Richard J Durbin

Senate Confirms Trump DOJ Nominee Who Represented Russian Bank in 2017
Republicans stick together as Dem Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia breaks ranks to confirm Benczkowski by 51-48 vote

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., broke ranks with Democrats to move forward with the confirmation of Brian Benczkowski to lead the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the frenzy surrounding President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh kicks into high gear this week, the Senate is voted Wednesday to confirm a divisive new director for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice.

In late winter 2017, Brian Benczkowski, who now awaits Trump's signature to become the newest assistant attorney general at the DOJ, briefly represented Alfa Bank, a Russian bank with close ties to Russian government officials that media outlets previously reported was a subject of the FBI’s probe of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

Democratic Senators Once Accused Potential Trump SCOTUS Pick of Offering Misleading Testimony
Durbin, Leahy had concerns Brett Kavanaugh wasn’t truthful during 2006 confirmation hearing

Democrats questioned the truthfulness of Brett Kavanaugh, who is now on the shortlist for a Supreme Court nomination, after his last Senate confirmation hearing in May 2006. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

If President Donald Trump picks Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court justice, senators might find themselves debating whether the judge gave false testimony about detainee policy the last time he had a confirmation hearing.

That is in part because the two senators who suggested Kavanaugh may have misled them still serve on the Judiciary Committee.

Senators Press Chief Justice Roberts for Faster Release of Supreme Court Audio
Letter comes as Roberts renews opposition to cameras in the Court

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., is facing a new call from key senators for faster release of Supreme Court audio. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of his predecessors have teamed up to press Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., to release audio of all arguments on the same day that they take place.

Iowa Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley and Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy made the request of the Supreme Court in a June 29 letter to Roberts that was publicly circulated on Monday.

Outside Groups, Democrats Form Ranks in Supreme Court Fight
‘This will not happen without a fight,’ Sen. Cory Booker says

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to not consider a Supreme Court pick by the president until the Russia investigation is complete. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Less than 24 hours after Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, liberal advocacy group Demand Justice rallied in front of the court building Thursday with a string of Democratic lawmakers with a unified message: We will fight.

A professionally printed “Ditch the List” sign featuring President Donald Trump’s face hung on the podium, an expression of dissatisfaction with his list of 25 solidly conservative potential picks. Numerous Democratic senators also seized on the phrase as a hashtag on Twitter.

Pompeo: Trump Serious About Russia Getting Back into G-7 Club
President’s comments speak for themselves, secretary of State says

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says President Donald Trump is serious about having Russia rejoin the G-7. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated to senators Wednesday that President Donald Trump is serious in his desire to have Russia rejoin the Group of 7 countries even absent any improvements in Moscow’s support for Russian separatists in Ukraine.

The U.S. president startled European allies earlier this month when he announced his wish to have Russia back in the G-7 fold. Moscow was expelled in 2014 from the influential grouping of wealthy industrialized democracies — at the urging of President Barack Obama — as a consequence for Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Since that time, there has been scant improvement in the military situation in Ukraine where, in the eastern part of the country, Russian-backed separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk have carved out weak proto-states.

GOP Senators to Dems: You Can’t Stop Supreme Court Appointment by Fall
McConnell states next justice will be confirmed before midterms

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., gives a thumbs up after the Senate invoked the “nuclear option” which will allow for a majority vote to confirm a Supreme Court justice nominee, April 6, 2017. The maneuver allowed for confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the high court. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Senate Republican leaders on Wednesday quickly laid out the game plan for confirming a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, wasting no time in stating they intended to confirm a new justice before the fall elections and flatly claiming there was literally nothing Democrats could do to delay that. 

“The Senate stands ready to fulfill its constitutional role by offering advice and consent on President Trump’s nominee to fill this vacancy. We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor just minutes after the news of Kennedy’s retirement broke. 

Corker Adds Wrinkle to Farm Bill as He Pushes Back on Trump’s Tariffs
Agriculture is the ‘No. 1 target’ of foreign retaliation, GOP senator says

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., talks with reporters in the Capitol's Senate subway before the Senate Policy luncheons on June 19, 2018. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate could begin action Wednesday on dozens of farm bill amendments, including Sen. Bob Corker’s proposal for congressional approval of import tariffs and Sen. John Kennedy’s effort to extend the expiring National Flood Insurance Program.

Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow said Tuesday they were starting to sort through amendments to the House-passed farm bill to determine how to address them. The Senate voted to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the farm bill Monday night. The House bill is intended to be the legislative vehicle for the Senate version, expected to be offered by Roberts as a substitute amendment Wednesday.

Senators Keeping Hope — and ‘Regular Order’ — Alive
That immigration debate hasn’t derailed spending may be cause for optimism

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby and Sen. Roy Blunt are among the lawmakers trying to keep the Senate’s productive streak alive. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Does the Senate’s sudden appetite for “regular order” have any chance of continuing through the summer, particularly when it comes to writing spending bills?

“One only hopes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said. “Appropriators seem to be able to get along better than other people.”

Trump Hits FBI, Defends N.Korea Summit in Wild Driveway Scene
President: Without Singapore summit, ‘you’re going to have nuclear war’

U.S. President Donald Trump crosses the South Lawn after arriving at the White House on May 5, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump suggested Friday outside the White House that former FBI Director James B. Comey should be jailed and his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un averted “nuclear war.”

Trump broke with decades of protocol and ventured out to the executive mansion’s North Lawn to do a live interview with Fox News. He stayed outside with Secret Service agents scanning nearby Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Park for nearly an hour, taking a half hour of questions from a Fox anchor then another 30 minutes of questions from White House correspondents.

DOJ Watchdog Report on Comey Stirs Politics on Hill
Sessions calls report an opportunity to learn from past mistakes

Former FBI Director James Comey testifies during a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday. On Friday, President Trump declared feeling “total and complete vindication.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Even before the results of an internal Justice Department probe were released Thursday, that report into former FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the 2016 presidential campaign had reopened deep political divisions and fueled fresh questions about congressional oversight of the agency’s work.

That’s unlikely to change during the upcoming week of hearings and headlines on Capitol Hill about the watchdog’s report, starting with a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing slated for Monday and another before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees set for Tuesday.