Sen. Rand Paul refused to speak Thursday with a federal judge whose son was shot by a man who ambushed their New Jersey home almost two years.
US District Judge Esther Salas, whose 20-year-old son, Daniel, was killed in the attack, carried out by a disgruntled attorney who had appeared before her in court, tried to stop the Kentucky Republican outside a hearing.
She wanted to persuade him to stop blocking legislation that would prohibit the publication of the private information of federal judges, such as home addresses, vehicle information and other data that could put them at risk of retaliation.
Paul says he supports the bill but is insisting it be changed so the privacy protections would be extended to members of Congress. He has refused to allow it to pass by unanimous consent despite multiple attempts by the bill’s supporters, including New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, whose staff informed CNN ahead of time that Salas intended to try to speak to Paul.
CNN witnessed Salas’ effort to confront Paul in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. He shook her hand as he appeared, but he then kept walking down a long hall, saying that if she wanted to talk to him, she would have to make an appointment with his office.
The judge replied, “Senator, you won’t talk to me?” and he repeated, “If you’ve got an appointment. Call the office, please.”
Salas told CNN she had called his office previously to try to set up a meeting but that she had been denied.
CNN asked Paul last week if the arrest of a man outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh or the murder of a retired judge at his home in Wisconsin would change his mind and allow the bill to quickly pass.
“I’m absolutely still in favor of the bill and will allow it to pass immediately,” he said. “All they have to do is add a small amendment including the same protections for Congress.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer refused to comment about why he would not take the procedural steps needed to overcome Paul’s filibuster. Such a move almost certainly would lead to passage of the measure, but could take up nearly two weeks of valuable floor time and cause other important bills and nominees to be set aside.
AA Schumer aide said the New York Democrat supports the bill and is working to get Paul to stop blocking it so it can pass expeditiously.
After the encounter, Salas said she felt “a little shocked right now. I just wanted a moment” with the senator.
“We have seen federal judges, the lower court judges, really taking the hits in protecting democracy. We are at risk here. The time is now. We’ve been waiting – Daniel has been gone, it’ll be 23 months on the 19th of this month. My only child,” she said.
“What I worry about is the other federal judges that do – the one thing they want to do is their job,” Salas continued. “And unfortunately, in doing their jobs, they face risk of losing their lives. All we ask is that members of Congress work together in a bipartisan way to see that legislation is passed that protects all federal judges across this country. That’s all we’re asking. And I was hoping to have a moment, but I will continue to advocate for this bill.”
Later Wednesday, Menendez and Sen. Cory Booker, also a Democrat from New Jersey, went to the floor and sought unanimous consent to pass the data protection bill, but Paul again refused to allow it to pass without the changes he is demanding. They argued that they would work with him on a separate effort already underway to pass a bill to protect the private data of lawmakers.
During their exchange, Menendez complained that Paul would not meet with the judge, who he said was watching in the gallery above them. “You wouldn’t give her the time of day,” he said sharply.
CNN’s Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.