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It Looks Like It's Over For Biden's Historic Muslim Court Pick, Adeel Mangi

WASHINGTON — It looks like it’s over for Adeel Mangi, President Joe Biden’s court pick.

Two Democrats say they’ll oppose his nomination, making the math next to impossible for Mangi to get confirmed given Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) announced her opposition Tuesday, and an aide to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) confirmed to HuffPost on Thursday that he’s a “no” vote.

Mangi, a 23-year civil litigator with a unanimously well-qualified rating by the American Bar Association, was on track to become the nation’s first Muslim U.S. appeals court judge. But now, his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit appears to be going down because of an ugly and baseless smear campaign aimed at casting Mangi as an antisemitic terrorist sympathizer.

GOP senators and dark money groups, including Judicial Crisis Network, have spent months spreading lies and distortions about Mangi’s record and character.

During his December confirmation hearing, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) were appalling in their treatment of Mangi. They berated him and repeatedly distorted his record. They demanded that he share his personal views on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, last year’s Oct. 7 attack against Israel, and the Israel-Hamas conflict. Mangi repeatedly disavowed all forms of terrorism.

Their treatment of Mangi was so offensive that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, publicly denounced them afterward. So did the Anti-Defamation League, the leading national group focused on combating antisemitism. And so did more than a dozen prominent Jewish groups.

That didn’t stop Judicial Crisis Network last month from running two ads accusing Mangi of being a “radical” and an “antisemite,” and of working with a group to teach students “to hate Israel, to hate America and to support global terrorism.” The ads even used video footage of the second plane crashing into the World Trade Center in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, overlaid with a misleading headline about Mangi.

Not one of those claims was true, and Mangi had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) appear to have tanked President Joe Biden's judicial nominee Adeel Mangi.
Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) appear to have tanked President Joe Biden's judicial nominee Adeel Mangi. Associated Press

Republicans have recently been pivoting to a new line of attack, now accusing Mangi of being anti-law enforcement. Such claims are also false, absurd and even hypocritical. But they appear to have worked on Cortez Masto. Manchin, meanwhile, says he’ll no longer support any judicial nominee who doesn’t have support from at least one GOP senator.

Some Democrats are still defending Mangi. On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) went to the chamber floor to call out Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had spoken moments earlier and parroted some of the baseless and ugly attacks on Mangi.

“To have a man characterized as antisemitic on the floor of the United States Senate is a gross miscarriage of justice in this case,” Durbin said, speaking softly and shaking his head.

“This gentleman could not have been more explicit in his statements against terrorism, against what happened in Israel on Oct. 7, and the fact that he is coming before this body with no prejudice whatsoever toward the Jewish people,” he said. “I’m sorry that this was said on the floor of the Senate this morning. I hope that the person who did it will have second thoughts about whether or not that was appropriate.”

The White House isn’t throwing in the towel on Mangi yet. It’s possible, if very unlikely, that Democrats could find a GOP senator willing to support Mangi, which could give him the votes to squeak through to confirmation.

If they could find one such Republican, it would probably be either Sen. Susan Collins of Maine or Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Both of them have voted with Democrats to confirm a number of Biden’s court picks.

Murkowski told HuffPost on Wednesday that she didn’t know anything about Mangi. Collins told HuffPost on Thursday that she has “concerns” about him, but didn’t elaborate.

“President Biden is proud to have nominated Adeel Mangi, whose extraordinary qualifications and integrity are gaining him new backing each day,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement. He cited Mangi’s recent endorsements from seven law enforcement groups and a Republican former U.S. appeals court judge.

“Mr. Mangi, who has lived the American Dream and proven his integrity, is being targeted by a malicious and debunked smear campaign solely because he would make history as the first Muslim to serve as a federal appellate judge,” Bates said. “Senate Democrats should side with the qualities that makes America exceptional — which Mr. Mangi embodies — not the hateful forces trying to force America into the past.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who recommended Mangi to the White House for this court seat, did not respond to a request for comment.

Igor Bobic contributed reporting.