Catholics Bracing For Attack on Trump Appointee’s Faith

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by Stephen Wynne  •  •  September 13, 2017   

Opponents expected to target nominee's fidelity to Church teaching

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WASHINGTON ( - In the nation's capital, a conservative Catholic lawyer is bracing for a grilling over his faith.

Late Tuesday night, the White House announced that President Trump is nominating James E. "Trey" Trainor III, an Austin attorney and political veteran, for a seat on the Federal Election Commission (FEC). According to the White House, Trump is appointing Trainor to fill an FEC vacancy and to serve the "remainder of a 6-year term expiring April 30, 2021."

Trainor is being tapped to replace Republican Commissioner Lee Goodman who will step down by the end of the year. Goodman is applauding Trainor's nomination, calling him "an excellent and thoughtful lawyer."

Observers note that Trainor is well-suited to the FEC, a six-member, independent regulatory body responsible for enforcing campaign finance law in federal elections. A seasoned attorney specializing in election law, campaign finance and ethics, he has a long and distinguished record fighting for conservative causes.

But in the wake of last week's grilling of Trump's Catholic, 7th Circuit Court nominee, some observers are wondering what sort of reception Trainor, another faithful Catholic, will receive.

The September 6 confirmation hearing of University of Notre Dame Law School professor Amy Barrett provoked a remarkable display of anti-Catholic bigotry. Seated before a Senate Judiciary Committee panel, Barrett was attacked for her fidelity to Catholicism.  

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein pressed Barrett on the depth of her faith, suggesting the appointee's Catholic principles would compromise her ability to rule without bias.

"When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein, the panel's ranking Democrat, quipped. "And that's of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for, for years in this country."

Other leading Democrats swung away at Barrett, suggesting her orthodox Catholic beliefs were grounds for rejecting her nomination.

So egregious was the senators' line of questioning, that Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse reminded his colleagues of the Constitution's religious test clause, which bans "the imposition of religious scrutiny against public officials."

Trainor originally supported U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's bid for the presidency. But after Cruz ended his run, Trainor embraced Trump's campaign. At the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Trainor served as general counsel for the convention's platform committee. He helped Trump secure the presidency by successfully blocking an uprising against the candidate's nomination.  

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In January, Trainor left Austin for Washington, joining the Trump Administration as special assistant to the secretary of defense in the Office of General Counsel.

Before transitioning to the Pentagon, Trainor served as assistant general counsel for the Texas Republican Party. He also represented Empower Texans, a conservative nonprofit advocating fiscal responsibility, in its fight with the Texas Ethics Commission over public disclosure of its donors.

Trainor has served as an attorney for Texas Right to Life, the state's oldest, largest and most comprehensive pro-life organization.

In light of these qualifications, Goodman is an enthusiastic supporter of Trainor's candidacy. "Trey Trainor will bring a principled libertarian perspective to the FEC," he remarked. "I believe President Trump has made an excellent choice for the future of the FEC."

To claim his appointed seat, Trainor must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Republicans and faithful Catholics are expecting a fight.


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