a ‘compromise of a compromise‘

The bipartisan criminal justice overhaul bill that advanced Monday evening falls short of what lawmakers and advocates had sought to do with the measure more than four years ago — but now that’s the key to enacting the most sweeping changes to prison and sentencing laws in decades.

The latest version, on the floor via an unrelated bill, is whittled down to the provisions with the broadest support, bulked up with measures demanded by law enforcement and tough-on-crime Republicans, and tweaked to get the backing of President Donald Trump.

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.