Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have a lot of new questions for President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee Steven Menashi, an already controversial court pick who is also potentially connected to Trump’s Ukraine scandal given his current role as a White House legal adviser.
“We write to inquire about your knowledge of or involvement with any of the events related to a telephone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, 2019, or a whistleblower complaint about that call and efforts to pressure Ukraine to interfere in the upcoming 2020 U.S. election,” reads a Friday letter to Menashi, signed by all 10 Democrats on the committee.
“As the Senate Judiciary Committee considers your nomination to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, it is vital to understand the work that you have done in the White House Counsel’s Office, including any work related to the matters referenced above.”
The letter poses several detailed questions to Menashi about what and when he knew about Trump pressuring Zelensky to investigate his potential 2020 rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, while discussing U.S. military aid to Ukraine. They ask when he first knew about Trump’s call, whether he advised Trump on any matter related to the subsequent whistleblower complaint, and whether he was involved in any conversations about how to handle the complaint. They give Menashi an Oct. 7 deadline for his responses.
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about Menashi’s role in either of these matters.
Menashi, 40, is already a contentious nominee. He’s drawn strong opposition from progressive groups over his long record of opposing and undermining equality for communities of color, women and LGBTQ people. Protesters filled the hall outside his Senate confirmation hearing this month and got arrested for shouting “Title IX is on the line,” a reference to Menashi serving as legal counsel to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos when she rolled back Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault on campuses.
Beyond that, Menashi doesn’t have support from either of his New York home-state senators and he visibly angered Republicans and Democrats in his confirmation hearing by refusing to give any details on what he’s worked on at the White House.
“I’m real doubtful” about supporting him, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, told HuffPost last week. “My thought is, look, if he’ll treat a United States senator the way he treated us, I wonder how he would treat the people.”
A spokesman for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has not responded to repeated requests for comment on how Menashi’s nomination is looking.