Senate Dems seek info on judicial nominee’s impeachment role

Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., left, heads to the Senate for a vote, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee want to know whether one of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees figures in the whistleblower complaint at the center of a bid to impeach Trump.

The panel’s 10 Democrats, led by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said it is vital to understand work done by judicial nominee Steven Menashi, an associate White House counsel who’s one of Trump’s top legal advisers.

The lawmakers asked Menashi in a letter Friday to disclose what he knows about a phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his family. The senators also want to know what role, if any, Menashi played in responding to a whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry .

As the Judiciary Committee considers Menashi’s nomination to the New York-based 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, “it’s vital to understand his work in the White House Counsel’s Office,” said Feinstein, the panel’s top Democrat. “We need to know whether he was involved with any events related to President Trump’s (July 25) phone call with President Zelenskiy.”

Democrats asked Menashi a series of questions, including when and how he became aware of the July 25 call and whether he was involved in a decision by the White House to withhold the whistleblower’s complaint from Congress, citing executive privilege. The complaint was later turned over to Congress along with a rough transcript of the call.

Lawmakers also want to know whether Menashi was involved in any talking points or “messaging guidance” related to the whistleblower complaint, and whether he was involved in a decision to load contents of the Ukraine call into a server used for classified information and other highly sensitive material.

Senators from both parties criticized Menashi last month after he declined to answer questions about his work in the Trump White House and Education Department during a Judiciary Committee hearing.

Feinstein called his refusal to answer questions unprecedented, adding that “his attempts to hide his record raise serious questions about his fitness for the federal bench.”

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told Menashi he was “a smart guy, but I wish you would be more forthcoming. This isn’t supposed to be a game.”

Menashi said he understood the senators’ frustration but said he could not answer questions about his White House work, citing confidentiality concerns.

Democrats set an Oct. 7 deadline for Menashi to respond to their questions.

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