Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today spoke at a hearing to consider the nomination of Eric Dreiband to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division:
Feinstein’s remarks follow:
“A number of troubling developments have occurred in the past month, and I think they have implications for the nominees and nominations that we’re considering today.
Today, we’re evaluating a nominee to lead the Civil Rights Division against the backdrop of what happened in Charlottesville in August—when neo-Nazis and white supremacists gathered at a “Unite the Right” rally and violence ensued.
As everybody knows, a woman named Heather Heyer was killed by one of the rally attendees driving his car directly and intentionally into a crowd, which killed 32-year-old Heather and injured 19 others.
Now most public officials condemned this violence and condemned the hateful ideology that motivated it. The president did not, initially. Instead, he said ‘there is blame on both sides.’
And I think I found that a really shocking statement. And I think it’s applicable here to the extent that it affects a nominee’s service in the civil rights area because there are not ‘two sides’ when one side contains neo-Nazis and white supremacists. These are ideologies that people across America and the world died in a war fighting to defeat Nazism. I think the distinguished Senator Hatch said, you know, his brother died in World War II fighting Nazism. So there isn’t any good in Nazism.
And Mr. Dreiband, I’m going to be specifically interested in your views on what the Civil Rights Division would do under your leadership to enforce our laws against hate crimes and to combat racial and religious discrimination wherever it is found.
Additionally, President Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in August.
Now my views on this are very clear. I’m a former mayor. I know a little bit about racial profiling. I know the struggle that we’ve had in police departments—including my own—to prevent that from continuing.
Many of us feel that Joe Arpaio should not have been pardoned. He brazenly defied a federal judge’s court order to stop racial profiling and continued to do so until being convicted of criminal contempt. A pardon for that kind of conduct demonstrates some disregard for the rule of law in this country.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division—the division that Mr. Dreiband has been nominated to lead—found that Sheriff Arpaio systematically violated the civil rights of the people he was charged with serving and protecting for years.
President Trump indicated that he approves of that behavior with his decision, which in my view serves only to deepen the divisions in our country.
I’m interested in what Mr. Dreiband and our judicial nominees think about the Arpaio pardon, and what message they think such a pardon sends to people about the importance of complying with court orders, which is critical to the rule of law.
I’m also interested in what message Mr. Dreiband believes this sent to minorities across the country, when the president eagerly exonerates an officer of the law who systematically violated the rights of people of color with impunity.
I believe the president has sent an unmistakable message to law enforcement that racial profiling is an acceptable police practice, and that should concern us all.
So today we’ll consider the nominations of two circuit court nominees – Professor Amy Coney Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Court, and Justice Joan Larsen to the Sixth.
Circuit court nominations are extremely important—if confirmed, Professor Barrett and Justice Larsen would sit on courts that are just one step below the United States Supreme Court. And because the Supreme Court hears so few cases each year, the courts of appeals are really the last word and last resort for most people in many of these cases.
The committee, Mr. Chairman, will fully and fairly review each of these nominees’ records and their qualifications.”