Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Committee on the Judiciary traded accusations of Islamophobia and “playing the race card” on Thursday over the nomination of a Muslim-American lawyer with ties to what one senator described as “a mouthpiece for Hamas.”
The furor erupted during a vote on the nomination of Adeel Mangi for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals when the chairman of the committee Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) entered into the record a letter from the Anti-Defamation League accusing committee members of “berating” Mangi with “with endless questions that appear to have been motivated by bias towards his religion.”
“I resent the insinuation that those of us who asked him questions are somehow anti-Muslim or prejudiced in some way,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). “I think it’s outrageous. I think it’s absolutely outrageous.”
Republicans on the committee had questioned Mangi at his Dec. 13 nomination over his past role as one of 17 members of the advisory board of Rutgers University’s Center for Race, Security and Rights. The center focuses on “the civil and human rights of America’s diverse Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities,” including the “criminalization of Muslim identity through United States and global national security laws and policies,” per its website.
Among the events that the center hosted while Mangi was on its advisory board, which Republicans cited, was a panel on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 that included a man who had pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to support Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization since 1997.
During the Dec. 13 hearing, Mangi denied being aware of the event and repeatedly condemned terrorism, the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and antisemitism. He resigned from the advisory board in July.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) compared Republicans’ charges about Mangi’s advisory board membership to the Red Scare of the 1950s.
“All of us on this committee find ideas presented by some of these panelists disgusting, but it is an association. It is guilt by association,” Booker said. “It’s actually what fueled McCarthyism. People who had pictures with or been part of organizations and then tenuous claims were made about the actual beliefs of those individuals because they’re associated with them.”
The two sides also traded statements from Jewish groups on Thursday, with Democrats citing statements by the ADL and the American Jewish Committee, that Mangi had been mistreated, and Republicans citing the Zionist Organization of America and the Coalition for Jewish Values, in saying his nomination should be voted down.
“The left-wing Jewish organizations lining up to back Mr. Mangi’s nomination do not represent the consensus of American Jewry, much less its rabbinic leadership,” the coalition wrote. “Mr. Mangi’s alliance with the center raises genuine concerns about his judgment and his commitment to American principles. Those concerns have nothing to do with his religious background or faith.”
“If a nominee for a top judicial post asserted that he was merely a Ku Klux Klan advisory board member, and merely advised on the KKK’s ‘academic research,’ his nomination would be flatly rejected. Mangi likewise must not be confirmed,” wrote Mort Klein, ZOA national president, with Dov Hikind, president of Americans Against Antisemitism; Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism; and Valeria Chazin, board president of Students Supporting Israel.
Mangi’s nomination was approved by the committee in an 11-10 party-line vote. It will proceed to the full Senate for approval.