Franken, Klobuchar deny blocking Trump's federal nomination

David Stras
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras, right, alongside Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea.
Evan Frost | MPR News file

Updated: 4:52 p.m. | Posted: 1:30 p.m.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Thursday she's still considering the nomination of a state Supreme Court Justice to a federal post, echoing comments from fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken as Republicans accuse the pair of blocking a conservative appointment.

President Donald Trump nominated Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Stras to a vacancy on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Arkansas. Elevated to the state's highest court in 2010 by then- Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Stras was also on Trump's shortlist for the U.S. Supreme Court.

But more than three months later, Stras' nomination is still in limbo. Klobuchar and Franken haven't given Stras their sign-off through so-called blue slips -- a privilege given to home state senators before judicial nominations progress for final Senate confirmation.

The delay has caused outrage among Republicans in both Minnesota and in Washington, D.C., where Trump has accused Democrats in the Senate of blocking his nominations for judgeships and other top positions. Stras was one of 10 judicial nominations made at the time.

But Klobuchar denied blocking Stras' appointment during an interview on Minnesota Public Radio News on Thursday, saying she's met with Stras once already and plans to meet with him again before deciding whether to allow the nomination to proceed.

A spokesman for Franken said this week that the Democratic senator is still reviewing Stras' "lengthy record" before giving his approval, faulting the White House for putting Stras' name forward without consulting his office about possible candidates.

"Rather than discuss how senators traditionally approached circuit court vacancies or talk about a range of potential candidates, the White House made clear its intention to nominate Justice Stras from the outset," spokesman Michael Dale-Stein said.

Stras is a former law professor who clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Stras declined to comment on his pending nomination through a Supreme Court spokesman on Thursday.

Klobuchar signaled greater concern about the state's vacant U.S. Attorney position. The state's Former U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, resigned in March at Trump's request. No permanent replacement has surfaced.

"We need a name from the White House," Klobuchar said. "If it goes on another 2 months, I'll say I'm mad."

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