tv MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson MSNBC February 22, 2021 7:00am-8:00am PST
adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis can uncover clearer skin and improve symptoms at 16 weeks. serious allergic reactions may occur. tremfya® may increase your risk of infections and lower your ability to fight them. tell your doctor if you have an infection or symptoms or if you had a vaccine or plan to. tremfya®. emerge tremfyant™. janssen can help you explore cost support options. we have two breaking news stories as we come on the air to start the week. right now the senate judiciary committee as you can see on the left side of your screen taking up the nomination of judge merrick garland to be the attorney general. we will bring that to you live. the judge about to start his opening statement. but also this morning breaking within just the past couple of minutes, a big move by the supreme court and a big defeat for the former president. justices saying a grand jury in new york can get their hands on
donald trump's tax and financial documents, something that former president trump had tried hard to prevent. i'm hallie jackson in washington. joined by nbc news justice correspondent pete williams, paul rosen swag senior fellow at r street, melissa murray is a constitutional law professor at nyu and former law clerk to sonia sotomayor. pete, let me start with you and this new order from the supreme court. what does it mean? >> it's a one-line order and means it's the end of the road for the president's years' long battle to keep his tax returns away from congress or have cyrus vance the new york prosecutor who has a grand jury looking at president trump's personal and corporate finances. you may remember the president initially fought this in round one by saying as sitting president he was immune from any part of the criminal justice system including grand jury subpoenas. the supreme court rejected that argument and, by the way, the trump justices also reject that had argument.
they said, you know, you can go back to court and say like any ordinary citizen that the subpoena is overbroad, which is what his lawyers did, but they lost in two of the lower courts before a federal judge and a federal appeals court so the trump lawyers filed an emergency appeal with the supreme court last october. that's how long this has been sitting on the supreme court's doorstep. my guess is that the court wanted to stay out of any suggestion that it was getting involved in politics, so held back doing anything during the campaign and then during the fights over the election and then during the impeachment process and now that that's all clear the supreme court's brief order has come out. so that this means that the grand jury can get now tax records covering eight years and it's clearly expanded beyond what it was originally formed to look at, which was michael cohen's allegation that the president misstated his finances depending on whether he was trying to get a loan or avoid his taxes. vance has said it's going to be much broader, it's going to look
at falsifying business records, insurance fraud, tax fraud. all vance said today is, quote, the work continues. >> pete williams, thank you much. we mentioned the double-barrel breaking news we are coming on the air with. the other piece of it, of course, is judge merrick garland and his confirmation hearing to be the next attorney general of the united states potentially. here is his opening statement. >> -- to be the attorney general. i would like first to take this opportunity to introduce you to my wife lynn, my daughters jesse and becky and my son-in-law zan. i am grateful to them and to my entire extended family that is watching today on c-span every day of my life. the president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer, not for any individual, but for the people of the united states. july 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of the department of justice,
making this a fitting time to remember the mission of the attorney general and of the department. it is a fitting time to reaffirm that the role of the attorney general is to serve the rule of law and to ensure equal justice under law. and it is a fitting time to recognize the more than 115,000 career employees of the department as law enforcement agencies and their commitment to serve the cause of justice and protect the safety of our communities. if i am confirmed as attorney general, it will be the culmination of a career i have dedicated to ensuring that the laws of our country are fairly and faithfully enforced and the rights of all americans are protected. before i became a judge almost 24 years ago a significant portion of my professional life was spent at the justice department. as a special assistant to ben
civiletti the last of the trio of post-watergate attorneys general, as a line assistant u.s. attorney, as a supervisor in the criminal division and finally as a senior official in the department. many of the policies that the justice department developed during those years are the foundation for reaffirming the norms that will ensure that the department adheres to the rule of law. these are policies that protect the independence of the department from partisan influence in law enforcement, that strictly regulate communications with the white house, that establish guidelines for fbi domestic operations and foreign intelligence collection, that ensure respectful treatment of the press, that read the freedom of information act generously, that respect the professionalism of doj employees, and that set out the principles of federal
prosecution to guide the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. in conversations that i have had with many of you before this hearing, you have asked why i would agree to leave a lifetime appointment as a judge. i have told you that i love being a judge, but i have also told you that this is an important moment for me to step forward because of my deep respect for the department of justice and for its critical role of ensuring the rule of law. celebrating doj's 150th year reminds us of the origins of the department which was founded during reconstruction in the aftermath of the civil war to secure the civil rights that were promised in the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. the first attorney general appointed by president grant to head the new department led it in a concerted battle to protect black voting rights from the violence of white extremists.
successfully prosecuting hundreds of cases against white supremacist members of the ku klux klan. almost a century later the civil rights act of 1957 created the department's civil rights division with a mission to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society. that mission on the website of the department's civil rights division, remains urgent because we do not yet have equal justice. communities of color and other minorities still face discrimination in housing, in education, in employment and in the criminal justice system, and they bear the brunt of the harm caused by pandemic, pollution and climate change. 150 years after the department's
founding, battling extremist attacks on our democratic institutions also remains central to the department's mission. from 1995 to 1997 i supervised the prosecution of the perpetrators of the bombing of the oklahoma city federal building who sought to spark a revolution that would topple the federal government. if confirmed, i will super super surprise the prosecution of white supremacists and others who stormed the capitol on january 6th. the heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government. and that critical work is but a part of the broad scope of the department's responsibilities. justice department protects americans from environmental degradation and the abuse of market power. from fraud and corruption, from
violent crime and cyber crime. and from drug trafficking and child exploitation. and it must do all of this without ever taking its eye off of the risk of another devastating attack by foreign terrorists. the attorney general takes an oath to support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic. i am mindful of the tremendous responsibility that comes with this role. as attorney general, later supreme court justice robert jackson famously said, quote, the prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in america. while prosecutors at their best are one of the most ba never sent forces in our society, when they act from malice or other
based motives they are one of the worst. jackson then went on to say the citizens' safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes and who approaches the task with humility. that was the prosecutor i tried to be during my prior service in the department of justice. that is the spirit i tried to bring to my tenure as a federal judge. and if confirmed i promise to do my best to live up to that ideal as attorney general. thank you. >> thank you, judge garland. before i turn to my questions i want to lay out a few mechanics for the hearing. senators will have eight minutes in the first round of questions followed by a five minute second round and i ask members to do their best to stay within their
allotted time. we will take a break every once in awhile for ten minutes. i am hoping the first will be sometime near 11:00, at about 12:15 or 12:30 we will break for lunch for 30 minutes. i beg you to stick with that schedule, if you can, and be back in time so that we can keep the hearing moving along. so let me at this point turn to questions. you were sent to oklahoma city 1995. what happened there was the deadliest act of homegrown domestic terrorism in modern american history. 168 people had been killed, including 19 children. hundreds were injured. you were supercising the
prosecution. now if you are confirmed as attorney general which i believe you will be, you will face what is known as the biggest, most complex investigation in justice department history and that is the investigation around the events of january 6th. 230 have been arrested so far, some 500 are under investigation. we know that the death of at least one police officer is one of the major elements in this investigation. i'd like to ask you to reflect on two things, what's going on in america? is oklahoma city just a one off, unrelated to what happened here? can you measure based on what you've learned so far what kind of forces are at work to divide and destroy the american dream? secondly, when it comes to this prosecution, are there elements that we should consider in terms of law enforcement to deal with this rising threat to the
american democracy? >> thank you, senator. thank you very much for the opportunity to address the committee today. i'm grateful for this opportunity. i don't think that this is necessarily a one-off. fbi director wray has indicated that the threat of domestic terrorism and particularly of white supremacists, extremists, is his number one concern in this area. this is coupled with an enormous rise in hate crimes over the past few years. there is a line from oklahoma city and there's another line from oklahoma city all the way back to the experiences that i mentioned in my opening with respect to the battles of the original justice department against the ku klux klan. we must do everything in the power of the justice department to prevent this kind of interference with the policies
of american democratic institutions, and i plan, if you confirm me for attorney general, to do everything in my power to ensure that we are protected. >> judge garland, it goes without saying, but we want to make it a record. we abhor violence whether it comes from the right or the left, whatever its source. it has no place in responsible constitutional dialogue in america. currently, though, we are faced with elements that weren't there 25 years ago in oklahoma city. a proliferation of weapons, secondly, social media and the internet, which serves as a gathering place for many of these domestic terrorists. what are your thoughts about how we should deal with those elements from the law enforcement viewpoint? >> well, mr. chairman, i certainly agree that we are face ago more dangerous period than
we faced in oklahoma city, than at that time. from what i have seen, and i have no inside information about how the department is developing its work, it looks like an extremely aggressive and perfectly appropriate beginning to an investigation all across the country in the same way our original oklahoma city investigation was, but many times more. i don't yet know what additional resources would be required by the department. i can assure you that this will be my first priority and my first briefing when i return to the department, if i am confirmed. >> judge garland, several years ago i went to an immigration court hearing in downtown chicago, it was in a high-rise loop building. i met the immigration court judge. she had been on the job almost 20 years. it seemed like a very
conscientious and fair person. she asked me to stay for the docket call, particularly for the first clients on the docket. the first clients on the docket were a four-year-old girl named marta. when the judge asked that all of the people in the courtroom be seated, she had to be helped into the chair, it was too tall for her to get into. she was handed a stuffed animal to hold during the hearing. at the same table was a young boy with the unlikely name hamilton who was given a little match boxcar which he played with on top of the table. he was six years old. they were the victims of the zero tolerance policy. we remember it well. thousands of children were forcibly removed from their parents, separated and many times lost in the bureaucracy. some have incorrectly stated that that administration policy by the trump administration was just a continuation of obama-era
policy. that isn't true. the obama administration did not have policies which resulted in the mass separation of parents and children, and on rare occasions separations occurred due to suspicion of trafficking or fraud, not because of an intentional cruel policy to separate children. the justice department's inspector general conducted an investigation of the zero tolerance policy and noted that the justice department was, quote, the driving force, closed quote, in that policy. there is still a lot that we do not know about that policy and the accountability for the officials who were responsible for it. so let me ask you this, this committee is going to hold oversight hearings to get to the bottom of it. will you commit to cooperate with those investigations? >> senator, i think the oversight responsibility of this committee is one of its very most important things. it's a duty imposed by the constitution and i greatly
respect it. i think that the policy was shameful, i can't imagine anything worse than tearing parents from their children, and we will provide all of the cooperation that we possibly can. >> i thank you for that. when it comes to congressional oversight, this committee has a role in restoring independence and integrity to the justice department through oversight hearings. it has a long-standing tradition of holding annual justice department oversight hearings, but sadly it's been three years since the attorney general has been called before this committee. i pledge that as chairman i will hold annual doj oversight hearings where members from both sides of the aisle can ask important questions of you in that capacity. i don't want to go into detail, but i would ask you, obviously, would you agree to cooperate in that commitment to oversight hearing? >> of course, if i am confirmed
i will certainly cooperate. >> and when requests are made for information by members of the committee, i hope that i can also have your commitment to cooperation in providing timely answers. >> yes, mr. chairman, we will be as responsive as we possibly can. as i said, i have great respect for and belief in the oversight role of this committee. >> thank you. senator grassley? >> since you are a currently sitting judge you're bound by the code of conduct of u.s. judges, nevertheless, i hope that we can get frank answers from you on your views. and when we talked last on the phone you told me you would get guidance from the administrative office on what you can or can't say. i assume that you sought that guidance. if so, what did they advise you? >> yes, senator grassley, i did,
and they advised me just as you and i thought that they would. cannon 3 bars me from commenting on any pending or impending case that is in any court, but i am free to talk about policy with you. >> i'm going to go to the durham investigation. at bar's hearing he stated the following in regard to mueller's investigation, quote, it's virtually important that the special counsel be allowed to complete his investigation. also at that same hearing senator feinstein asked, quote, will you commit to providing mr. mueller with the resources, funds and time needed to complete his investigation? end of quote. attorney general barr answered senator feinstein with a one word yes. with respect to special counsel
durham's investigation i expect that he will be allowed to complete his investigation. if confirmed, will you commit to providing special counsel durham with the staff, resources, funds and time needed to thoroughly complete the investigation? >> senator, i don't have any information about the investigation. as i sit here today and another one of the very first things i'm going to have to do is speak with mr. durham, figure out how his investigation is going. i understand that he has been permitted to remain in his position and sitting here today i have no reason to think that that was not the current decision. >> and i suppose that would be an answer that he would only be removed for cause, then? would that be your position? >> well, senator, i really do have to have an opportunity to talk with him. i have not had that opportunity.
as i said, i don't have any reason from what i know now which is really very little to make any determination on that ground, but i don't have any reason to think that he should not remain in place. >> if confirmed would you commit to publicly releasing special counsel durham's report just like mueller report was made public? >> so, senator, i am a great believer in transparency. i would, though, have to talk with mr. durham and understand the nature of what he's been doing and the nature of the report, but i am very much committed to transparency and to explaining justice department decision-making. >> at this point i'm not going to take exception to the answers you gave me about durham because i think you are an honorable person. they are not quite as explicit as i hoped they would be, like we got from barr for the mueller
investigation, but i think you've come close to satisfying me, but maybe not entirely. we're in the midst of a poly drug crisis, in addition to opioids, methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl, fentanyl analogs are plaguing our country, increasingly sophisticated drug trafficking organizations both domestic and internationally try to skirt the law by changing their molecular structure. so the center for disease control has found that drug overdose deaths rose to their highest level ever measured during the pandemic, with the overall jump in deaths being driven most substantially by drugs like fentanyl. we must stop this fentanyl substance from entering our neighborhoods and killing
thousands of americans. so my question is as you lead the justice department, having oversight over the drug enforcement administration within that department and they will be addressing the spread of fentanyl analogs and related substances by pushing for continued class-wide prohibition of fentanyl. so i didn't quite make my question clear. would you lead the justice department in pushing for continued class-wide prohibition of fentanyl dialogues? >> senator, i'm familiar with this problem, one of my roles as the chief judge of the d.c. circuit was to serve on the pretrial services committee for the -- on the committee for the pretrial services agency for the district and we were constantly advised of the fact that the formula was being slightly
changed constantly and this was a problem both for detection as well as for the problem of enforcement. to be honest, i'm no chemist, this is one of the reasons i ended up being a lawyer instead of a doctor, but i would need to look at what would be proposed, but i do understand the scope of this problem and i'm in favor of doing something either by scheduling or legislation if i'm confirmed that would address the problem that you are talking b which is an enormous problem for enforcement. >> i want to go to the death penalty because we have some people already prosecuted where the death penalty has been advocated or sought and one of those is the people that were involved in boston marathon.
so the question the justice department, again, under the obama administration has sought and received an appropriate sentence of death, that sentence is currently being appealed. will you commit to defending these sentences on appeal? >> well, senator, now we're rubbing up against exactly the problem you asked me about in the beginning. these are pending cases and as a sitting judge the cannons bar me from making comment on pending cases. >> my last question will have to deal with the investigation that's under way by some of us in congress about hunter biden.
have you discussed the case with the president or anyone else -- and i don't expect you to discuss your private conversation with the president, but members of this committee always asked judges or other people did you discuss with the president, for instance, your position on abortion. so have you discussed this hunter biden case with the president or anyone else? >> i have not. the president made abundantly clear in every public statement before and after my nomination that decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the justice department. that was the reason that i was willing to take on this job. so the answer to your question is no. >> thank you. >> thanks, senator grassley. senator leahy would be next, but he is outside of the
jurisdiction of zoom at the moment. i guess that's appropriate. and so senator feinstein will be recognized. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. and welcome. throughout your career you have been praised by people on both sides of the aisle. when you were nominated to the supreme court president obama said you were, quote, someone who would bring a spirit of decency, modesty, integrity, even-handedness and excellence, end quote. similarly, senator orrin hatch called you, quote, a fine man, who would be a, quote, moderate choice for the court. even carrie severino of the conservative judicial crisis network once called you, quote, the best scenario we could hope for to bring the tension and the politics in the city down a notch. at a time when america feels more polarized than ever before,
this sort of bipartisanship is truly rare. so i ask this question, can all americans regardless of their political affiliation, count on you to faithfully and fairly enforce our laws? >> yes, senator. that is my personality, that is everything i've done in my career and that is my vision for the justice department, to dispense the law fairly and i'm partially without respect to persons and without respect to political parties. >> thank you for that statement. on january 6th a group of white supremacists launched a terrorist attack on our capitol in an attempt to overturn the results of a democratic election. their attempt failed and resulted in at least five fatalities, including a capitol police officer. it also led federal prosecutors to file over 180 charges and
initiate 25 domestic terrorism cases. so this is not the first time the justice department has been forced to investigate and prosecute white supremacists for an act of terrorism. you received high praise for investigating and super advising the prosecution of the oklahoma city bombing perpetrators in 1995, so here is the question, what steps will you take to ensure that the perpetrators of the attack on our capitol are brought to justice? >> senator, i think this was the most heinous attack on the democratic processes that i have ever seen and one that i never expected to see in my lifetime. one of the first things i will do is get a briefing on the progress of this investigation. i intend to give the career
prosecutors who are working on this matter 24/7 all of the resources they could possibly prior to do this and at the same time i intend to make sure that we look more broadly to look at where this is coming from, what other groups there might be that could raise the same problem in the future and that we protect the american people. and i know that fbi director has made the same commitment. >> thank you for that answer. over the last four years the independence of the attorney general has been repeatedly attacked. for example, president trump once told the "new york times," quote, i have the absolute right to do what i want to do with the justice department, end quote. do you believe that, in fact, the president does have the absolute right to do what he
wants with the justice department? >> the president is constrained by the constitution, as are all government officials. the issue here for us are the set of norms and standards to which this president, president biden, has agreed, that he will not interfere with the justice department with respect to its prosecutions and investigations. those decisions will be made by the department itself and by -- led by the attorney general and that they will be without respect to partisanship, without respect to the power of the perpetrator or the lack of power, without respect to the influence of the perpetrator or the lack of influence. in all of those respects the department will be independent. the department is a part of the executive branch and for that reason on policy matters we follow the lead of the president and the administration, as long as it is consistent with the law. and the role of the department
is to advise the president and the administration and the other agencies what is consistent with the law. that is our obligation and we will do so objectively based only on our reading of the law. >> well, thank you for that. i think you've laid it out clearly and directly and it's very much appreciated. if the president's interests and the public's interests are in conflict, which interests does the attorney general represent? >> the attorney general represents the public interest, particularly and specifically as defined by the constitution and the statutes of the united states. >> do you believe that the president has the authority to order the attorney general to open or close an investigation or a prosecution? >> this is a hard question of constitutional law, but i do not expect it to be a question for me. as i said -- as i just said to
you, the president has promised that those decisions will only be made by the attorney general and that is what i plan to do. i do not plan to be interfered with by anyone. i expect the justice department will make its own decisions in this regard. >> well, thank you. i'm going to cease at this time, but i just want to say that i think you've had a remarkable career. you've done very special things and always in a very reasonable, sober, penetrating way. so i just want to say thank you for that. >> i'm grateful, senator. thank you for that. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator feinstein. we hope that senator graham who is next up is ready. senator graham? >> can you hear me? >> we can hear you. you have eight minutes. >> great. yes, sir. congratulations to you and, judge garland, congratulations on your appointment. i think you are a very good pick
for this job. so i'm going to try to go through as much information as i can. do you promise to defend the portland courthouse against anarchists? the federal court building in portland? >> any attack on a federal building or damage to a federal building violates federal statutes and those who do it will be prosecuted. >> okay. when it comes to the people who attacked the capitol on january 6th, will you let the committee know if you need more resources? >> yes, absolutely, senator. i really do think one of my first jobs is to consult with the prosecutors and the agents who are investigating that matter and see what resources they need and i'm eager to have -- i'm eager to have an invitation from the senate to ask for more resources. >> thank you. i think all of us want to prosecute every single person that deserves to be prosecuted.
so whatever you need, i'm sure you will get from this committee. >> thank you, senator. >> have you read the horowitz report? >> senator, in our conversations you asked me to read t it's some 400 pages long and i asked you for permission to read only the left side very long executive summary. >> that's good. >> and i have done that. >> so what's your general take? >> well, my general take is that there were certainly serious problems with respect to fisa applications, particularly for mr. page and in the subsequent report to the way in which fisa applications are documented. the inspector general had a substantial number of recommendations for how this could be fixed and how it must be fixed. i understand that he submitted those to the fbi director and i understand the fbi director
agreed totally and either has made those changes or is in the course of making them. i intend, if i am confirmed, to speak more deeply and directly with mr. horowitz, the inspector general, about this and with director wray and make sure that these and any other things that are necessary be done. i am always concerned and have always been concerned that we be very careful about fisa. it is a tool that is very useful and important for investigations involving foreign agents. >> that's good to hear. so klein smith, are you familiar with the fact that a lawyer for the fbi has been prosecuted, pled guilty to altering information to the fisa court? >> i did read about that, yes, senator. >> what would happen to somebody under your charge that did that? how would you feel about that behavior? >> well, somebody who makes a false statement to the fbi or
the inspector general during an investigation has violated 18 usc 1001 and i've prosecuted those myself. >> do you believe the durham investigation is a legitimate investigation? >> senator, i -- i don't know anything really about the investigation. >> you read the horowitz report. do you think somebody should look at what happened? >> well, i do think somebody should look at what happened with respect to those fisas, absolutely, and i believe the inspector has done that. >> based on what the -- your review of the -- the horowitz report, do you think jim comey was a good fbi director? >> senator, i really don't want to get into analyzing any of the previous directors and -- >> well, you've been very critical and appropriately so at times. i find it pretty stunning that you can't say, in my opinion, that he was a terrible fbi
director. but have you ever been to the border? have you ever been to the u.s./mexican border? >> no, sir, i haven't. >> so i'd like you to go because i just got back because i learned that drug cartels are using our asylum laws against us, they will collect people to sort of rush the border and once they're apprehended they will claim asylum and most of these claims, 90%, are rejected and that will take resources away from securing the border and detecting drugs and protecting the nation against terrorism. this is a behavior by the cartels. will you look into that practice of using asylum claims by drug cartels to weaken border security? >> i had not known about this and i will certainly look into this problem. i think the drug cartels are a major menace to our society and the poison that they put into
our streets is damaging communities of every kind. if they have a particular -- if they are a -- >> i would ask you to visit the border, i think you will find patriots there and when they make mistakes they need to be held accountable, but that's one of the toughest jobs in the country. >> senator -- senator, i apologize for speaking over -- over you just now, but there is a little bit of a lag. >> i'm sorry. >> it's not your fault, it's a lag in the technology, i think. >> okay. well, i do -- i have a southern accent, so -- >> it's not the accent. i'm familiar with southern accents. >> i will have to get high speed internet. this is the 20th anniversary of 9/11. are you concerned that al qaeda and isis types are going to try to hit us again? >> i'm very concerned that foreign terrorist organizations will try to hit us again, yes. i don't know enough at this point about the capabilities of those two, but it really doesn't matter which foreign
terrorist -- the terrible thing is the attack. as i said in my opening statement with all the other things that the justice department has to do, it must always keep its eye on the ball with respect to foreign terrorist attack. i was sitting in my office, arriving at my office as the first planes -- first plane hit the trade center and i was sitting in my office and could see smoke rising over the pentagon. i can assure you that this is top of mind for me. >> well, one of the reasons i am very inclined to support you is i believe what you just said is true. i think you have a very deep understanding of the threats america faces and to my colleagues on the committee, al qaeda has been diminished, isis footprint has been greatly diminished, but they're out there and they're trying to -- they will this year sometime, i hope i'm wrong, let us know they're still there. so it's great to hear that the
potential future attorney general understanding that our nation is very much still under threat. so when it comes to interacting with the committee, we're going to be talking about section 230 reform. what's your impression of section 230 liability protection for big tech and is it time to revisit that topic? >> senator, i have to be the first to confess when i have relatively limited information about a subject, i have had one case on section 230, it was a very straight-forward application of the law so of course i know what it is, i also know that many members of this committee have ideas for how it should be amended, and i would have to have an opportunity, if i'm confirmed, to talk with you about that and to understand all the conflicting concerns and the complexities of how to alter it if it's to be altered.
the devil in these sort of things is always in the details and you on the committee know more about this than i do and i look forward, if i'm confirmed, to having the chance to talk about it with you. >> thank you. congratulations on your nomination. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator graham. senator whitehouse. >> thank you, chairman. welcome, judge garland. >> thank you, senator. >> people who have been prosecutors understand that it's not the legislature's business to meddle around in a prosecution. at the same time we have oversight responsibilities. in your view is it appropriate for congress to ask the doj give an honest look at investigative matters? >> senator, i know of your own long experience as a prosecutor, including some of it which overlapped with mine and i'm deeply respectful of it and
appreciative of it. when you ask it that way it is, of course, always possible for anyone to ask about matters like this. the department has to be very careful with respect to the congress in the same way it has to be careful with respect to the white house. that no investigations get started just for partisan -- and i'm not in any way suggesting that's what you were asking. >> no, i agree with you. >> but we have to be careful about this. >> and after the fact once the investigation is closed or concluded, is it appropriate in the exercise of our oversight to assure that, in fact, an honest look was taken? >> yes, of course, it is. there are obviously limitations on the department's ability to speak. they include everything from grand jury material and methods -- >> understood. with respect to january 6, i'd like to make sure that you are willing to look upstream from
the actual occupants who assaulted the building in the same way that in a drug case you would look upstream from the street dealers to try to find the kingpins and that you will not rule out investigation of funders, organizers, ring leaders or aiders and abetters who were not present in the capitol on january 6. >> senator -- >> fair question? >> fair question and, again, your law enforcement experience is the same as mine. investigations, you know, i began as a line assistant u.s. attorney and i was a supervisor. we begin with the people on the ground and we work our way up to those who are involved and further involved. we will pursue these leads wherever they take us. >> thank you. >> that's the job of a prosecution. >> as chairman durbin mentioned,
there have been widely reported problems within the department in the last four years, the judge gleason's brief for judge sullivan is one pretty stunning reproach of the department, judicial decisions out of the d.c. district court and the southern district district court have been pretty damning, and press reports, so many to mention, have raised concerns about problems within the department during that period. how do you plan to assess the damage that the department sustained so that you can go forward with a clear understanding of what needs repair? >> senator, i am a strong believer in following the processes of the department. that was my experience in all of my experiences at the department regardless of whatever level i served. the traditional process is for issues to be raised before either the inspector general or the office of professional responsibility in the areas that
you are talking about, that they conduct investigations and they certainly seem extremely capable of conducting thorough investigations. they then make recommendations. that would be the normal procedures in the department and i expect if i'm confirmed that those would be the kind of procedures i would want to follow. >> i would submit to you you may want to take it on more systematically than that, but we can leave that for a later day. on this committee and particularly on this side of this committee we have experienced more or less a four-year stone wall of information from the department of justice and from the fbi. after 2017 to 2020 we had 25 doj and fbi witnesses who failed to answer some or all of the questions for the record that senators asked them. 21 answered none of the questions of the record from either side. i have sent during the course of
those years 28 different letters on various subjects that went completely unanswered. it got so bad that chairman graham brought the deputy attorney general up to meet with him and me to go through the list and try to figure out why the hell we weren't getting answers and where the policy came from, the de facto policy of refusing to answer questions of senators. i think we need to understand what happened during that period. why these questions weren't being answered. the base question, the point of entry, is why were these questions not being answered. upon whose instructions were these questions not being answered? why? what was behind? what was the motive for refusing to answer these questions? once we've cleared that up, then i think we've got to go through the backlog of questions that the department refused to answer. as you know, sometimes congress
asks questions that are touchy for a department, somebody may have misbehaved, there may be wrongful conduct that has taken place, and i hope you will agree that covering up misconduct is never an acceptable reason for refusing to answer questions of congress. >> well, i certainly agree that covering up anything is never an appropriate reason for not answering a question of congress. there will be no policy de facto or otherwise if i am confirmed that would direct the department to not be responsive to this committee and to its members. i want the department i lead to be as responsible -- responsive as possible and at the very least to explain why if it can't answer a question or can't answer a letter, why it can't do so. >> correct. >> that's the minimum you are entitled to. >> correct. and i don't want this just going forward.
i want to be able to go back and get answers to those backlogged questions that were wrongfully refused. would you help us make sure that that happens? >> yes, senator, as we talked in our before, i would definitely direct that the previous answer -- questions be answered. i only ask you and the other members of the committee as a matter of resource and priority allocation to give us -- the department some sense of the priorities of which ones need to be answered and even in what hard. >> we will do that. i have a few seconds left. i will flag two things. i think the office of legal counsel has taken a lot of hits. from the torture memos to the warrantless wiretap decisions to its self-serving and self-propagating view of
presidential investigations. this is the part of the department i think that is in trouble. the police of executive privilege for an administration, i think that's an area that has been in complete collapse. i look forward with my time now expired to working with you to figure out what to do about the intermediate role. >> i look forward to speaking with you. >> senator cornyn. >> welcome, judge. i enjoyed our conversation the other day. >> as did i. >> thank you for that. my sole criteria for voting for your confirmation is your pledge to make sure politics does not affect your job as attorney general. i believe you told me that you
could make that commitment. is that a commitment you can make here publically today? >> yes. absolutely. i would not have taken this job if i thought that politics would have any influence over prosecutions and investigations. i do want to just -- to be clear -- to clarify as to not disappoint you, with respect to policies of the administration, which i assume are driven by politics, although as a judge, i wouldn't know for sure, it is our obligation to advance the policies of the department as long as they are consistent with the law and our evaluation of the law has to be based only on the law and not politics. >> thank you for that clarification. i think being attorney general has to be the toughest job in the united states government, because you serve at the pleasure of the president, but you also have, as you appropriately point out, an obligation to equal justice and impartial enforcement of the law. if you were asked to do
something that you considered to be in violation of the law or unethical, would you resign? >> the first thing i would do is to tell the president or whoever else was asking me to do that that it was unlawful. i do not expect this to happen with this president, who has made it completely clear publically and in private that he will not do that. but, of course, if i am asked to do something and an alternative is not accepted, i would resign, yes. >> thank you. judge garland, think one of the biggest problems that the administration of justice has had here in the united states for the last -- particularly the last couple presidencies has been the perception that there is a double standard, one that applies to maybe one political party or people with -- of wealth and another one that applies to the opposing
political party or people don't who have the resources in order to defend themselves against the awesome investigative and prosecutorial powers of the department of justice. of course, you are acquainted with the phrase above the supreme court equal justice under the law. do you agree with me that a double standard -- a perception of a double standard of justice can be a cancer that will eat away at public confidence in the administration of justice and that commitment to equal justice? >> absolutely, senator. as i have said to many people, i think probably including yourself, ed levy is my model for the attorney general. his role was to be sure that justice was meted out fairly and impartially without any special favors for anyone. this is the definition, in my view of the rule of law, that the powerful and powerless, one party and another party, one
community in the united states and another community in the united states all are treated equally in the administration of justice. >> the chairman's recitation of things that he perceives as being inappropriate at the department of justice ended with the trump -- started and ended with the trump administration. let me take you back a little further into the biden/obama administration. you are familiar with the press conference of james comey, the fbi director had in july of 2016 where he discussed the investigation of hillary clinton for inappropriate use of mail server? >> i remember it, senator, yes. >> according to the justice department norms and procedures and rules that you are well acquainted with as a result of your experience, is that an appropriate step for an fbi director to take, to talk about derogatory information in a case that they say no reasonable prosecutor would pursue?
>> senator, i don't think it's useful for me to comment on specific matters involving specific former officials. but i have no problem at all telling you that the justice department's policies make clear that derogatory comments about subjects, targets, even people who have been indicted, except for what's in the indictment, are not appropriate. if i am confirmed, i will zealously attempt to reinculcate that spirit. when i was in -- when i was speaking to the press after each court hearing in oklahoma city, i was a aciduous about not sayi
anything other than what the charges had been brought against them, what the judge reported. i believe that is an important part of federal prosecution. >> i know you don't want to comment on mr. comey's actions. what you have described strikes me as diametrically opposed to what he actually did. senator graham asked you if you had read the horowitz report on the investigation of crossfire hurricane. i understand your time is limited up to this point. would you pledge to read all 404 pages of that report if you are confirmed? >> i will, senator. it may take me some time. but i have a head start by reading the executive summary. i think i should be able to get through it. >> i think it's important you do so. >> i will. >> because of the abuse not only of process where the fbi lawyer
lied to get a warrant to spy on an american citizen, but therco investigation against a presidential candidate in the run-up to the election. are you familiar with the steele dossier? >> only what i have read in the newspapers. i have to admit that i have read only conflicting reports about it in the papers. >> it has been revealed that the sources for the steele dossier, which was used in part in order to get these warrants, that the subsources could well be -- could well be russian intelligence officers using that in order to get -- as part of a russian active measures campaign. are you familiar with the practice of the soviet union and the russian federation to use active measures as part of their
intelligence service attacks against the united states? >> not from my experience either as a judge or as a prosecutor. but again, from reading media reports i know what the words mean and i have a general idea of what you are speaking about, yes. >> judge garland, my time is about us. i think we talked about the role of the judiciary committee and authorizing the tools like section 702 of the foreign intelligence surveillance act and the importance of preserving public confidence those tools will be appropriately used. do you agree that abuse of those authorities jeopardizes the availability of those tools in a way that is detrimental potentially to the security of the united states? >> absolutely, senator. my entire career as a justice department official is aimed at
ensuring we used it only as appropriate under the law as it existed at the time. it's not only that i'm worried about losing a tool that's essential, it's also that i'm worried about transgressing the constitutional rights of americans. both of those are important. probably the latter is way more important. we have to be careful of respecting americans' constitutional rights. >> congratulations on your new job and congratulations to you, judge garland, on your nomination. >> thank you. >> i listened with my happiness in your opening remarks when you talked about being the lawyer for the people, that you want to serve the law and not factional purposes and that you use the important adjective humble. we could use a little more of that in this