Todd Ruger

Justices Reject Challenge to Waiting Period for Gun Purchases
‘The right to keep and bear arms is apparently this Court’s constitutional orphan’

Revealing Tales from the Election Interference Indictment
Russians Used Americans for ‘Discord’

Russian operatives allegedly kept an internal list of more than 100 real Americans, their political views and activities that they had been asked to perform by the Russians pretending to be grassroots political organizers.

The Justice Department used an indictment Friday to tell the story of some of those requests and the social media campaigns that the Russian operatives put together, enabling them to grow hundreds of thousands of online followers.

Grand Jury Indicts Russian Nationals for Election Interference
Operatives targeted Clinton, Rubio and Cruz, while largely supporting Trump and Sanders

Updated 3:25 p.m. | The Justice Department charged Russian operatives Friday with a sweeping effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, spending millions of dollars to wage social media campaigns, buy political advertisements and pose as grass-roots organizers to spark political rallies on American soil.

The grand jury criminal indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies landed like a bombshell in Washington, where the debate has raged over the extent of Russia’s influence in the election while President Donald Trump has waged a campaign to quell special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.

Senators Ponder How to Break Criminal Justice Logjam
With Trump not on board with bipartisan bill, “we’re stuck,” Grassley says

Senate Judiciary Committee members grappled Thursday with the best strategy to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system, since the leading bill has broad bipartisan support but the White House apparently backs only one part of it.

Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa set a markup next week for a bill that represents a hard-negotiated compromise — first struck in 2015 — that backers say would pass the Senate with a bipartisan supermajority if brought to the floor. It is expected to easily advance from the committee and could be a signature legislative accomplishment for the Senate.

Grassley Moves on Judicial Nominee Over Baldwin’s Objections
Lack of state commission recommendation, as well as blue slip process, being disregarded

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Wednesday for an appeals court nominee from Wisconsin over the objections of Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a move that could portend a weakened influence of senators over federal judicial picks from their states.

By scheduling the hearing, Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa sided with the Trump administration and the executive branch instead of his Senate colleague when it comes to the sway a senator has in recommending who should sit on the federal bench.

Podcast: How Trump is So Quickly Remaking the Federal Bench
Roll Call Decoder, Episode 2

The end of filibusters, changes in other Hill customs and subcontracting nominations to conservative groups – all have combined to make Senate judicial confirmations much more about “consent” than “advice,” CQ legal affairs reporter Todd Ruger explains.

Show Notes:

Supreme Court Hops Into Case About a Frog and Property Rights
But the justices will leave bearded seals alone

The Supreme Court jumped into a case about the government’s power to designate private land as critical habitat for an endangered frog species, but is staying out of another case seeking to protect the bearded seal from future threats of climate change. 

The justices announced Monday they will hear oral arguments about the dusky gopher frog and a 1,500-acre tract of Louisiana forestry land that could lose $34 million in development value because of the Fish and Wildlife Service designation under the 1973 endangered species law. The arguments will likely be scheduled for the next Supreme Court term that starts in October.

In Supreme Court Privacy Case, Lawmakers Side With Microsoft

Five lawmakers told the Supreme Court on Thursday that Congress didn’t intend for an electronic privacy law to authorize the government’s seizure of data overseas and say interpreting it differently could have “dangerous repercussions” for future legislating.

The group’s brief backs tech giant Microsoft in a dispute with the United States about whether email service providers must comply with warrants even if data is stored outside of the country — in this case in Dublin, Ireland.

Senate Republicans Steamroll Judicial Process
‘Advice’ dwindles in the GOP’s rush for judges

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans hardly could have done more last year to help President Donald Trump reshape the nation’s federal courts with conservative appointees.

They put Justice Neil Gorsuch in a Supreme Court seat, one they blocked Barack Obama from filling during his last year in the White House. Then they approved a dozen Trump picks for the influential appeals courts that have the final say on the vast majority of the nation’s legal disputes — a record number for a president’s first year in office.

Supreme Court to Revisit Internet Sales Tax Ruling
Bipartisan group of lawmakers want previous decision overruled

The Supreme Court will decide whether businesses must collect sales tax on online transactions in states where they don’t have a physical presence, in a case closely watched by lawmakers, states and online retailers.

The case gives the justices a chance to reshape internet commerce, something Congress hasn’t done since the high court last ruled on the issue in 1992. Back then, the court barred states from collecting sales tax from vendors that were out of state.

Texas Redistricting Case Heads to Supreme Court
Lower court ruling found vote dilution and racial gerrymandering

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether Texas must redraw its congressional maps because of gerrymanders, in a case that could have major implications for this year’s elections in the Lone Star State.

The justices announced Friday they will review an August ruling from a panel of three federal judges that the current map needs to be changed because it has intentional vote dilution in the 27th District and racial gerrymandering in the 35th District. Those districts are currently held by Republican Blake Farenthold and Democrat Lloyd Doggett, respectively.

North Carolina Asks Court to Halt Congressional Map Change
Partisan gerrymandering at issue

North Carolina lawmakers asked the Supreme Court to stop a lower court order to redraw its congressional map ahead of the 2018 midterms, arguing that it could “hopelessly disrupt North Carolina’s upcoming congressional elections.”

In an emergency application, the Tar Heel State lawmakers focused on time constraints — as well as “multiple entirely novel theories” the lower court adopted in Tuesday’s ruling — that struck down the state’s 2016 congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

GOP Judiciary Members Complain They’re in the Dark on Russia Probe
Kennedy says his access has been ‘zero, zilch, nada’

Two Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced frustration Thursday that they weren’t being kept in the loop on the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana summed up his access to information from the panel investigation this way: “I’ve seen nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.”

Supreme Court Split on Ohio Voter Purge Law
Case could have consequences for this year’s midterms

The Supreme Court appeared divided along familiar lines Wednesday as the justices considered how states such as Ohio can remove voters from registration rolls without violating federal laws to protect people who simply choose not to vote.

The case could affect this year’s elections and how states determine who remains on the lists of eligible voters. The justices will decide the case before their term concludes at the end of June, but did little Wednesday to foreshadow how they ultimately would rule.

Booker, Harris Add Historic Diversity to Senate Judiciary
2020 hopefuls are second and third black senators to serve on panel

The addition of Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday gave the two potential 2020 presidential hopefuls a big platform, but also a spot in the panel’s history.

Booker becomes the first black man to sit on the committee, which oversees civil rights, voting rights, housing discrimination and other Justice Department enforcement efforts that are seen as crucial to African-Americans. Harris, who is biracial, becomes the second black woman to serve on the panel, after Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, who left the Senate in 1999.

Sherrod Brown, Black Lawmakers Back Voters in Ohio Purge Case
Democrats argue Buckeye State is disenfranchising legitimate voters

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday about Ohio’s effort to remove voters from its registration rolls, and some members of Congress have told the justices that the Buckeye State’s process violates federal laws meant to protect voters.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus filed separate briefs in the case siding with groups that challenged Ohio’s law. The state’s “supplemental process” uses a list of people who haven’t voted in recent elections to trigger steps that could remove them from the voter rolls.

Lawmakers Object to DOJ Move on Marijuana Enforcement
Sen. Cory Gardner says Sessions’ decision opens states’ rights issues

Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew strong criticism from lawmakers Thursday for changing a Justice Department policy on marijuana enforcement that had allowed states to move forward on legalizing the drug’s recreational and medical use.

Sessions’ move upsets the uneasy status quo between state laws that legalize marijuana and the federal laws against possession and distribution, which was set up by Obama administration guidelines from the Justice Department. Sessions rescinded the Obama guidelines Thursday, which cast uncertainty on what had been a growing pot industry just days after California implemented a recreational pot law.

Democratic Panel Supports Nadler for Top Spot on Judiciary
Full Democratic caucus votes on Wednesday

An influential group of House Democrats voted Tuesday to formally recommend Rep. Jerrold Nadler as the next ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, a high-profile post that could become even more pivotal after the 2018 elections.

The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee sided 41-18 for Nadler over Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. Their recommendation goes to a vote Wednesday before the full Democratic Caucus, which does not have to follow the steering committee’s recommendation.

Third Trump Judicial Pick Withdraws Nomination
Matthew Petersen could not answer basic questions about legal principles

Matthew Petersen on Monday withdrew his nomination to be a judge on the federal district court in Washington, less than a week after a video of his confirmation hearing went viral because it showed him unable to answer Sen. John N. Kennedy’s questions on basic litigation principles.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., mocked Petersen’s performance when he posted the video of the nominee stumbling over answers as a “MUST WATCH” in a tweet that concluded “he can’t answer a single one. Hoo-boy.”

House Democrats Face Tough Choices in Judiciary Panel Race
Nadler and Lofgren vie for top spot amid party’s soul-searching

Two experienced Democratic lawmakers with contrasting styles are vying to become the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and the vote this week could signal much more than just who will press the party’s agenda on the panel.

The choice of Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York or Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California will reveal much about the Democrats’ long-term strategy for a key committee as it deals with the tumult of President Donald Trump’s administration, the special counsel investigating his campaign, threats to civil rights and a reckoning of allegations of improper sexual behavior sweeping through Capitol Hill.