Mike Lee and William Barr Get in a Shouting Match as Justice Nominee Is Blocked for Not Being Conservative

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, testifies during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the nomination of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to become the US ambassador to Russia, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Early in March, Attorney General William Barr moved to establish his own leadership team.

President Trump plans to nominate the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia., Jessie K. Liu, to become the Justice Department’s No. 3 official, the White House announced Tuesday.

If confirmed, Liu would assume the job of associate attorney general and her principal responsibility would be overseeing the Justice Department’s civil litigation.

Liu, 46, was confirmed in August 2017 to head the country’s largest U.S. attorney’s office, one that often oversees politically sensitive investigations of the executive and legislative branches.

The selections of Rosen and Liu would put in place a new trio of senior officials running the Justice Department, now led by newly confirmed attorney general William P. Barr, who previously served as attorney general during the George H.W. Bush presidency.

“Jessie has distinguished herself as a first-class attorney in private practice, in the Treasury Department, and in five different positions over her career at the Department of Justice,” Barr said in a statement, adding that he was pleased to recommend Liu and grateful for her nomination.

Almost immediately, the danger of having an establishment creature like Barr (who is probably a nice and honorable guy but who is undeniably a member of Washington’s ruling clique) as attorney general became apparent. What got Liu the nod from Barr was her pedigree…which is pretty impressive. In focusing on that pedigree, Barr chose to ignore some red flags. From 2005 until 2006, Liu was vice president of the National Association of Women Lawyers. That group is virulently pro-abort and, in 2005, it opposed the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court because they felt he was insufficiently enamored with the idea of killing babies. (Read the letter.) While it is true that Liu had no visible, personal involvement in that decision, neither did she resign from office or the organization or come out against that position. This can only be called what it is: tacit agreement both with abortion and with the opposition to Alito. Some of her friends claim she signed a separate letter supporting Alito but that smacks of “I voted for it before I voted against it.”

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But, let’s face it, this is pretty much SOP for Justice under Republicans. Even though the active support of Justice is critical to moving conservatism forward by finding ways to do things rather than by finding reasons to not do them, we’ve let Justice become a liberal plantation. The career staff there probably can be found, en masse, at any Democrat meeting in DC. And our Attorneys General tend to hire people who are acceptable to the Democrat legal establishment rather than people willing to fight for conservatism.

Mike Lee, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, was not terribly pleased.

A person familiar with the situation told Fox News Thursday that there was real doubt that Liu could receive the necessary votes on the Senate Judiciary Committee after Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, came out against her. Conn Carroll, a spokesman for Lee, confirmed that the senator opposed Liu’s appointment “based on her past record on life issues,” but declined to comment further.

With Lee a “no” vote, it became highly unlikely that Liu would get committee approval. She withdrew her name from consideration. But there is more to the story.

Two sources told NPR that the attorney general got into a “shouting match” with Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, a key figure in opposing Liu’s bid, over the issues. A spokeswoman for Barr declined comment on the heated conversation with a lawmaker from his own political party. For his part, Barr issued a statement filled with praise for Liu and insisting, “We will all benefit from her universally-regarded expertise and dedication to public service” in her role as an adviser to him.

Four lawyers familiar with the matter said the stumbling block for Liu was a broader concern about her conservatism — specifically, her stance on women’s reproductive rights. Interest groups had begun drafting letters to senators about their fears that Liu would not support restrictions on abortion. Another key factor: Earlier in her career, Liu had an affiliation with the National Association of Women Lawyers, which sent a letter opposing the nomination of Justice Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

A long time ago, back when being an IBM salesman was a ticket to a very nice income, IBM ran a boot camp for salesmen. Each day started with the class singing IBM fight songs. One day, the top academic student was called into the office and given the bad news, he was out. He was stunned. “Why?” he asked. “I have the highest grades, the best evaluations.” Then they gave him the bad news. We noticed you aren’t singing our songs. We can find lots of smart people but we want people who will sing our songs.

Every day, I’m getting more confident that the GOP is finally shedding the happy loser ethos it has embraced for decades and has decided that winning counts and that it is time we stop rewarding our enemies and those who cavort with them. For too long, we’ve given a pass to the careerists who mouth conservativism while sucking up to the liberal power structure. Now we’re seeing them gradually being outed. If we are going to move the ball forward, we don’t need credentialed and pedigreed goobers, they can go work for The Bulwark or start their own, as yet, unnamed newsletter. We need conservative warriors who sing our songs.

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