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Kentucky governor releases emails showing Biden plan to nominate antiabortion Republican as judge

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear's office reversed course Tuesday and turned over a June 23 White House email that confirms President Joe Biden intended to nominate an anti-abortion Republican to a lifetime appointment as a federal district judge in Kentucky.

The governor's office also turned over a follow-up email from a White House official sent June 29 — five hours before The Courier Journal first broke the story on the pending nomination of attorney Chad Meredith — clarifying that the original email was "pre-decisional and privileged information."

White House aide Kathleen M. Marshall, a former lieutenant governor in Nevada who joined the White House in August as senior adviser to governors in the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, sent the June 23 email that stated: "To be nominated tomorrow: … Stephen Chad Meredith: candidate for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky."

The email, with a subject line of "Close hold," was sent to Coulter Minix, a Beshear staffer in the governor's D.C. office, who immediately replied: "Thanks, Kate. I'll share the info and appreciate the heads up."

Judge nomination: Who is Chad Meredith, the anti-abortion Republican President Biden plans to make a judge?

Chad Meredith

Chad Meredith

The term "close hold" is sometimes used for information that is not meant for wide distribution.

But that next day, June 24, brought the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and end the federal constitutional right to abortion.

The same day, the White House told U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, it intended to nominate Meredith — over his strident objections — but the nomination was not put forward.

White House won't discuss nomination

Over the past week, the White House has declined to comment on Meredith's potential nomination.

That continued Tuesday, when White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during her press briefing repeatedly deflected media questions about Meredith and the presumed deal Biden struck with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“We make it a point here to not comment on any vacancy, whether it is on the executive branch or the judicial branch, especially those that the nomination has not been made yet,” Jean-Pierre said.

Pressed further about the backlash from Democrats over the nomination and deal with McConnell, Jean-Pierre said, “We haven’t nominated anyone — that’s what I would say — as of yet.”

Yarmuth and other officials have told The Courier Journal they believe Biden agreed to appoint Meredith, a Federalist Society attorney who has fought against abortion rights, so that McConnell would not hold up future White House nominations.

McConnell and Meredith also have declined to comment.

Courier Journal presses for release of White House emails

The Courier Journal first requested the White House emails June 23 under Kentucky's open records law.

Although Beshear's office initially refused to comply — saying it was "preliminary" and therefore exempt under Kentucky open-records law — The Courier Journal independently obtained a version of first email.

The governor's office reversed course Tuesday, turning over a copy of both the emails during the Jean-Pierre press briefing.

In a follow-up email Marshall sent Minix on June 29, she stated her June 23 email was "pre-decisional and privileged information."

More on judge nomination: Democrats furious at Biden's pending nomination of anti-abortion Republican for judge seat

"Sorry for not including this in the original e-mail, but I wanted to clarify that the e-mail I sent was pre-decisional and privileged information," Marshall wrote. "Please let me know if you have any questions."

In its email Tuesday turning over the records to The Courier Journal, Beshear's office did not explain why it reversed course on the initial denial.

Biden continues to take heat for Meredith nomination

Yarmuth and Beshear, along with other Democrats, have pilloried Biden's intended nomination last week, with Yarmuth calling Meredith an "extremist" and Beshear saying "it is indefensible."

National abortion rights groups joined the fray Tuesday to criticize the nomination in a joint statement, including Planned Parenthood Federation Of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Women’s Law Center, National Council Of Jewish Women, All* Above All Action Fund, URGE, Catholics for Choice and Physicians for Reproductive Health.

 White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addresses reporters during the daily press briefing at the White House on June 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. Jean-Pierre spoke on gun control, inflation and the economy and the ongoing baby formula shortage.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 02: White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addresses reporters during the daily press briefing at the White House on June 02, 2022 in Washington, DC. Jean-Pierre spoke on gun control, inflation and the economy and the ongoing baby formula shortage.

White House email: Biden planned to nominate anti-abortion GOP judge the day of Roe ruling

“We are in a national abortion crisis," the groups stated. "We are in this moment because anti-abortion judges were intentionally nominated at every level to take away our fundamental right to abortion — and given his record, we know Chad Meredith would be no exception.

“Chad Meredith should not be nominated to a lifetime judgeship. This is unacceptable at any time, but especially on the heels of six Supreme Court justices taking away a fundamental right from millions of people.”

Reach reporter Joe Sonka at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today at the top of this page.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Beshear turns over 'privileged' emails on Chad Meredith nomination

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