Opinion

My Trump agenda for Day 101: North Korea crisis, federal judge vacancies

President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., Saturday, April 29, 2017.
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Harrisburg, Pa., Saturday, April 29, 2017. AP

I’m ready to be done with all of the folderol over President Donald Trump’s first 100 days. Since a presidential term is about 1,500 days, I am much more concerned with what happens over the next 1,400 days. Two things top my list, one a saber-rattling international issue and the other a critical matter of justice for Idaho and other states:

▪ How will Trump deal with the spoiled dictator in North Korea?

▪ When will Trump officially nominate someone to the federal bench in Idaho, where, essentially, one active judge is handling a caseload meant for three?

Our Idaho senators have key roles in both issues.

North Korea

I don’t know about you, but the rising tensions with North Korea have me worried. We have 28,000 troops on that peninsula, many embedded with the 50 million inhabitants of South Korea, 10 million of them in Seoul, just 35 miles away from the DMZ.

In recent weeks North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s government has threatened nuclear or other strikes upon nearly every neighboring country, Hawaii, the U.S. mainland and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group — which, Kim’s government claimed, could be taken out with a single strike. Trump has retaliated verbally, dispatched Vice President Mike Pence for a look at the Korean Peninsula, and been on the phone lobbying Chinese President Xi Jinping to put the squeeze on Kim’s rhetoric and ballistic missile tests, another of which failed Friday.

On Wednesday the entire U.S. Senate was summoned to the White House for a classified briefing, and both Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo were present. Neither would divulge the nature of the classified discussions, but both said they prefer diplomacy and hope a military intervention is a last resort.

▪ Crapo: “For (a diplomatic solution) to be successful, it must include all the countries in that area of the Pacific, including China, which has a long-standing relationship with the North Korean regime.”

▪ Risch said it was a sobering briefing but he was “encouraged” by what he heard. As to the proper policy, he referred me to his interview with CNN on Tuesday: “I just spoke with Vice President Pence, who just returned from the region. It’s a serious situation. North Korea is in the process of developing nukes to deliver to the U.S. ... It’s a significant threat. ... All options are on the table.”

Idaho federal judge ‘emergency’

On April 5, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated 6th District Judge David Nye to serve on the federal court in Idaho. That was over a year ago, and two years since Judge Edward Lodge, who is 83, announced his retirement and went on senior status.

Under the supportive sponsorship of Crapo and Risch, Nye was later approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Crapo serves. But neither Nye nor any of the other 127 federal vacancies got filled by the end of Obama’s term due to partisan squabbling that included Republicans’ refusal to even consider Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. So it was back to the drawing board with the Trump administration earlier this year.

Crapo and Risch said Thursday that they had received assurance that Nye would be among the first judges nominated by Trump. Crapo elaborated: “The White House has told me that Judge Nye will be included in the very first group of district judicial nominees that it sends to the Senate. While I have yet to be given a definitive timeline for that renomination, I will be active in ushering Judge Nye through the Judiciary Committee once his nomination is received.”

We still need to see the official nomination, and then see Nye navigate the process to confirmation. Until then, any idea of prompt federal justice in Idaho suffers because Judge B. Lynn Winmill can handle only so many cases.

Many believe Idaho is deserving of a third federal judge position, but that expansion would have to be approved by Congress. Given how long it has taken so far to replace just one judge, I’ll settle for putting Nye to work for now.

Robert Ehlert: 208-377-6437, @IDS_HelloIdaho

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