This update corrects the state that Sen. Tom Cotton represents, which is Arkansas.
Sen. Tom Cotton added fuel to the increasingly fiery Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Ketanji Jackson on Tuesday by suggesting that President Joe Biden’s pick would have defended Nazi war criminals. And the DNC chairman came back swinging.
Cotton drew on Jackson’s criminal defender background, such as representing Guantanamo Bay detainees — echoing attacks from fellow Republican senators like Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz — to suggest that she would be soft on crime if she joined the Supreme Court. It should be noted that as a public defender, however, Jackson did not choose her clients. And the U.S. Constitution grants Guantanamo detainees the right to counsel.
“The last Judge Jackson left the Supreme Court to go to Nuremberg and prosecute the case against the Nazis,” said Cotton, the Republican senator from Arkansas, referring to former Justice Robert H. Jackson, the chief counsel in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
“This Judge Jackson might have gone there to defend them,” Cotton concluded.
Clips of his remarks went viral on Twitter, leading the Senator’s name to trend on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. The Anti-Defamation League was among those condemning Cotton’s comments, calling them “absolutely shameful.”
“To use a Nazi analogy as some sort of twisted way to attack Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is reprehensible,” the group said.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called Cotton “a joke,” and suggested he was offended by “a brilliant Black woman” becoming a Supreme Court judge. If confirmed, Jackson would make history as the first Black woman sitting on the highest court in the nation. What’s more, she would be the first Supreme Court justice to have served as a public defender, and the first with significant criminal defense experience since Thurgood Marshall, who retired more than 30 years ago.
But Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison used some of the strongest language against Cotton, calling him “the lowest of the low” and “a little maggot-infested man” on MSNBC on Wednesday morning. Harrison recounted a disputed account of how Cotton stalled former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the ambassador to the Bahamas for two years. The nominee, Cassandra Butts, reportedly told New York Times columnist Frank Bruni that Cotton told her that he was holding up her confirmation “to inflict special pain on the president,” because he knew Obama and Butts were friends from law school. Butts died of leukemia in 2016, still waiting to be confirmed.
“[Cotton] does not deserve to be in the United States Senate representing the good people of Arkansas,” Harrison said, adding that Cotton uses the Constitution as “a play toy,” and accusing the entire Republican party of doing the same. “They don’t deserve to be in power,” he said.
He also claimed that the GOP is “a party built on fraud, fear and fascism.” That understandably didn’t go over well with some Republicans, with the Republican National Committee’s research arm calling Harrison “unhinged.”
Regardless, all 50 Senate Democrats are expected to back Judge Jackson in a floor vote later this week, as well as Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, which makes it all-but-certain that she will be confirmed to the Supreme Court in the end. And as polarized as Capitol Hill has been over Jackson’s appointment, several polls suggest that a majority of the American people want her to serve on the Supreme Court.