Advertisement

Democratic senators have privately warned White House that votes aren’t there to confirm Biden’s Muslim judicial nominee

Multiple Democratic senators and their staff have privately warned the White House in recent days that there does not appear to be enough votes in the Senate to confirm Adeel Mangi, President Joe Biden’s Muslim-American judicial nominee, sources familiar with the conversations tell CNN – appearing to suggest that the confirmation of one of Biden’s top-priority judicial picks is in peril.

Biden nominated Mangi in November to the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals. If confirmed, the New York-based litigator would become the first Muslim-American to serve on any federal appeals court. But some allies of the White House on Capitol Hill have made clear that there is not enough support – including among Democrats – to confirm Mangi in the full Senate, those sources said.

The controversy surrounding Mangi’s nomination comes at a moment of heightened political tensions across the country since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel.

Mangi confronted contentious questions from lawmakers at his confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee in December. He was grilled by some Republican lawmakers about, among other things, his views of the Israel-Hamas war, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and connection to a group that some have described as anti-Semitic.

At one point during Mangi’s confirmation hearing before the Judiciary panel in December, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz highlighted Mangi’s connection to the Center for Security, Race and Rights at Rutgers University – a group that Cruz said embraces “extremism and myopia” and has expressed anti-Semitic views.

Mangi said he had served on the center’s advisory board, which met once a year and advised on areas of academic research, and that he had no knowledge of any events or speakers that the group might have hosted.

“Do you condemn the atrocities of the Hamas terrorists?” Cruz asked.

“The events of October 7 were a horror involving the deaths of innocent civilians,” Mangi responded.

Pressed by the Texas Republican on whether there was any justification for the October 7 attacks, Mangi said: “I have no patience, none, for any attempts to justify or defend those events.”

In announcing Mangi’s historic nomination, the White House had said that the choice was a part of fulfilling Biden’s pledge to “ensure that the nation’s courts reflect the diversity that is one of our greatest assets as a country.”

His confirmation has been a top priority for the White House, with White House chief of staff Jeff Zientz, director of congressional affairs Shuwanza Goff, White House counsel Ed Siskel and other top officials working the phones since his nomination to try to shore up support, according to a White House official.

Asked to comment on this story, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said the White House is continuing to fight for Mangi’s confirmation, and described him as an “extraordinarily qualified nominee who is devoted to the rule of law, lived the American dream through hard work, proven his integrity, and would make history on the bench.”

“As the Anti-Defamation League made clear, the debunked rightwing smear campaign against Mr. Mangi is ‘profoundly wrong,’” Bates said. “Mr. Mangi was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the White House continues to fight for his confirmation and to repudiate the vicious hate and bigotry with which he has been targeted because of his Muslim faith.”

The Judiciary panel narrowly advanced Mangi’s nomination to the full Senate, but conservative lawmakers have continued their drumbeat of criticism. The White House and Democratic lawmakers have pushed back, accusing Republicans of Islamophobic attacks that are based on Mangi’s ethnic background and touting support from Jewish groups. The White House has also called on senators such as Cruz to apologize to Mangi.

Speaking on the Senate floor last week, Democratic Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin lamented that Mangi has “gone through scrutiny unlike anything I have ever seen.”

“Unfortunately, many of the questions that have been raised about Mr. Mangi and his background have created suspicions in people’s minds that his religion is the reason for the questioning,” Durbin said. “Treatment of this highly qualified nominee has sometimes reached an all-time low.”

CNN has reached out to Durbin’s office for additional comment.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com