February 22, 2021

Grassley Statement at Judiciary Committee Hearing on the Nomination of Judge Garland to lead DOJ


Prepared Statement for the Record by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley(R-Iowa)
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee
Hearing on the Nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to be AttorneyGeneral
Monday, February 22, 2021
 
Good morning.I want to welcome everyone to this very important hearing to consider thenomination of Judge Merrick Garland to serve as the 86th Attorney General ofthe United States.
 
I’d like toecho Chairman Durbin in welcoming our new Members to this Committee. I lookforward to working with you all.
 
I’d also liketo extend my congratulations to Senator Durbin in his new role as Chairman thisCommittee. He and I have served together for many years and have accomplishedsome great things, like the First Step Act. When Chairman Durbin joined thisCommittee, he was my ranking member on the administrative oversightsubcommittee. So we go way back and I look forward to working with you,Chairman Durbin.
 
I’d also liketo express my admiration for the previous Democratic leader on this Committee,Senator Feinstein. I enjoyed working with her when I was last Chairman and Ithink she did an excellent job last Congress with Chairman Graham. I havetremendous respect for her service to the people of California and herleadership in this body. It’s too bad that the Committee will have to wait alittle longer before it has its first female Chairman. Senator Blackburn: thepressure is on.
 
I’d also liketo say a word about Judge Garland. This is, of course, Judge Garland’s firsttime appearing before this Committee since ascending to the federal bench. Ihad something to do with that. After the death of Justice Scalia, my Republicancolleagues and I decided that it would be inappropriate to hold a hearing for anycandidate to the Supreme Court nominated by President Obama at that point inhis term. As you recall, it was an election year with divided government. Theposition I took was consistent with the publicly expressed positions ofthen-Senator Biden in 1992 and Senator Schumer in 2007, when their party was incharge of the Senate during presidential-election cycles. With that in mind,President Obama nominated Judge Garland anyway, as was his right. I kept myword, and the Senate did not consider the nomination, as was our right.
 
So yes, it’strue that I didn’t give him a hearing. I also didn’t mischaracterize hisrecord. I didn’t attack his character. I didn’t go through his high-schoolyearbook. I didn’t make his wife leave the hearing in tears. I took a positionon hearings, and I stuck to it. I did everything I could to keep it civil andprofessional with Judge Garland. As I told him on the phone when we talkedrecently, I very much enjoyed the breakfast we had during his Supreme Courtnomination. I admire his public service. Just because I disagreed with anyonebeing nominated, didn’t mean I had to be disagreeable to him. Unfortunately,that’s not always the way it works.
 
Judge Garlandis here, though, as a nominee to be Attorney General. That is what we’re hereto talk about. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to him and his family. This isa worthy capstone to his storied career.
 
Judge Garlandis a good pick to lead the Department of Justice. I don’t think anyone doubtshis credentials, and I won’t repeat much of what Chairman Durbin just said. Hehas decades of experience as one of the most respected appellate judges in thecountry. And before that, he was a great prosecutor. When the domesticterrorist, Timothy McVeigh, was executed for his crimes, we had Merrick Garlandto thank for it.
 
No one doubtsthat Judge Garland is qualified for this job. But of course Attorney General ismore than just qualifications. The top law-enforcement officer of the UnitedStates must be committed to enforcing the rule of law. As our former colleagueand former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, likes to say, the Department ofJustice is the only cabinet agency whose name is an ideal. It’s not theDepartment of Law Enforcement but the Department of Justice. Justice isequality under the law. There’s one law for all Americans regardless of race,color, creed, or connection. Is Judge Garland up to that task? I think he is,but today our goal is to find out.
 
TheDepartment of Justice has taken important steps to live up to these ideals overthe last four years.
 
It has takenmany successful initiatives to reduce violent crime:
 
·       It enacted programs like Project Guardian, Operation Legend, andOperation Lady Justice, the task force on Missing and Murdered American Indiansand Alaska Natives.
·       It prioritized combating the opioid epidemic and fighting thescourge of fentanyl.
·       It has successfully executed some of the most heinous murderers inthe country, starting with a notorious white supremacist.
 
It has soughtto maintain the rule of law:
 
·       In 2018 the Attorney General issued a memorandum establishing thatconsent decrees are properly designed to redress constitutional violationswithout causing federal intrusion in state and local government.
·       In 2020 it issued regulations prohibiting the use of guidancedocuments to create rights or impose obligations on persons outside of theexecutive branch.
·       It has also implemented many policies to limit the ability ofactivists in government to sidestep Congress, including a final rule endingthird-party payment “slush funds.”
 
It hasprotected our civil liberties:
 
·       It has enacted a new rule regarding the participation of religiousentities in federal programs. It published a new memorandum on protectingreligious liberty. And it improved protections against anti-religious bias infederal grant programs. It has emphasized its efforts to combat antisemitism.
·       It has spearheaded its Elder Justice Initiative to protect therights and safety of the elderly, most recently during the coronavirus pandemicwhere it investigated the tragic and preventable deaths that swept through thenursing homes of certain States.
 
I hope thatthe Department of Justice continues these initiatives under Judge Garland.
 
What I don’twant is a return to the Obama years. I don’t want an attorney general who is a“wing man” to the President, as Eric Holder notoriously described himself. Idon’t want an attorney general who takes tarmac meetings with President Clintonwhile she’s busy investigating his wife. I don’t want a Justice Department thatabuses the FISA process to spy on American citizens. I don’t want a JusticeDepartment that refuses to defend laws we pass because its officials disagreewith them. I don’t want consent decrees that federalize law enforcement andcause murder rates to soar. I don’t want a Civil Rights Division that goesafter school choice. I don’t want a return to catch and release on the border.I don’t want a return of Operation Chokepoint, where the Justice Departmentdecides which Americans deserve access to banks.
 
Unfortunatelya lot of what we’ve seen so far from the Justice Department is discouraging. PresidentBiden has already issued 30 Executive Orders. At the Department of Justice we’vealready seen whiplash-inducing changes in litigation positions on issues likeaffirmative action, union organizing, and even Obamacare after the case wasalready argued at the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has alreadyrescinded memos from the past four years including the banning of third-partyslush funds in environmental cases. President Biden is also reportedly firing nearlyevery Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney regardless of what investigations they aresupervising. This is very troubling.
 
This is why Iam especially concerned about the Durham investigation. I’d like to take aminute to discuss that investigation and Crossfire Hurricane. Starting inJanuary 2017, I began an investigation into how the Justice Department and FBIhandled Crossfire Hurricane, its investigation into the Trump campaign andadministration. Since then, much has been discovered and exposed.
 
Simply said,Crossfire Hurricane is a textbook example of what shouldn’t happen during investigations.That investigation was marred by one mistake after another, starting from thebeginning.
 
The JusticeDepartment Inspector General, for example, found 17 errors and omissions in theFISA applications to spy on Carter Page, an advisor to then-candidate Trump.There were also 50 errors in the “Woods process” for the Carter Page FISAapplications.
 
TheDemocratic National Committee’s Steele Dossier was not sound intelligence. Itwas political opposition research created to damage then-candidate Trump. Andthat’s what they used to get the Carter Page FISAs. Documents released by me,Senator Graham, and Senator Johnson prove that. For example, in one FBI memo,Steele described President Trump as his “main opponent.”
 
This meansthat the Obama administration relied on political opposition research to surveila political opponent, used the Department of Justice to inflict maximum damageon him—all while withholding exonerating evidence from the FISA court.
 
What theObama administration did to the Trump campaign, transition, and administrationcan’t ever happen again.
 
If confirmed,you’ll have oversight of Special Counsel Durham’s review of CrossfireHurricane.
 
When BillBarr appeared before this committee for his nomination hearing he said, “It’svitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete hisinvestigation.”
 
Of course, hewas referring to then-Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.
 
Today, you’llneed to be clear about what your position will be with regard to Special CounselDurham. When we discussed this over the phone you told me that yourpredisposition would be to review the record before making a decision. Thatanswer surprised me. It’s not an answer this Committee would have accepted fromBarr on Mueller. I think your predisposition, frankly, should be to protect andsupport the ongoing investigation as much as possible.
 
Additionally,as I’m sure you’re aware, Senator Johnson and I opened an investigation intothe Biden family’s financial dealings.
 
Ourinvestigation found deep and extensive connections between and among the Bidenfamily and foreign nationals linked to the communist Chinese government.
 
We asked thatHunter Biden, James Biden and other business associates appear for atranscribed interview. They’ve refused.
 
I’d note thatwhen I started my Crossfire Hurricane investigation, Donald Trump Jr.cooperated and sat for a transcribed interview.
 
Theconnections between the Biden family and the Chinese government are soextensive that I wrote a letter to the Justice Department requesting that itreview whether or not Hunter Biden and James Biden should register as foreignagents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
 
If confirmed,you’ll have to answer that letter.
 
In addition,although our report was widely criticized by the left, Hunter Biden announcedthat he’s under criminal investigation for his taxes and financial dealings,which is the very fact pattern our report exposed.
 
If confirmed,you’ll oversee that investigation and today you must be clear that you’llhandle it objectively and without any interference from the White House.
 

So, JudgeGarland, I just want to say that I like you, I respect you, and I think you’rea good pick for this job. But I have a lot of questions for you about how you’regoing to run the Department of Justice.