I want to welcome everyone to this very important hearing to consider the
nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to serve as the 86th Attorney General of
the United States.
I’d like to
echo Chairman Durbin in welcoming our new Members to this Committee. I look
forward to working with you all.
I’d also like
to extend my congratulations to Senator Durbin in his new role as Chairman this
Committee. He and I have served together for many years and have accomplished
some great things, like the First Step Act. When Chairman Durbin joined this
Committee, he was my ranking member on the administrative oversight subcommittee.
So we go way back and I look forward to working with you, Chairman Durbin.
I’d also like
to express my admiration for the previous Democratic leader on this Committee,
Senator Feinstein. I enjoyed working with her when I was last Chairman and I
think she did an excellent job last Congress with Chairman Graham. I have
tremendous respect for her service to the people of California and her
leadership in this body. It’s too bad that the Committee will have to wait a little
longer before it has its first female Chairman. Senator Blackburn: the pressure
I’d also like
to say a word about Judge Garland. This is, of course, Judge Garland’s first
time appearing before this Committee since ascending to the federal bench. I
had something to do with that. After the death of Justice Scalia, my Republican
colleagues and I decided that it would be inappropriate to hold a hearing for any
candidate to the Supreme Court nominated by President Obama at that point in
his term. As you recall, it was an election year with divided government. The
position I took was consistent with the publicly expressed positions of
then-Senator Biden in 1992 and Senator Schumer in 2007, when their party was in
charge of the Senate during presidential-election cycles. With that in mind,
President Obama nominated Judge Garland anyway, as was his right. I kept my
word, and the Senate did not consider the nomination, as was our right.
So yes, it’s
true that I didn’t give him a hearing. I also didn’t mischaracterize his
record. I didn’t attack his character. I didn’t go through his high-school
yearbook. I didn’t make his wife leave the hearing in tears. I took a position
on hearings, and I stuck to it. I did everything I could to keep it civil and
professional with Judge Garland. As I told him on the phone when we talked
recently, I very much enjoyed the breakfast we had during his Supreme Court
nomination. I admire his public service. Just because I disagreed with anyone
being nominated, didn’t mean I had to be disagreeable to him. Unfortunately,
that’s not always the way it works.
is here, though, as a nominee to be Attorney General. That is what we’re here
to talk about. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to him and his family. This is
a worthy capstone to his storied career.
is a good pick to lead the Department of Justice. I don’t think anyone doubts
his credentials, and I won’t repeat much of what Chairman Durbin just said. He
has decades of experience as one of the most respected appellate judges in the
country. And before that, he was a great prosecutor. When the domestic
terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, was executed for his crimes, we had Merrick Garland
to thank for it.
No one doubts
that Judge Garland is qualified for this job. But of course Attorney General is
more than just qualifications. The top law-enforcement officer of the United
States must be committed to enforcing the rule of law. As our former colleague
and former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, likes to say, the Department of
Justice is the only cabinet agency whose name is an ideal. It’s not the
Department of Law Enforcement but the Department of Justice. Justice is
equality 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.
Department of Justice has taken important steps to live up to these ideals over
the last four years.
It has taken
many successful initiatives to reduce violent crime:
It enacted programs like Project Guardian, Operation Legend, and
Operation Lady Justice, the task force on Missing and Murdered American Indians
and Alaska Natives.
It prioritized combating the opioid epidemic and fighting the
scourge of fentanyl.
It has successfully executed some of the most heinous murderers in
the country, starting with a notorious white supremacist.
It has sought
to maintain the rule of law:
In 2018 the Attorney General issued a memorandum establishing that
consent decrees are properly designed to redress constitutional violations
without causing federal intrusion in state and local government.
In 2020 it issued regulations prohibiting the use of guidance
documents to create rights or impose obligations on persons outside of the
It has also implemented many policies to limit the ability of
activists in government to sidestep Congress, including a final rule ending
third-party payment “slush funds.”
protected our civil liberties:
It has enacted a new rule regarding the participation of religious
entities in federal programs. It published a new memorandum on protecting
religious liberty. And it improved protections against anti-religious bias in
federal grant programs. It has emphasized its efforts to combat antisemitism.
It has spearheaded its Elder Justice Initiative to protect the
rights and safety of the elderly, most recently during the coronavirus pandemic
where it investigated the tragic and preventable deaths that swept through the
nursing homes of certain States.
I hope that
the Department of Justice continues these initiatives under Judge Garland.
What I don’t
want 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. I
don’t want an attorney general who takes tarmac meetings with President Clinton
while she’s busy investigating his wife. I don’t want a Justice Department that
abuses the FISA process to spy on American citizens. I don’t want a Justice
Department that refuses to defend laws we pass because its officials disagree
with them. I don’t want consent decrees that federalize law enforcement and
cause murder rates to soar. I don’t want a Civil Rights Division that goes
after 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 Department
decides which Americans deserve access to banks.
a lot of what we’ve seen so far from the Justice Department is discouraging. President
Biden has already issued 30 Executive Orders. At the Department of Justice
we’ve already seen whiplash-inducing changes in litigation positions on issues
like affirmative action, union organizing, and even Obamacare after the case
was already argued at the Supreme Court. The Justice Department has already
rescinded memos from the past four years including the banning of third-party
slush funds in environmental cases. President Biden is also reportedly firing nearly
every Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney regardless of what investigations they are
supervising. This is very troubling.
This is why I
am especially concerned about the Durham investigation. I’d like to take a
minute to discuss that investigation and Crossfire Hurricane. Starting in
January 2017, I began an investigation into how the Justice Department and FBI
handled Crossfire Hurricane, its investigation into the Trump campaign and
administration. Since then, much has been discovered and exposed.
Crossfire Hurricane is a textbook example of what shouldn’t happen during
investigations. That investigation was marred by one mistake after another,
starting from the beginning.
Department Inspector General, for example, found 17 errors and omissions in the
FISA 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 FISA
Democratic National Committee’s Steele Dossier was not sound intelligence. It
was political opposition research created to damage then-candidate Trump. And
that’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.”
that the Obama administration relied on political opposition research to surveil
a political opponent, used the Department of Justice to inflict maximum damage
on him—all while withholding exonerating evidence from the FISA court.
Obama administration did to the Trump campaign, transition, and administration
can’t ever happen again.
you’ll have oversight of Special Counsel Durham’s review of Crossfire
Barr appeared before this committee for his nomination hearing he said, “It’s
vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his
Of course, he
was referring to then-Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.
need to be clear about what your position will be with regard to Special
Counsel Durham. When we discussed this over the phone you told me that your
predisposition would be to review the record before making a decision. That
answer surprised me. It’s not an answer this Committee would have accepted from
Barr on Mueller. I think your predisposition, frankly, should be to protect and
support the ongoing investigation as much as possible.
as I’m sure you’re aware, Senator Johnson and I opened an investigation into
the Biden family’s financial dealings.
investigation found deep and extensive connections between and among the Biden
family and foreign nationals linked to the communist Chinese government.
We asked that
Hunter Biden, James Biden and other business associates appear for a
transcribed interview. They’ve refused.
I’d note that
when I started my Crossfire Hurricane investigation, Donald Trump Jr. cooperated
and sat for a transcribed interview.
connections between the Biden family and the Chinese government are so
extensive that I wrote a letter to the Justice Department requesting that it
review whether or not Hunter Biden and James Biden should register as foreign
agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
you’ll have to answer that letter.
although our report was widely criticized by the left, Hunter Biden announced
that he’s under criminal investigation for his taxes and financial dealings,
which is the very fact pattern our report exposed.
you’ll oversee that investigation and today you must be clear that you’ll
handle it objectively and without any interference from the White House.
Garland, I just want to say that I like you, I respect you, and I think you’re
a good pick for this job. But I have a lot of questions for you about how
you’re going to run the Department of Justice.