The Republican senator who masterminded the plot to steal Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat now thinks Trump’s latest judicial picks are going too far.
Ever since Donald Trump assumed office, he has been cranking out a steady line of extremist, right-wing judicial nominees, and Senate Republicans have been dutifully rubber-stamping them for lifetime federal court positions.
But it seems as though Trump has finally found the limit to how awful these nominees can be before it dents Republican zeal to reshape the judiciary.
According to CNN, Chuck Grassley, the GOP chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has told Trump to withdraw two of his district court nominees.
Grassley had advised the White House to "reconsider" the nomination of Jeff Mateer, Trump's nominee for a federal judgeship in Texas. And even more pointedly, Grassley said the administration "should not proceed" on Trump's nomination of Brett Talley as a federal judge in Alabama.
Grassley, it should be noted, is one of the most strident hardliners trying to force through far-right judges.
He implemented Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell’s plot to steal Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat. He eliminated a Senate tradition of requiring home state senators to approve judicial picks after Democrats used it to block a judge who opposes school integration.
And he has helped Trump seat some truly horrible people on federal courts, including a blogger who compared abortion to slavery and an advocate of the dangerous and wholly discredited practice of "conversion therapy" for LGBTQ people.
But these two new nominees are a bridge too far, even for Grassley.
Talley, a former "ghost hunter" who has never tried a case, has praised the Ku Klux Klan and lied to the Senate about his marriage to a White House lawyer, which could pose a conflict of interest. He was unanimously rated "Not Qualified" by the American Bar Association.
Mateer, the First Assistant Attorney General of Texas, once proclaimed transgender children prove "Satan’s plan is working," and compared same-sex marriage to bestiality. He has openly boasted his religion teaches him to discriminate, which on the face of it would make him unqualified to hear federal cases. Texas Sen. John Cornyn has also accused him of hiding information from the Judiciary Committee.
Every day, Trump seems to be testing the resolve of Republicans to support him in lockstep. When it comes to judges, he may have finally found the breaking point.