GOP senator announces opposition, possibly dooming controversial Trump judicial nominee

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGraham: Every Republican president or nominee 'will be accused of being a racist' Sanford calls for 'overdue conversation' on debt as he mulls Trump challenge The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet MORE (R-S.C.) said Thursday that he will oppose Thomas Farr, a controversial district court nominee from President TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE, denying him the votes to be confirmed. 

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“This afternoon I concluded that I could not support Mr. Farr’s nomination," Scott said in a statement first reported by The State, a South Carolina newspaper.

With Scott as a "no" vote, Farr, who was nominated to be a judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina, will not have the 50 votes required for Vice President Pence break a tie, as he did Wednesday to get Farr around a procedural hurdle. 

In addition to Scott, every Democrat as well as Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake urges Republicans to condemn 'vile and offensive' Trump tweets Flake responds to Trump, Jimmy Carter barbs: 'We need to stop trying to disqualify each other' Jeff Flake responds to Trump's 'greener pastures' dig on former GOP lawmakers MORE (R-Ariz.) are expected to oppose Farr. Flake is voting "no" on every judicial nominee until he gets a vote on legislation to protect special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE from being fired. 

Flake told NBC News and other outlets on Thursday that he is opposing Farr "regardless" of the stalemate on the Mueller legislation, saying the "questions with regard to the Jesse Helms letter have never been answered to my satisfaction."

GOP Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey Epstein charges show Congress must act to protect children from abuse MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll: McConnell is most unpopular senator Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp Trump angry more Republicans haven't defended his tweets: report MORE (Maine) both indicated to reporters that they were on the fence about Farr, after voting to advance him on Wednesday, suggesting his nomination could have faced further trouble among Senate Republicans.

But Scott was considered the vote to watch on Farr's nomination. He waited roughly half an hour on Wednesday before providing the 50th vote to let Pence break a tie and advance Farr's nomination and stressed to reporters afterward that he had not made a final decision on confirming him.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it would withdraw the nomination in the wake of Farr not having the votes to be confirmed. 

Farr’s nomination drew intense opposition from Democrats and their outside group allies, who warn that, if confirmed, he’ll use his position as a federal judge to rule against minorities.

Scott, the Senate's only black Republican, pointed to a 1990s Justice Department investigation into Jesse Helm's Senate campaign for mailing postcards to more than 120,000 North Carolinians, most of whom were black voters, suggesting they were ineligible to vote and could be prosecuted for voter fraud.

The Washington Post published a memo this week that outlined the Justice Department's case. Scott cited the memo as influential to his decision to oppose Farr. 

"This week, a Department of Justice memo written under President George H.W. Bush was released that shed new light on Mr. Farr’s activities. This, in turn, created more concerns," Scott said in a statement. 

He added that he is "ready and willing to support strong candidates for our judicial vacancies that do not have lingering concerns about issues that could affect their decision-making process as a federal judge, and I am proud that Senate Republicans have confirmed judges at a historical rate over the past two years."

Farr — in response to questions from Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Democrats warm to idea of studying reparations Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee — said he did was not involved in crafting the postcards.

“I was not aware that the cards had been sent until they had been sent and the manager of the Helms Committee received a letter about the cards from the Voting Rights Section of the United States Department of Justice. The manager of the Helms Committee then called me for legal advice,” he added in his written responses to questions from the Judiciary Committee.

Farr was also part of a group of lawyers hired to defend congressional and legislative boundaries approved by the North Carolina legislature, some of which were later struck down in federal court. 

It's not the first time Scott has opposed a Trump nominee over racial concerns.

Scott announced in July that he would oppose the circuit court nomination of Ryan Bounds, who faced criticism because of controversial college writings that voiced skepticism about race-focused groups and questioned the need for diversity training. Bounds's nomination was quickly withdrawn in the wake of Scott's opposition.

Scott, this week, warned that the Republican Party is not doing enough to bridge the country's racial divide.

"We're not doing a very good job of avoiding the obvious potholes on race in America and we ought to be more sensitive," Scott said, adding that there were picks other than Farr for the district court seat.

Democrats and outside groups immediately praised Scott's decision. Democrats nixed the 60-vote filibuster for lower court nominees in 2013, leaving them unable to block Trump's picks on their own.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTop Democrats demand security assessment of Trump properties Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US MORE (D-N.Y.) and other members of his caucus have used press conferences and several floor speech this week to try to convince enough Republican senators to oppose Farr.

“Senator Tim Scott has done a courageous thing, and he’s done the right thing. Thomas Farr has been involved in the sordid practice of voter suppression for decades and never should have been nominated, let alone confirmed to the bench. Thankfully, he won’t be," Schumer said in a statement.

-- Updated 6:14 p.m.