Jeff Flake Takes Another Stand
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It would protect special counsel Robert Muller from political interference. So this is a legislation. That would have codified Justice department rules saying that you can only fire the special counsel for good cause dully with wick covers the courts for sleep. She was watching this moment closely. It was voted on in committee last April, and it's just been sort of mouldering on the shelves since then. But when the president fired is attorney general last week and replaced him with hardline loyalist, many Washington insiders started to worry about Muller's future. So here's flake saying. Being comes forward with Chris coons and says, dammit, no now, we're gonna vote on this. And Mitch McConnell's like, I don't think we needed. I trust Trump. He's not going to hire Muller. And this moment Dalia thinks of it as a kind of conservative gut check for some what happened to the Justice department last week crossed the line, others didn't think so. So what's interesting is the folks for whom it was a red line who have just negotiated that away. And then in tandem with that people like Senator Jeff flake who seemingly say, no actually this remains a red line. And in fact, the firing of sessions is not beyond a red line. It's a flashing red light. Like, this means, you know, Trump has Muller in his crosshairs. And so for me, what's interesting is that split. Here's Jeff flake, who you know, writes, this book conscience of a conservative who has been out on the hustings for two years saying all the right things and doing nothing. He's the one. I'm watching now arise today. The speak in defense of the special counsel of special counsel, Robert Muller. Dial almost doesn't want to say this. But she thinks Jeff flake is taking a stand because after that Muller Bill shutdown Senator flake stood on the floor of the Senate, and he made this threat, one further note on this unanimous consent request that has just failed today Senator coons, and I are prepared to make it again. And again until there is a vote on this vital part bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor, and I haven't formed the majority leader that I will not vote to advance any of the twenty one judicial nominees pending in the judiciary committee or vote to confirm the thirty two judges. Awaiting confirmation on the Senate floor until s twenty six forty four is brought to the full Senate for a vote. He said if you don't vote on my Bill, I won't vote on your judges. And so it s correlated initially. There was this standoff. Chuck Grassley said on Thursday like I think he was kinda serious. And then apparently there was this sort of shouting fight behind closed doors, where McConnell said I need you to back down on this. We have to push these judges through and Jeff flake at him not backing down. Flake is a lame. Duck retiring at the end of this session. But this moment Dalia thinks it might just might be some kind of turning point. You can watch Jeff flake, and your heart will break in tears will pour from your eyes nothing will happen. But I think what Jeff flake is doing around protecting molars kind of new. I'm Mary Harris. This is what next on today show. Dolly lipoic takes us behind this argument conservative thinkers in the middle of right now what actions violate the rule of law, and where do you draw the line Dalia says this argument, it is not just talk. Stay with us. At merrill. It all starts with you, the U who's expecting a new addition the U who's building a new edition as your needs. Evolve Merrill, provides advice and guidance that of offs with you. They help you build a personalized financial strategy that starts with what matters most to you. And with the right balance of straightforward, tools and access to professionals when you need them, whether you prefer working with a dedicated advisor self directed, investing or Merrill, Lynch professionally managed for folio Merrill, provides advice and guidance to help you live the life you want. Learn more at m L dot com slash you. Investing in securities involves risks. Investments are not if DIC insured are not Bank guaranteed and may lose value, Merrill, Lynch and Merrill, make available products and services offered by Merrill. Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith incorporated, a registered broker dealer registered investment advisor, member SIPC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of America corporation. Hey, guys before we get to the show today. I have a really quick request for you. After you've listened head over to slate dot com slash what. Next feedback that slate dot com slash what. Next feedback all one word that is where we are collecting all of your words of wisdom about the show. What you loved what you loved a little less. We need your ideas. So get in touch and thanks. All right. So Dolly lipoic. She is watching Jeff flake. And she admits it's not the first time flake is given liberals hope that he's gonna stand up to the Trump administration. Remember, the Cavanaugh confirmation process. So I asked Dalia how do we know flakes? Latest move is real well, you know, he gave his speech. He said, I'm not gonna let a single judge threw he found Chuck Grassley and Mitch McConnell's that's the spot. Right. That's the thing. If you wanna hurt not clearing tens of judges who are either stuck in committee or stuck before the full Senate that hurts. And so I think in a sense he has gone from sort of monitoring. Discursive like it shouldn't be like this to. I'm a lame duck. Senator I've got two months left to affect you. Wait, something a month left. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to block all the judges. And I realize I like, I'm like, Patty Hearst syndrome like. But I think if this were just words after he said, what he said McConnell would have done a deal some kind of deal to mollify him, which is happened before, you know. Can we take second? Explain why the judges are so important because this administration has put through a lot of judges, right? Yeah. No. I mean, it's it's extraordinary. The the number of NPR had this Carrie Johnson had a piece yesterday that was just mind boggling in terms of lifetime appointments on the appeals court twenty nine judges fifty three district court judges and two supreme court justices. Obama couldn't get judges threw it all in his last year. He was almost completely stymied the reason it's important. I mean, there's sort of obvious reason it's important, which is that these are article three judges they serve for life. The NPR report really broke down. How many of them are white men as compared to you know, Obama who had done so much in Clinton who had done so much and Bush, by the way who had. Really made efforts to have a bench that looked like America. And they're young right young. They're extremely conservative. I mean, I can't say it strongly enough. These are not Bush judges. These are judges who many of whom have no judicial experience, many of whom have very little litigation experience. Some of them have just been bloggers for far right conservative enterprises. And they're all getting you know, there are mechanisms in the Senate even pre filibuster. You know, there was a blue slip this arcane way that home state senators could block judges they didn't like all of those are gone every check is gone. And so these judges get stacked in hearings will you to get to three appeals court. Judges five district. Never has it happened that way they've done away with the ABA use to rate them. That's gone. So every rubber-stamp while they control. Yep. To quality control gone to just to your question. The reason it matters is. Because this is the fulfillment of a decades long pledge that Republicans and the conservative legal movement had to overtake the federal courts. Right, right. But here's. You have so much hope for flake. No, I have very little hope for. But it's a burning ember that you're like fanning of a members, but I feel like he's like a really good example of the issue here. He likes these judges as much as the next guy. Right. Like he would love to get these judges through they're going to make kind of decisions that he agrees with fundamentally as a real conservative. But he started drying this line. And what happens next really depends on where these very fuzzy lines are for people, and that's why I look at Jeff flake. And I'm like is this really going to hold on? I guess we'll know in the next what week or two whether he's actually going to get in the way, and to be perfectly fair here here, I will squelch your ember or I will I will pour freezing water over your ember. It almost doesn't matter because in January when they're even more Republicans on the judiciary committee and more Republicans in the Senate. It's not gonna matter. So it is entirely. Possible that even if Jeff flake prevails for a few weeks, he will still in aggregate have lost because these judges are going to get on the bench. And so it raises this question. Why this why now and I think at the core of your question. There's this really interesting thing, which is my suspicion is one of the reasons that Jeff flake held his nose and voted eighty four percent of the time or whatever it was with Trump is because these judges. So the irony that he's using in perfectly transactional sense. The one thing he probably agrees with more than anything else. More than like, the deregulatory piece more than the tax cut. He probably agrees on the judges. And he's using that as a transactional thing to stand up to Mitch McConnell that is kind of interesting, and we have to stop saying you fail some test. Where were you for the past two years, you let all these judges through federal society? How dare you now take on that? Championing of Muller. Like, I think we have defined our allies where they are. And that it's not flake quoth lake. It's the proposition that if flake decides his last stand will be to protect Muller at all costs, even is obviated in January. I think we have to credit him a little with that. We're going to be back in a moment. You know, what's not smart job sites that overwhelmed with tons of the wrong resumes. But you know, it is smart. Ziprecruiter dot com slash what. Next, unlike other job sites. Ziprecruiter doesn't wait for candidates to find. You ZipRecruiter finds them for you. 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And how important they've been especially to getting these judges where they are right now. Yeah. It is. It is hard to overstate. How important it is? The federalist society. When I said that there was this decades long plan to pack the courts with young movement conservatives that is the full fruition of what the federal society's been trying to do. There is no analogue on the left. The federalist society was initially a group of young law. Professors who said that conservatives were being sort of swamped in the academy and they wanted to build a machinery to. Support young conservative students, and it has flourished under Leonard Leo into this. Jeff Toobin has an amazing piece on this in the New Yorker from a year ago. But it has flourished into a hatchery where you know, young conservative law. Students are groomed there placed with the right clerk ships. They are moved up into the supreme court clerk ships. They get the right positions in the administration, and they're whisked into the judicial branch, and they can be twenty five thirty thirty five years old. And as I say, there's no analogue on the left one of the reasons. Barack Obama was just so slow to move on judges in his first year or two is that there was no machine the turned around and said to him, we your you. We gave you the presidency seat are judges. And so that's what the federalist society has done. And when they have their big prom this week in DC, it is literally and last year the same just a. Victory dance. Like, we have achieved the thing we set out to do which is overrun the federal courts with very conservative, very young usually very white, very male judges who will sit for life end this week. They've always had a little bit of a disagreement within the federal society self about whether Trump is acceptable or not. But this week we began to see some players important players in this community begin to speak out. Someone like George Conway. Right. Who's married to Kellyanne Conway as Trump is quick to note. Exactly Kellyanne Conway. Wrote this op Ed first of all criticizing what happened at the DOJ and saying it wasn't legal, and then formed this checks and balances groups sort of in the middle of this conservative meeting, so to you, I guess you see that is that more embers for you. Are you like yes, this is the beginning of of where we're going yet? I don't even think that's embers for me that is signal movement, and you know, just to go back to federal society for one minute. The story that came out of last year's federal society. They're big conclave in DC. Was this funny? Kind of it was a trivial story. But everybody told it where they were handing out these stress balls that said wait for it. But Gorsuch and everybody was like squeezing these, but Gorsuch stress wells because but Gorsuch became the name of the whole movement. It was all worth it for Gorsuch forgetting that seat. And that was the stressful that everybody was talking about last year, interestingly this year, right on the eve. Of the conclave, George Conway and a bunch of other. You know, very, very smart thoughtful leaders in the conservative movement announced the day before the federalist society event that they're peeling off and some of them, I think it was Jonathan Adler who's a young law. Professor gave interviews in which they said the but Gorsuch stress bought like that's not enough. You know, like that's not enough. And so I think they're very clear in their mission statement that they don't they're not at a war with fed sock. They're not there's no part of them that is defining themselves up -sition Lee, but they are saying very clearly we our country that believes in rule of law. We're country that believes in truth and in telling the truth and in immutable. You know, you don't make stuff up, and they believe in the Justice department. That's one of the things that scares them. One of the things that they were at pains to talk about was the Jim Acosta being a D credentialed. And so it is not nothing to have. Have leaders in the conservative movement, essentially say and this goes back to your Jeff flake question. We're not willing to put up with anything to get our judges. We're not willing to put up with all things because but Gorsuch, what can they really do though? I mean, I get it that they have a voice, but how can they actually have an impact? I think that we are very quick to say, it's all just words words, words words, right words, mean nothing and blood Jeff flake like you in your mouth. But I think that it's really important that one of the things that the George Conway team are doing are. They are making this argument this like sane lucid argument about why checks and balances matter and why the rule of law matters. And why this Nick Sonian view that if the president takes your press credentials away, it's never unconstitutional. That's not nothing. That's not just words. So I feel like you're making this argument. Which is really interesting, which is basically to have these folks standing up, it changes the environment where it's like right now, we're sort of Trump is setting the environment. We're in his jungle that he's created. And they're saying no actually were in this room over here. We all need to see it. Clearly there sort of turning the lights on for us, which is great. But is sort of wonder. This squidgy face when his face. It's just my face. Like are we all in the same environment? Like, they're making these arguments. But are they making the arguments to the right people like we just had this election, right? Where it was really clear that the bulk of Americans are rejecting Trump ISM. But there are these geographic locations where that's not happening. And I don't know if the people in those geographic locations are listening to George Conway are listening to Jeff flake, even and Jeff lakes about to be out of there. This is a great question. And I think it raises something that's more than an ember for me, and that is the courts in the rule of law. So I think a lot of folks when you look at the exit polling when they rejected Trump and Trump is a lot of it is about this in a phobia, the misogyny and Brett Kevin on whatever that's come to represent a lot of it. Is that people just think there needs to be a check they think there needs to be checking, they don't maybe can't parse. You know, what that looks like? But these certainly I think overwhelmingly said. We need some entity that is going to rein him in. And this goes to why like I love the law, and it's more than just an ember for me, I mean, we are looking at a Trump judge who was appointed in twenty seventeen who just reinstated. Jim Costa's press credential just today just today before we sat into the studio, and you can say like, oh, blah, blah. Maybe it doesn't mean anything, you know, it's a due process argument. It's gonna come back, but it's not nothing. It's not nothing that the White House. Didn't have the temerity to go into that court and make the Sarah Sanders. He put his hands on her argument. It matters that they abandoned that argument and win the judge press them on it. They were like, oh, it's not in our pleadings that he put his hands on the girl because. Head been. But I think that for right now, let's have this conversation about whether it matters that we have an independent probe. And if if George Conway wants to be in the trenches with us, I will welcome him with open wick, bringing the hope. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Ooh. Dully Ludwick is the host of amicus podcast. She covers courts and the law for slate. And that's our show. 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