Todd Ruger

Lindsey Graham wants attorney general to testify on Mueller report

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham plans to call Attorney General William Barr to testify in a public hearing about the Russia investigation and his conclusions that President Donald Trump did not obstruct justice.

“I’m asking him to lay it all out,” the South Carolina Republican said Monday at a press conference at the Capitol. But he stopped short of saying Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III would be asked to testify as well.

Lawmakers urge Supreme Court to leave redistricting to Congress

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday in two partisan gerrymandering cases that could scramble congressional districts and change the way states redraw maps after the 2020 Census, marking the second consecutive year the justices will consider the issue.

In a sign of how much could change if the justices decide states can’t use the maps to entrench an advantage for a political party, the North Carolina and Maryland lawmakers who benefited from that process urged the Supreme Court to stay out of it and leave any overhaul of the redistricting process to Congress.

Congress set aside $1 billion after Parkland. Now schools are starting to use it
From panic buttons to metal detectors, communities take a page from Fort Knox

Amid the rolling farmland of southwest Iowa sits the 7,800-population town of Creston, where the school district boasts of a “state-of-the-art school safety and security system” with a command center to monitor nearly 200 cameras, or roughly one for every seven students.

But the school superintendent isn’t done yet, thanks to a $500,000 grant from a program Congress stuffed into an omnibus spending bill a year ago. He plans to buy mobile metal detectors that could also be set up at football games, a shooter alert system that can sense when a gun goes off in one of the three schools and notify police, a “panic button” system and a new entry system.

Mueller probe could spark historic balance of powers debate
Lawmakers, administration set for battle over how much of report to make public

The political spotlight focused brightest on reticent special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for nearly two years, his every legal move and court filing scrutinized by a country eager to decipher what the Russia investigation had uncovered about President Donald Trump.

But with Mueller’s work done, the question changes from what Mueller found to how much of it House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler and other lawmakers can make public.

Another Trump judicial nominee backs away from college writings
Kenneth Lee’s testimony came hours before Senate confirmation of Neomi Rao, who had also backed away from college articles

Another of President Donald Trump’s appeals court picks distanced himself from college writings Wednesday, including articles about AIDS, LGBT rights, affirmative action and sexual harassment that raised concerns from Democrats.

“When you’re 18 or 19 you think you know everything, even though you really don’t,” Kenneth Lee, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “When you’re young you think being snarky is being witty, as you get older I think you realize it frankly comes off as insensitive or tone deaf. I’ve learned that.”

Justices break the ice, err glass, at budget hearing
Alito and Kagan make their debut before House Appropriations subcommittee

At the start of a House hearing Thursday on the Supreme Court’s budget, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. knocked over a full water glass, which shattered on the witness table with a sound that would make any foley artist proud.

“Not off to a very good start,” Alito said with a smile, holding the bottom of the broken glass. “We’re deducting that,” a member of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee quipped from the Democratic side of the dais.

House launches broad document request on Trump administration
The request is the clearest sign yet of the broad scope of oversight Democrats intend to pursue

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday unveiled a sweeping request for documents in its congressional investigation into President Donald Trump on allegations of obstruction of justice, corruption and other abuses of power — the clearest sign yet of the broad scope of oversight Democrats intend to pursue.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., announced that letters went to 81 agencies, entities and individuals believed to have information on Trump, his associates and members of the Trump administration. The effort is to “begin building a record,” Nadler said, because Trump has accountability for “near-daily attacks on our basic legal, ethical, and constitutional rules and norms.”

Justices to make rare appearance before appropriators
Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan will testify about high court’s budget

Two Supreme Court justices plan to testify before Congress next week about the high court’s budget for the first time in four years, amid legislative efforts to overhaul ethics and transparency policies of the judicial branch.

Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Elena Kagan are set to appear at a public hearing Thursday before the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee. Alito was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006 and Kagan was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

Rao nomination advances amid pressure on freshman senator
Missouri’s Josh Hawley felt the full force of his party’s judicial confirmation machine

In the days before the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Neomi Rao’s nomination to the federal appeals court in Washington, Missouri Republican freshman Josh Hawley felt the full pressure of his party’s judicial confirmation machine.

“I know that there are some inside this building, and outside of it, who would prefer that I do as I’m instructed and go along to get along,” Hawley said before the committee’s Thursday vote. “And I’m sorry to disappoint them, but that is not going to happen.”

House passes gun legislation with GOP add-on
Chamber passes first standalone gun measure in years

House Democrats on Wednesday succeeded in pushing through the chamber a bill to expand background checks for firearm sales, but not before some procedural gamesmanship from Republicans.

Last year, Congress approved two gun-related measures about background checks and school safety in a spending bill. But Wednesday’s 240-190 vote mostly along party lines was the first time in decades that the House passed a standalone gun control bill.

Democrats see loss of Senate power in latest judicial vote
Both home-state senators opposed appointment of Eric D. Miller to 9th Circuit

The Senate confirmed another of President Donald Trump’s appeals court nominees Tuesday evening, in a vote that Democrats say represents further erosion of senators’ power to influence who is appointed to federal courts from their states.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the floor that Eric Miller’s law career makes him “well prepared” for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is based in San Francisco and hears cases from nine states. Miller, confirmed 53-46, will fill a spot that has traditionally been associated with a nominee from Washington state.

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.