President Trump moved controversial Raleigh lawyer Thomas Farr a step closer to a federal judgeship in eastern North Carolina Friday by resubmitting Farr's nomination to the Senate.
The decision was announced Friday afternoon in a White House press release. Trump re-upped twenty-one judicial picks, including Farr, after they failed to make it through the U.S. Senate when nominated in 2017. Farr's nomination, in particular, has been highly controversial. His longtime association with former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, as well as his defense of the North Carolina legislature's voter ID law and racial gerrymanders, have drawn fire from civil rights advocates. So too, has evidence that Farr may have misled members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with written testimony about a 1990 Helms postcard campaign intended to suppress the black vote.
Reaction from advocacy groups in opposition to Farr arrived quickly.
"Confirming [Farr] would send the chilling message to black North Carolinians that their rights will not be honestly protected in federal court," said Todd A. Cox, policy director of the NAACP-related Legal Defense Fund. "Senators must stop rubber-stamping judicial nominees and vote against this aggressively regressive choice. Our federal courts require competent and qualified judges, and Farr does not come close to meeting that standard."
Vanita Gupta, the former head of the U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division, called for another hearing for Farr.
"After his [initital] hearing, information came to light that strongly suggests that he misled the committee about his involvement in the Jesse Helms for Senate campaign’s intimidation of black voters," she said in a statement. "Senators must demand more information from both the nominee and the Justice Department to determine Farr’s veracity under oath and his involvement in this nefarious conduct.
Trump renominated Thomas Farr, but if senators are taking their vetting seriously, they'll hold another hearing. Evidence suggests he misled the committee, under oath, about his involvement in the Jesse Helms for Senate campaign’s intimidation of Black voters. We deserve answers. https://t.co/izrIs9MS7s— Vanita Gupta (@vanitaguptaCR) January 5, 2018
Civil rights groups and Democratic politicians are demanding that Farr return to the Judiciary Committee for a second hearing to answer questions—first raised by the INDY in November—about his role in Helms' postcard campaign. The INDY explored Farr's longtime links to Helms in a cover story this week.
Farr has flatly denied, in written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and elsewhere, that he knew in advance about the 1990 Helms campaign's postcard mailing to many thousands of African-American voters in North Carolina, an action that federal civil rights officials concluded was intended to suppress their voting rights.
However, Farr's answers to questions from Senator Cory Booker, as well as interviews with Helms associate Carter Wrenn and former Department of Justice attorney Gerald Hebert, indicate a different sequence of events. According to those sources, experienced political operatives Farr and Wrenn had advance knowledge that the campaign was being planned, yet turned their heads as to the actual operation and to what federal investigators described as the intimidating contents of the postcard.
Wrenn said in an interview with the INDY that he approved sending the postcard without looking at it. Farr would not have approved the mailing if he been shown its contents, Wrenn said.
🚨 Farr was part of a voter suppression scheme that sent over 100K postcards to African Americans to intimidate them into not voting. We can stop him from becoming a judge! Call your Senator: https://t.co/Q7ESDAqysP https://t.co/LVnHoa66gS— Let America Vote (@letamericavote) January 5, 2018
Farr's nomination will have to receive another vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a new member will be named to replace Senator Al Franken, who stepped down following allegations of sexual harassment.
Following the failure of three of Trump's 2017 nominees to achieve confirmation, his renomination of Farr will likely be viewed as a challenge to his opponents. In the GOP-controlled Senate, a Republican senator from either the judicial committee or two from the full Senate would have to oppose Farr for his nomination to be forestalled.