During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Ryan Bounds, the Oregon assistant U.S. attorney President Donald Trump nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, expressed regret for the “overheated” and “overbroad” rhetoric he used in opinion pieces he wrote while in college.
But at Wednesday morning’s hearing, Bounds pushed back against the contention by Oregon’s two Democratic U.S. senators—Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley—that he intentionally withheld his undergraduate writings from the bipartisan committee they formed to vet nominees.
In February, the Oregon senators’ vetting committee ranked Bounds among the top four candidates for the Ninth Circuit seat left vacant when Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain took senior status at the end of 2016. But around the same time, a liberal advocacy group surfaced opinion pieces Bounds wrote for a Stanford University newspaper where he criticized “race-focused” student groups and decried people who “fancy themselves oppressed.”
Wyden and Merkley have since withheld forms giving their sign off to Bounds’ nomination—so-called “blue slips—and urged Senate Judiciary chair Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to hold off his confirmation hearing. Grassley, however, said at Wednesday’s hearing that he gave his Oregon colleagues ample opportunity to advise the White House on the nomination.
Bounds, for his part, clarified that he attached all his undergraduate writings to the questionnaire he returned to the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, and that they were available on the committee’s website. When Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, asked why the “controversial” writings weren’t provided directly to the Oregon senators’ vetting committee, Bounds said Wyden’s staff only asked him for writings going back to his law school days.
“I followed the instructions that his staff gave me in writing,” Bounds said.
Bounds said that his college articles were “perhaps clumsy efforts” to fight what he saw as discriminatory attitudes and practices on campus. Under questioning from Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Delaware, Bounds said he recognizes there are people from long-marginalized communities who “continue to face obstacles and continue to face discrimination.” He, in particular, discussed an instance where an LGBTQ colleague told him about being physically assaulted.
“How did that affect you?” Coons asked.
“It was very upsetting,” said Bounds, after choking up and pausing a moment.
The exchange marked the third time Bounds paused during his testimony after becoming emotional. The other two times were when speaking about his grandfather and O’Scannlain, for whom he clerked.
“It would be the honor of a lifetime,” said Bounds of O’Scannlain, “to follow in his footsteps even though his shoes are impossible to fill.”