May 18, 2021
Grassley on the Nomination of Kristen Clarke
Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On the Nomination of Kristen Clarke
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
I will not be voting to discharge the nominee Kristen Clarke to run the Civil Rights Division. I want to explain why.
While Ms. Clarke may be a good attorney, she continues the trend of politicized nominees to the Justice Department under President Biden. While I disagree with her strongly on some of her views, especially when it comes to defunding the police, my issues with Ms. Clarke go beyond that.
The Department of Justice, and especially the Civil Rights Division, needs to be committed to impartial and equal justice. In the wrong hands, the Civil Rights Division can be used to target the President’s political opponents. It can threaten law enforcement, school-choice advocates, religious schools, red states and pro-lifers.
This isn’t hypothetical. Under Vanita Gupta, the Civil Rights Division defended an effort to take over Louisiana’s school choice program. Luckily a group of African American mothers stopped them in the Fifth Circuit.
The fact is that our civil rights laws are broad and the mere threat of their enforcement can chill legitimate political opposition. Because of that I think that the head of the Civil Rights Division needs to be above reproach when it comes to partisanship.
Unfortunately, Ms. Clarke is a liberal partisan. She opposed the enforcement of the law against Ike Brown, a Mississippi vote suppressor, either because of the color of his skin or because he was a Democrat. Neither answer is acceptable.
She has disparaged religious freedom groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom.
She has opposed important Supreme Court decisions protecting religious liberty, individual Supreme Court Justices and even some of my colleagues. She has held Republican nominees to standards she doesn’t want applied to herself.
Ms. Clarke has run away from her record. I asked her at her hearing whether Mumia Abu Jamal, the country’s most notorious cop killer, was a political prisoner, like someone said at a conference she helped organize. She wouldn’t answer, telling me that she was unfamiliar with his case. Given her youthful activism, I find that very hard to believe.
Last summer she wrote an article in Newsweek advocating for defunding the police but she insists the words on the page aren’t what she meant. I’m sorry, but if it’s not what she meant, then she shouldn’t have said it.
I don’t think she’s the right person for this job at this time. A nominee to lead the Civil Rights Division should be nonpartisan, independent and up-front about her beliefs. Unfortunately I think Ms. Clarke misses on all three marks.
As I’ve said, I don’t want a return to the Eric Holder days so I’m a no.
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