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SAUNDERS: Senate GOP sees antisemitism, Senate Dems see diversity

WASHINGTON — “Biden nominates union lawyer, Muslim American to U.S. appeals courts,” read the Reuters headline in November when President Joe Biden tapped Nicole Berner and Adeel Mangi for federal judgeships.

I lead with the headline because I don’t want to be accused of treating either would-be judge as a token. It’s Democrats who did that.

When Berner and Mangi appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in December, Democrats noted that Berner would be the first LGBTQ judge on the 4th Circuit (Maryland) and, if installed on the Third Circuit (New Jersey), Mangi would become the first Muslim judge on any federal appeals court.

Another first: This would be their first time on the bench. Mangi, the National Association of Police Organizations warned, “has not even presided over a parking ticket case — and now is nominated to the bench one step removed from the Supreme Court.”

Ditto Berner.

During a December hearing, GOP senators noted that Berner had asserted that the right-to-work movement is “deeply racist.”

Now she wants confirmation votes from senators representing 27 right-to-work states, including Nevada. So she offered that she had been speaking as a labor lawyer and does not see individuals who support right-to-work laws today as racists.

As for Mangi, Republicans grilled him about his role on the advisory board of Rutgers Law School’s Center for Security, Race and Rights. On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the center co-sponsored a round-table discussion that “challenges the exceptionalization of 9/11/2001; legitimization of ‘war on terror’ and other imperialist wars and interventions.’” Some might call the timing insensitive. Others saw antisemitism.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned against giving “a lifetime appointment” to someone who advised and donated to the Rutgers center.

Mangi said he was unaware of the controversy until the hearing. He was on an advisory board.

Mangi can boast an amazing personal journey from his boyhood in Pakistan, to his qualification as a barrister in the United Kingdom, to his Harvard Law degree, to his partnership with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler.

So it was surprising that when Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked Mangi if he considered Jews living in Israel to be “colonial settlers,” Mangi replied, “the conflict in Israel raises issues of policy.” And: “I don’t feel qualified to opine on that because it’s not a region whose history I’ve studied or where I’m from.”

That’s a weak answer to a question Mangi must have been prepped to expect. I don’t know that he’s antisemetic, but he’s no defender of Israel.

All eyes are on Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who is Jewish and up for re-election this year.

Carrie Severino of the conservative Judicial Crisis Network told me she thinks it “outrageous” that an “extremist” linked to an antisemitic group “is being considered seriously.” Rosen, Severino added, “is going to have to think hard if she is going to support him.”

I reached out to Rosen’s office. An aide responded, “Sen. Rosen is continuing to evaluate this nominee given that a floor vote has not yet been scheduled. That said, it is worth noting that leading nonpartisan organizations in the fight against antisemitism, like the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, have called out how Mangi has been treated and have rejected accusations against him of anti-Jewish motivations.”

Sorry. Mangi could have said Jews in Israel aren’t colonial settlers. But he didn’t.

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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