February 10, 2022

Grassley Statement at Hearing on Nominations and Legislation to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Support Survivors

We have four judicial nominees up today: Andre Mathis, Jessica Clarke, Hector Gonzalez and Fred Slaughter. We’ll also be voting on Andrew Fois to be the chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States. We can voice vote on two U.S. Attorney nominees and two U.S. Marshal nominees.
 
I plan to support Judge Slaughter’s nomination.
 
I’d like to say a few words about why I’ll be opposing Mr. Mathis’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit. The Tennessee senators worked to find a nominee who they could support. They put forward Judge Camille McMullen, a state court appellate judge, who had been appointed by a Democratic governor.
 
Unfortunately, the Biden administration refused to work with them. Voting to move Mr. Mathis’s nomination would condone the Biden administration’s process here.
 
That process caused the White House to miss out on valuable feedback from the Tennessee senators who know the legal community in their state.
 
When I was chairman, I made sure the White House had meaningful consultations with members before moving forward.
 
The senators have valid concerns about Mr. Mathis’s lack of federal appellate experience and his lack of attention to detail.
 
He made an unusually high number of mistakes in failing to follow the Sixth Circuit’s rules. Some of those mistakes might be small. But the people of Tennessee aren’t going to see it as a little thing if details get missed in deciding their cases.
 
Some have also suggested Mr. Mathis may be a moderate on the bench. But he is a fairly junior attorney with a short record. He hasn’t worked on cases involving major constitutional issues. Unlike the candidate proposed by the Tennessee senators, he has no body of judicial opinions to review.
 
One thing we can look at as evidence of his judicial philosophy is the article he wrote in law school. In it, he advocated for federal courts to adopt a new standard for habeas cases.
 
As Senator Hawley explained at his hearing, that theory of habeas review is radically outside of the mainstream. So his scholarship doesn’t support the claim that he would be a moderate.
 
Because of these concerns, I’ll be voting no.
 
Turning to the bills that are on the agenda today: I’m a proud cosponsor of the EARN It Act. This bill takes an important step in holding online service providers accountable for the horrific spread of child sexual abuse materials.
 
I’ve long been a supporter of victims’ rights and have fought for efforts that stop the spread of child sexual abuse material. In 2018, I cosponsored the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, commonly known as “SESTA,” which is designed to hold website operators accountable when they knowingly facilitate sex trafficking.
 
After news reports emerged of sexual abuse of young amateur athletes in 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee, during my chairmanship, convened a hearing on this subject. I later worked with my colleagues on bipartisan legislation that would make it mandatory for instructors, coaches and others who work with young athletes to report cases of child sexual abuse to the authorities.
 
I led our committee in reporting this bill, known as the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act, to the full Senate, and it was later enacted. It’s important to find ways to stop the spread of exploitative and sexual material, and this legislation does just that.
 
This commonsense bill received unanimous bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee last Congress, and it’s time we get it on the books to prevent future child exploitation online.
 
The Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2021 will also be considered today.
 
This bill would enable survivors who were victims of over a dozen federal child sex abuse offenses to seek civil damages in federal court – no matter how long it has taken the survivor to process and disclose the abuse he or she suffered.
 
Delayed disclosure has historically impacted survivor’s path to justice. We can’t deter children in any way from speaking out against their abusers.
 
We know from the Larry Nassar case and many other tragic examples that it can take years for survivors to muster up the courage to come forward. This bill sends a clear message to the victims of these horrendous crimes: We see you, we hear you, and we support you.
 
I’d also like to discuss another example of the Justice Department’s failure to respond to this committee’s oversight requests.
 
On February 3 last week, the Justice Department purported to respond to five of my oversight letters in a single letter.
 
The department also noted that since January 20, 2021, I have “written or joined approximately 50 letters to the department, representing about one third of all letters the department received from Members of the United States Senate.”
 
I’m not sure Attorney General Garland said that as a compliment.
 
In that letter, the department noted that I provided a binder of unanswered letters to Attorney General Garland during his confirmation.
 
The department noted that it responded to those letters.
 
The department is dead wrong.
 
My staff made clear to the department last year that its so-called responses include:
 
1.                  Non-responsive letters that I’ve had for years. The department essentially reissued the same letters.
 
2.                  New response letters that failed to fully answer the questions posed. You can put words on a piece of paper. That doesn’t mean it’s responsive.
 
3.                  The department failed to provide a single page of responsive records.
 
As to the five letters the department said it responded to, they failed there as well.
 
As part of my and Senator Johnson’s ongoing investigation into the Biden family’s foreign business deals, we asked for FISA information on Patrick Ho.
 
Patrick Ho was connected to the Chinese government’s intelligence services. Hunter Biden reportedly represented him for one million dollars.
 
The department confirmed in federal court that it has FISA information on Patrick Ho.  But the department wrote a letter to me and Senator Johnson saying that it couldn’t confirm the same.
 
The department again refused to explain why the Attorney General won’t say whether Nicholas McQuaid is recused from the Hunter Biden criminal case. Yet the department has publicly confirmed that other employees are not involved in other criminal cases. 
 
The department again refused to fully answer my and Senator Johnson’s letters about the Mueller team wiping their government phones of data. However, after pulling teeth to get documents from the department, it provided records to me.
 
Unfortunately, those records were filled with improper FOIA redactions. And they didn’t include the necessary spreadsheets.
 
I also want to know if career employees were consulted when the Biden administration set its weak crime policy. Because if they weren’t, then it would indicate political considerations infected the process. No answer.
 
As to my letter on COVID-19 and nursing home investigations, the department is hiding behind its policy that it doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations.
 
As we all know, the department can speak to ongoing investigations if they’re in the public interest.
 
So, the Biden Justice Department has essentially taken the position that COVID-19 and nursing home deaths aren’t in the public interest. 
 
Simply put, the department’s conduct is a complete embarrassment.
 
Their conduct is a slap in the face to this committee.
 

Chairman Durbin, I’ll say it again: This committee must assert its constitutional oversight authority on the Justice Department.