tv MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin MSNBC February 22, 2021 8:00am-9:01am PST
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 town. i appreciate that. i was also glad that you mentioned when president biden nominated you attorney general edward levy who taught an iconic first year law class that i took. edward levy took office after watergate, you will fidelity to constitution and law. what is the number one thing you want to do to boost the morale? >> on day one, hopefully, if i'm confirmed, i will take an oath in which i say all the things you said. i want to make clear to the career prosecutors, the career lawyers, career employees, agents of the department that my job is to protect them from partisan or other improper
motives. i then hope to have an opportunity over the next few months to visit with as many members of the justice department as possible. in a pandemic, unfortunately this will have to be over zoom. i would much prefer to be able to go down to the great hall or the cafeteria and mingle with folks and let them hear what's in my heart about this. i'm afraid that technology is the only way i'm going to be able do it now. >> very good. one of the things that troubled me was the pardon process that was -- president trump undertook. one study found that 88% of the pardons that he granted had some sort of personal or political connection to the former president. what do you think we need to do to restore integrity to the pardon process? obviously, it's important. what do you think you can do from the attorney general position? >> senator, you are right. this is a power granted by the constitution to the president.
i think the role of the justice department through its pardon attorney is to provide a careful and visualized examination of the people who are asking to be pardoned, the office has a set of very detailed regulations which describe when people are appropriate for pardons and when they are not, it provides an important screen that not yields who may be pardoned but protects the president from improper influence. >> a few things i want to ask quickly. i want to get to antitrust. you talked to senator graham about resources for domestic terrorism and you want to look. do you think you will need additional authority, or are you going to look at that when you get in there? i will chair a hearing tomorrow with the rules committee on what happened at the capitol and what we need to do to improve security. obviously, part is prosecuting
the perpetrators. >> i thank you for that question. the department is probably always looking for new tools. first thing we have do before we look for new tools is figure out whether the tools we have are sufficient. that will be part of the briefing that i want to have to determine whether the laws which are quite capable and which were capable of charges against mcveigh and many other terrorists over the years, whether they are sufficient. then i would be interested in speaking with you and other members of the committee about what other additions might be made. i first have to know whether anything more is necessary. >> very good. will you commit to reinstaing the guidelines -- >> they came out when i was working for ben siviletti. this is something that i'm
deeply committed to. they have improved, i would say, over the years as more concerns have arisen. i would expect to re-up those guidelines. i don't believe that they have been rescinded in any way. i believe they're -- >> no. i couldn't really get a straight answer from attorney general sessions or barr. we can talk about this more. i know you support reforms to police practices. >> yes. >> very good. we have a major bill on that. conviction integrity units, something that i think is very important. you support federal grants for that? >> oh, yes. look, i think that convicting someone who did not commit the crime is one of the most -- it's a risk, of course, of all kinds of law enforcement. but if we can determine that we made a mistake, we need very much to correct it. i think grants for the purpose
of supporting conviction integrity units in state attorney offices across the country is a very good idea. >> we share an interest in antitrust law. you used to teach that to law students. you have handled some cases as judge. as chair of the antitrust subcommittee, we will do a lot along with my colleague senator lee. two-thirds of u.s. industries have been more concentrated between '97 and 2012. the pandemic has actually made things even harder on small businesses. i think that we need more resources. the ftc and antitrust division of doj are shadows of what they were when the breakup of at&t occurred. we can't expect the agencies to do what we need to do to take on the biggest companies the world has known on the tech side in addition to other ones with
band-aids and duct tape. senator grassley and i have a bill to greatly increase the funding to those divisions and agencies. would you support that? >> i appreciate your recognizing that my first love in law school was, in fact, antitrust. i studied under one of the most famous scholars and was his research assistant, phil arita. i did practice antitrust law, including trying antitrust cases. i always want to be in a position of saying thank you, yes, when you ask whether we want more resources. my expectation is that is what i would say. until i'm -- if and until i'm confirmed, i really can't evaluate what resources we might need. i'm happy to work with you. >> will you commit to enforcing the antitrust laws? >> absolutely.
>> i believe that we need some changes to those laws to aid you in doing that. i hope you will be open to those. i have a bill called the competition antitrust law enforcement reform act that i hope you will look at. changing some of the standards for mergers and for exclusion exclusionary conduct. if anything has illustrated the need to look back at the consolidation in some of the industries it would be the lawsuits filed by doj and the ftc example, facebook's acquisition of instagram and whatsapp. look at mark zuckerberg's email where he talked about purchasing competitors. i think the answer to that has got to come from the justice department. the answer, the reply to that email, that this kind of exclusionary conduct is not the way capitalism works in america. we have always had a balance. we have had a balance through
republican presidents and democratic presidents to say that we believe in the capitalist system and we have to make sure we keep rejuvenating it by allowing smaller competitors to emerge. that's not happening right now in many areas. i just need your commitment that you will take this area of the law very seriously. >> i take it very seriously and have throughout my entire career. the supreme court has repeat lid referred to the antitrust laws as the charter of american liberty. i believe that. >> thank you very much. >> we are going to take a break for ten minutes and resume at 11:20 for the questions of senator leahy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> a good monday morning to you. craig melvin here from msnbc headquarters in new york city. we have been watching and listening to president biden's choice to lead the justice department, testifying before the senate judiciary committee
there. it's a sight that many democrats have waited a long time to see. you see a masked judge merrick garland leaving the hearing room. coming four years after a republican majority denied him a hearing before the same committee as a nominee to the supreme court. we have heard judge garland suppress the importance of the independence of the justice department. he said the political climate, worse than in oklahoma city at the time of the bombing that killed 168 people back in 1995. it's a case that garland knows well. it's a case that he oversaw. we are following that. we will continue to follow that. we will take you back when the break is over. breaking news from the supreme court. the high court just dealt former president trump quite the decisive defeat. he lost his legal fight to keep
his personal and corporate tax returns out of the hands of a new york grand jury. mr. trump now out of legal options. he will have to comply with the subpoena. more on that momentarily. we will start with our team. jeff bennett, garrett haake outside the hearing room there at the capitol. garrett, we will start with you. we are a couple of hours into the hearing. what areas are garland and the senators focusing on the most so far? >> we have seen quite a bit of focus on how garland would treat the spiderweb out threat we saw on the january 6th attack. it's important to mention. the through line that he drew from the oklahoma city attacks to today. take a listen to this. >> mr. chairman, i agree that we are facing a more dangerous period than we faced in oklahoma city and at that time. i don't yet know what additional resources would be required by
the department. i can assure you, it's my first priority and briefing when i return to the department if i'm confirmed. >> that's the background for the questioning that judge garland has faced from democrats. from republicans, it's interesting. he has gotten a homework assignment from several republican senators who want him to make sure that he looks into the durham investigation. you saw senator lindsey graham suggest he needs to take a trip to the border and be focused on immigration issues. expect to hear that come up again perhaps under questioning from senator tom cotton, one of the four republicans on this committee who are thought to be presidential aspiring, all of whom are to come. largely, the question from republican senators has been fairly friendly. garland, of course, who never got this far in his nomination to become a supreme court justice, was opposed at that time largely not on the merits of who he is or his background.
it seems that some of the good feeling that he had from republicans who refused him a hearing still holds over. off to a fairly straightforward start here at least for the attorney general nominee. >> garrett, stand by. we are the left side of the screen, you see a number of senators who are still there in the hearing room during the break. among them, bottom left, senator john kennedy. senator kennedy from louisiana, tough to tell from the back who those two are. there's the senator there from louisiana. jeff, i'm sure the white house watching, listening to this closely. what do we know about what they want to see, what they want to hear? is there anything they want to avoid? >> i will tell you this. folks here at white house are watching this hearing. they are not concerned about it at all. the general sense is that judge merrick garland needs guidance. president biden said the reason
why he elevated judge garland, named him as the pick for attorney general is because he was looking for someone who could restore public faith in the department of justice and also restore morale among the civil servants who work within it. the thing that this white house has tried to do is shine a light on judge garland's credentials. he had a seat on the d.c. circuit court of appeals since 1997. he served as chief judge since 2013. he was a career prosecutor before that. as you mentioned, rather famously prosecuting the 1995 oklahoma city bombings. what the president said and white house officials have said is that they are fully aware of the many investigations that could fall on -- if he is confirmed -- attorney general garland's lap, makin a -- making a determination whether trump and giuliani could be held accountable for january 6th.
on these many issues, judge garland stressed independence and that's what you hear from president biden and from the white house, that there will be no political interference from this white house about the prerogatives of the department of justice. >> jeff bennett there at the white house, garrett haakal the capitol. we will let you get back to it. i'm joined by f. michael higgenbothem. at the university of baltimore school of law. he is also the author of "ghosts of jim crow, ending racism in post-racial america." joining me adrian elrod, former senior aide on the biden/harris campaign. professor, we will start with you. we heard judge garland talk about that january 6th attack on the capitol, the deadly insurrection, telling senator feinstein that he would give career prosecutors all the
resources they needed for that case. he said this -- >> 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. 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. >> professor, what do you think of his strategy for that case? >> i think it's the perfect strategy. i think he is the perfect pick for this position. there's no question that he is competent, he is fair and he embraced independence. what he said was, that he is going to make sure that career prosecutors have all of the resources, investigative tools
that they need. that's what the country needs today. that's how we restore respect for the justice department that has been tremendously diminished over the last five years. >> adrian, i want to ask about what judge garland said about the political climate that we are in. saying that it's worse than it was back in '95 when we saw oklahoma city. what role can he and the justice department for that matter, what role can they play in changing this political climate? >> well, craig, it's great to be with you today. as several of your -- as jeff bennett and garrett haake were mentioning, it's clear that judge garland has respect for democrats and republicans. he recognized as somebody who has a true respect for the rule of law which is needed in terms of restoring integrity at the department of justice. this is perhaps one of the most
important confirmations that we will see throughout the course of the confirmation hearings for president biden's upcoming cabinet because of the damage that has been done to the department of justice. i think it's important that we have somebody who has such a true respect for the rule of law in this position, somebody not known to be overly involved in partisan politics. judge garland is that person. he has been endorsed by a wide swath of organizations from the fraternal order of police to the national action network. i think again, when you are listening to this hearing, even lindsey graham who i think was a little brash in some of his questions made it very clear that he intends to support merrick garland. that's very important in moving forward and getting the confirmation taken care of. >> stand by, if you can. professor, also, stand by. we are following breaking news from the u.s. supreme court. the high court just declining to block a new york grand jury from getting access to former
president trump's tax returns. pete williams has been following this story. pete, what does this mean for the manhattan district attorney's investigation? when might they see those returns? >> quite quickly, i would think, craig. the deal here was that -- remember what happened. the president last year went to the supreme court and said, i'm a sitting president. you can't subject me to the grand jury process. the court said, no. both trump justices agreed he was not immune. the court said, you can go back and challenge the subpoenaed like anybody else would. that's what the president's lawyers did. they said they were overbroad. they lost in both the district court and court of appeals. they went to the supreme court with an emergency request saying, please, block this. today after that thing has been sitting there since october, the court said, no, we're not going to block it. there had been an agreement by the manhattan district attorney
that he would hold off on seeking these documents from mr. trump's accountants until the supreme court acted. the accountants know what they have been asked to do. they are ready to go as soon as the court order becomes final today. it is now. this exhausts the president's abilities to try to block this in court. he is out of legal options. i would think within a matter of days, the accountants will begin to abide by the subpoena and turn these documents over. it's important to say, craig, this doesn't mean they will become public. this is a grand jury investigation. the new york law, like most states, grand juries operate in secret. if any charges were brought against anybody and these taxes were to be used as evidence, they might become public. we know it's a broad investigation. >> pete, what do we know about the kinds of tax returns? are these just the personal tax
returns, personal and business tax returns, all of the above? >> personal and corporate tax returns going back eight years. remember the start of this. michael cohen told the senate that the president sometimes overstated his assets when he was trying to get loans and understated when he was trying to avoid taxes. there was the second question of the hush money payments. that's what the investigation started. vance has given hints that it also includes insurance fraud, tax fraud, falsifying business records. all vance said today was, quote, the work continues. we know it's broadening. they brought in more prosecute prosecuters and lawyers for this. >> professor, former president
trump as we heard from pete there at the end of the road here when it comes to legal options. what will prosecutors be looking for in these tax records? how could they be used? >> i think there's a number of aspects that they're going to be looking for all dealing with illegalities. as senator mcconnell said a couple of weeks ago, trump didn't get away with anything. he said, we have a criminal justice system. i think you will see that system working. they will look specifically for, did he undervalue in terms of paying taxes? that's a crime. did he overvalue in terms of seeking bank loans and committing bank fraud? that's a crime. there are overseas aspects as well that are going to be looked at. there's a lot of financial aspects they willdigging into. we need to stay tuned to see if
the criminal justice system works as well as senator mcconnell said it might. >> adrian, again as pete pointed out, just because the court issued the ruling doesn't necessarily mean we will ever see his tax returns publicly. a grand jury will. nonetheless, how significant is this that the former president has to even hand them over? >> it's significant on a number of fronts. we have to keep in mind that president trump thought that some of the supreme court justices who he nominated would be working for him, would rule in whatever favor benefitted him. that certainly is not the case. secondly, look, i was on hillary clinton's campaign. we were aghast at that point that somebody who was seeking the presidency would not release his tax returns at that point. of course, that took on a greater meaning and a greater level of importance throughout his presidency. he now cannot hide behind the immunity of serving in the
executive branch, serving as president. i hope we get to a point where we see these tax returns released publically. i think it's important for transparency in government, for the american people to see these tax returns. i do hope that happens. nonetheless, it's an important step in restoring justice. >> let us turn back now for a moment to this judiciary committee. they are in break right now. you see the chairman there, senator durbin of illinois. he has taken his seat. we are told that judge garland is not yet back in that hearing room. we have seen a number of senators milling about the room there as they have been in recess for the last ten minutes or so. we heard there before the break, michael, that judge garland stressing the independence of the justice department, of course, is his immediate
predecessor, bill barr, frequently accused by federal judges, by others as well of not being as independent. professor, how does merrick garland go about restoring these independence of the justice department? >> well, specifically, through a commitment as he indicated in his opening statement, a commitment to the independence of the justice department. president biden has indicated that that's what he wants to see. it's very different from what president trump did in terms of trying to influence the dismissal of james comey as fbi director in terms of the dealing with the failure to prosecute in terms of michael flynn. the justice department needs to be independent. there seems to be a commitment by the attorney general nominee to that independence.
president biden seems to also have that commitment. that's the beginning. that's how you go about it. you also make sure that there are walls between the president and the attorney general so that you can prevent being influenced by the president when you have to make decisions. so i think that's what you will begin to see if merrick garland is confirmed. >> we are watching senator klobuchar and senator padia of california. not sure what they are talking about. it looks like they are engaged in quite the conversation. we saw senator coons walk away. adrian, the doj, they did unveil some of the endorsements for judge garland over the weekend. ranging from civil rights groups to the fraternal order of police. that same group endorsed former president trump in 2016 and 2020. what do these endorsements from
very different groups, what do they tell us or should they tell us about what kind of ag merrick garland might be? >> i'm glad you mentioned the fact that the fraternal order of police has a history of endorsing republicans. i think the fact that you have got the national action network, combined with the fop, both endorsing merrick garland says everything you need to know. this is a broad coalition of groups that have come together to endorse his nomination. i think these groups know that he is the type of leader, the trusted leader to restore integrity to the department of justice. >> if confirmed, the judge will also, as has been discussed here in the hearing a number of times so far, he takes over a department that's currently investigating the deadly insurrection at the capitol back on january 6th. two of the senators on this committee, senator cruz, who has been in the news over the last week or so, senatorhawley, face
an interestic -- ethics question. what do we think that might lead to? >> it's important we have a reset when it comes to what we expect out of our government across the board. when you are looking at making sure that there is faith and confidence in the election system, which there was in this last election, but i think we need to have a reset at the department of justice. one of the things that judge garland has made clear he will do as attorney general if confirmed is restore the civil rights office, which was eliminated under president trump. that is an important office that has to be in place to make the faith and confidence in some of these states and especially our heavily minority states that protects the votes of black
voters in those states. there's a lot of work that's got to be done. i think that, again, merrick garland is quite obviously the person do this. i think you are seeing a broad swath of democrats and republicans supporting him. >> adrian, professor, stand by. the judge is back in the room. this hearing is about to begin again. senator mike lee of utah is questioning now. >> served with me as my chief counsel, worked on this committee and later served as chief of staff to attorney general barr. big fan of that family. i'm glad he is someone that you look up to. want to talk about a few issues today. let's talk first for a moment about the second amendment ant the right to bear arms. this is going back 15 years or so. in a case called parker versus district of columbia, a case
that became known as district of columbia versus heller. you voted for rehearing and balk with respect to an opinion striking down that same ban on handguns within the district of columbia. of course, later in the same proceedings of the same case, the supreme court struck down the ban. can you tell us why you voted the way you did and you voted to give d.c. another chance to defend its ban on handguns in that case? >> yes, senator. as i know you know, because you were a law clerk yourself, you know that rehearing is not a vote on the merits of the case. for myself, it's never a vote on the merits. it's to rehear the case. the panel decision was the first
time i think ever a court of appeals had held the individual right to keep anbear arms. the issue was one that would require looking at a deep historical record as to the meaning of the second amendment and the way it had been applied. i thought this was extremely important, important enough since it was the very first time that we should hear it again. i was not the only judge. other judges, including a judge appointed by the president of a different party also voted for the same reason, so we would have an opportunity to hear the case. >> thank you. i appreciate that. let's talk about the meaning of the second amendment. how do you view it? do you agree with justice thomas' analysis in his dissent
in the rogers case that the second amendment right to bear arms including the right to carry operable firearms in public for self-defense? >> my view is totally controlled by the heller opinion. in that case, justice scalia held there was an individual right to have arms. they said it was a fundamental right which applied to the states as well. it's a right, as justice scalia said, like all rights subject to some limitations. the court has not given us more to work with at this point. i do think as i said with respect to my vote, this is a matter that requires careful historical examination which i have never done and i certainly can't do sitting here for you. i don't have an opinion on that
question. >> you have been in a judicial role for the last 20, going on 25 years. >> yes, sir. >> you will be in a different role confirmed to this position, one in which you have a significant impact on policy. let's talk about policy as it relates to the second amendment briefly. do you support universal background checks? >> i do think that it's very important that we be careful that people who are entitled to have guns are -- get the background check that allows them to have them and that those who are not entitled and who we are concerned about, because they are threats, because they are felons or whatever reason barred by the law, that there's an opportunity to determine that they not be given a gun. >> do you support banning specific types of guns? >> i'm sorry?
>> do you support banning of certain types of firearms? >> as i'm sure you know, the president is a strong supporter of gun control, has been an advocate all of his professional life on this question. the role of the justice department is to advance the policy program of the administration, as long as it's consistent with the law. as i said so far, we have a little indication from the supreme court as to what this means. we don't have a complete indication. where there is room under the law for the president's policies to be pursued, then i think the president is entitled to pursue them. >> what about policies that would support holding firearms manufacturers liable for damage caused by people using firearms they produced to commit a crime? >> i don't have -- i believe that the president may have a position on this question. i have not thought myself deeply
about this. i don't think it raises a second amendment issue itself, the question of the liability protection. i have not addressed this in any way. i need to think about this considerably more. >> the other questions i raise potentially implicate the second amendment, that one raises other policy concerns. >> i understand. >> let's talk about fisa. we offered an amendment to reform the process by strengthening the existing provisions that have been put in there by others provisions, the usa freedom act, which we got signed into law in 2015. it would require the government to disclose relevant evidence, both to the court and to the
others. it ended up passing last year by a bipartisan super majority. do you support reforms like those i just described? >> i think it's extremely important for the justice department and intelligence community in general to protect the country from foreign agents and foreign terrorists. on other hand, it's extremely important that everything we do -- i felt this way my entire professional life. we do so in accordance with the law and with respect to the constitutional rights of citizens. i don't know very much specifically about your two proposals. the current rules with respect to this. i have had the opportunity to discuss those with judges on the foreign intelligence surveillance court. everyone seems quite happy with the way that process is going. i don't know what more might be
needed. i would have to study that. >> i see my time expired. i have one brief follow-up. can i finish? thank you. on this topic, do you think that the federal government ought to be able to collect american citizens' internet search history without a search warrant supported by probable cause? >> i know this is a big issue. my experience comes from a slightly different era. i had experience but it was very different. i follow this a little bit. i haven't had any cases on it myself. i would have to look at it. i believe in judicial review. i'm a strong supporter of -- and respectful of judicial review.
if it would be an emergency. i'm eager to engage with you and other members of the committee who are concerned about this so that i can understand this problem more fully. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> senator coons. >> thank you, chairman durbin. judge garland, welcome. congratulations on your nomination. please convey my thanks to lynn, to jake, becky, your family for supporting what has been a decades long career at the bench and bar dedicated to public service, law enforcement and upholding the balance between justice and liberty. i cannot think of a more urgent task than restoring the people's faith in our institutions and the rule of law. your opening statement, which in part was dedicated to clarifying your view that the attorney general represents the public interest and your enthusiasm for ensuring that the 115,000 career
employees of the department of justice are appropriately shelters is encouraging after i think were some harrowing moments in the last few years. as i'm sure you know, there are quite a few admirers of yours who work here in this committee. some former clerks of yours who work closely with me and many who have reassured me not just of your professional skill and great insights but also of your personal decency, kindness and thoughtfulness. i was struck in reading through your background that you have spent 20 years as a tutor in an elementary school, something not enough do. thank you for your willingness to continue your service. i'm from a small town in delaware which like many other cities in america was torn apart by concerns about racial justice and inequality.
a city that has struggled with longstanding challenges with gun violence and with insecurity and instability in our community. our mayor, our governor, are doing a great job and working hard to try to address this. striking the right balance between protecting our citizens from gun violence but also developing an environment where law enforcement is more transparent and accountable is one of the challenges in partnership with state and local law enforcement and other elected officials. in wilmington and dover, delaware, we are rolling out body cameras for enforcement officers. our governor committed to having that available to all of our officers by 2025. it's very expensive. it's something law enforcement has embraced. it's something advocates embraced. i'm an appropriator for the department of justice as well as this committee. is that something you could agree to, to be an advocate for
cameras to ensure accountability and improved trust between law enforcement and local communities? >> senator, i'm, again, always happy to accept more resources for the department of justice. i don't know what that might take away from in other areas of the department. i personally think that body cams are a very important tool to protect officers and to protect the citizens. just as everyone -- you are all on the inside. i was on the outside watching what happened on january 6th. the fact that we were able to see exactly what was happening to the officers and the way in which they were carrying about their duties in the best way they could is only possible to be captured because of the body
cameras. i think it's an important tool for accountability. >> i do think it's important we increase investment in programs. i have worked for the victims of child abuse act. covid-19 has had an increase in that. this allows state and local law enforcement to effectively address child abuse. the bulletproof vest partnership program which saved 3,000 officers' lives, these and other grant programs are things i look forward to working with you on. there's needed legislation that will move us forward in terms of criminal justice reform. senator cornyn and i hope to introduce an act which ensures that state and local law enforcement gets notified when a person prohibited lies and tries, they attempt to purchase a gun. that's been discussed in previous congresses.
we haven't made progress on it. i think we should. senator wicker andry going to introduce the bipartisan driving for opportunity act, which incentivizes states to stop suspending driver's licenses for unpaid fines and fees. it's a cruel counterproductive way to take away people's ability to get to work and ensures people are trapped in modern day debt prisons. it has strong support. i would be interested in whether you will work with us here in congress to move bipartisan bills like these. >> i'm extremely interested if i'm confirmed and working with the members of congress and particularly on bipartisan legislation. i don't know specifically about those. each of them has the ring of something that's very important and quite reasonable. >> moving the ball forward are the sorts of things i hope to work on. i will serve on privacy, technology and the law and look
forward to working with senator sasse who will serve as ranking member. one of the core things we will look at is how online misinformation is contributing to domestic terrorism, division here. you have discussed your own experience with dmestic terrorism cases. it's something the fbi director says is one of our most pressing threats. do you think the doj has a role to play in examining the role of misinformation and incitement online to contributing to violence and that the doj has a role in working to help us develop reasonable solutions to this challenge? >> again, senator, i think that every opportunity the justice department has to work with members of the senate, think about how to solve problems and craft legislation is one that we should take. i don't have in mind particular
legislation in this area. an important part of the investigation of violent extremist groups is following their activities online and getting an idea of what kind of information and misinformation is being put out. i look forward to talking more about this with you. >> there's increasing regulatory schemes, both in europe and in california and other states being considered. i look forward to working with you on striking that appropriate balance between protecting data privacy, protecting individual liberty but also protecting the competitiveness of the united states and globally making sure that we are pushing back on digital authoritarianism. i'm glad to see the department is prosecuting. i think there's 235 charges brought so far against rioters who invaded the capitol and attacked our democracy on january 6th. i have supported calls for a 9/11-style independent commission to investigate the bigger picture of what caused
this and what we might learn from it. do you think an independent commission of that style would help complement the department's work and help the american people better understand the root causes that was riot, that incident and then better help us both protect the capitol and those of us who serve here but more importantly protect the underpinnings of our democracy? >> senator, i do think the 9/11 commission was very useful and helping in understanding what happened then. of course, congress has full authority to conduct this kind of oversight investigation or to set up an independent commission. the only thing that i would ask, if i were confirmed, is that care be taken that it not -- that commission's investigation not interfere with our ability to prosecute individuals and entities that caused the
capitol -- the storming of the capitol. this is a very sensitive issue about disclosing operations which are still in progress, disclosing our sources and methods and allowing people to testify in a way that then makes it impossible to prosecute them. with those caveats, i certainly could not object to anything that congress would want to do there this regard. >> understood. thank you. i'm encouraged by the broad bipartisan support you have garnered from this committee and look forward to supporting your confirmation. >> thank you very much, senator. i appreciate it. >> senator cruz. >> thank you, mr. chairman. judge garland, welcome. >> thank you. >> congratulations on your nomination. >> thank you. >> in two plus decades on the court, you have built a reputation for integrity and for setting aside partisan interests and following the law. the job to which you have been
appointed is a very different job. as i look back over the eight years of the obama/biden justice department, in my view the most problematic aspect of that tenure was the department of justice was politicized to over a century of being apolitical and not a partisan tool to target your opponents. it is very much my hope if you are confirmed as attorney general that you will bring that reputation for integrity to the department of justice and demonstrate a willingness to stand up for what will be inevitable political pressure to once again politicize the department of justice and use it as a tool to attack the political opponents of the
current administration. eric holder, before he was nominated as attorney general, had likewise built a reputation as being relatively non-partisan and a prosecutor with integrity. unfortunately, his tenure as attorney general did enormous damage to that reputation. as was previously discussed, eric holder described his role as attorney general as being the wingman for president obama. am i right in assuming you do not view your role as attorney general as being joe biden's wingman? >> senator, as i said, i don't want to comment on any individual's conduct as any of my predecessors or fbi conduct. i do not regard myself as anything other than the lawyer
for the people of the united states. i'm not the president's lawyer. i am the united states' lawyer. i will do everything in my power which i believe is considerable to fend off any effort by anyone to make prosecutions or investigations partisan or political in any way. my job is to protect the department of justice and its employees in going about their job and doing the right thing, according to the facts and the law. >> under the obama administration, the irs targeted the political opponents of the president. it targeted conservatives for their speech. it targeted pro-israel groups. it targeted tea party groups. it targeted individuals. will you believe those to not be
targeted because they're believed to be political opponents? >> absolutely, i will not. >> and also under obama operation chokepoint was used to pressure lawful organizations, lawful institutions, institutions, for example, that sell firearms to constrain their lawful activity and use regulatories to abuse and force them to comply with administrate's stated policies. do you believe it's appropriate for the administration to use regulatory pressure to force lawful behavior to stop? >> senator, i'm not aware of the specific that you're giving and i expect you don't expect i would have been aware of it, but, of course, i do not believe as a general manager regulations should be used to stop people from doing what they're lawfully
entitled to do, unless it's pursuant to the staff of congress changing the rules. >> as you also know, general eric holder was held in contempt of congress, a bipartisan vote. 18 democrats voted to hold attorney general holder in contempt. they did so because he refused to produce documents to congress for congress' investigation of the fast and furious scandal, a major scandal that resulted in the death of two federal law enforcement officers. you previously committed to senators on this panel under your leadership, the department of justice will comply to the except possible from this committee? and i want to in the course of this question associate myself with senator whitehouse's comments and questions, he and i disagree on many issues but on this issue, we're in emphatic
agreement that this should get answered, substantive, be real answers from the department of justice regardless of the party of the senate asking that question, that that is a level of oversight the american people have a right to expect. do you agree with that? >> i do think this is a level of oversight that the american people have a right to expect. i want the department, if i'm confirmed, to be responsive to the except it's possible with respect to the justice department's appropriate equities, to be responsive to the requests for information. >> so you've had previously, you said you read the executive summary of the horowitz report. what was your reaction to the horowitz report? >> well, i thought as mr. horowitz explained, and i believe director wray agreed, there were problems with respect to the applications for several
feizes, they were not consistent with the internal regulation of the department and those departments had to be corrected. and i think deeply we have to be careful about how we use fisa. and that's the reason we have pretty strict regulations internally and policies and we need to find out why they aren't followed and to be sure they are followed. i understand that was the purpose of his report and his recommendations to director wray. >> so you describe the report as saying there are problems and that's a fairly an adime way to characterize it given the ultimate state mr. horowitz report details including the fabrication and evidence of lying to a court, which he's now pleaded guilty to. i think that was yet another
example of the deep politicalization of the department of justice, culminating in a meeting of the acting attorney general, president obama, vice president biden in the oval office, concerning the targeting of their political opponent. will you commit to this committee that under your leadership the department of justice will not target the political opponents of this administration, that there will be real scrutiny -- what that report outlines, among other things, is weaponizing oppo research from the hillary clinton campaign and launching a criminal investigation based on that. will you commit that that conduct will not be acceptable under any department of justice you're leading? >> so absolutely, senator, but without trying to comment specifically on that matter, it's totally inappropriate for the department to target any
individual because of their politics or their position in a campaign. the only basis for targeting has to be evidence of the is of foreign intelligence problem or of a criminal problem. and that is a nonpartisan issue. that is a question of objective facts and law, and it can never be an effort to help one party or another party. and investigations and prosecutions, there is no party. the party is an innocent, nonpartisan actor and that's my job to ensure that's the case. >> thank you, senator. we understand senator leahy is in zoom range. senator leahy, do you read me? >> can you hear me? >> i hear the voice. >> i assume there's a picture coming in here somewhere.
>> is there a way to turn up the volume so we can hear senator leahy? there he is. >> i'm moving this camera around just a little bit. >> all right. take it away, senator. >> first off, thank you very much for having these hearings. judge, is great to see you seated there. i wish five years ago we would have seen you seated there for your supreme court nomination but i'm glad you're here today. >> thank you, senator leahy. >> the nomination comes at probably the most vulnerable moment in the 151-year history of the department. and you've got to restore the integrity and respect of the department. no small job, but i can't think of anybody more qualified to do
that. i know that normal people stated their support of you. one person i know and respect greatly, former fbi director judge freeh and i know he sent a letter, and mr. chairman, if you don't mind, can we have that letter go in the record, if you haven't already put it there? >> without objection. >> thank you. a lot of the things have already been covered, and, of course, you and i talked before. your experience in the oklahoma bombing as anybody who's been a prosecutor knows what a job you did there and i do appreciate that. we have other things we have to deal with it, the voting rights
act. the john lewis voting rights act enforcement. we've seen there's been a scourge of voter suppression, which being wrong, i don't care who's being suppressed, unless the justice department gets its tools back under the voting rights act, i'm afraid the right to vote is always going to be at risk, especially for minorities in underserved communities. do you believe that the john lewis voting right act is urgently needed? >> sir, i don't know the specifics of the act, although i certainly knew john lewis well and was a great admirer. in respect to voting in this
last election where a large number of americans voted than ever before, there was a big number, a third, that did not vote. i think it's important that every american has the opportunity to vote. voting is the central facet, the fulcrum of our democracy. so anything that can -- any legislation that will encourage more voting, i strongly support. specifically you're referring to the supreme court's decision in the shelby county case, which the coverage formula for preclearance couldn't be used as unconstitutional because of the then state of the congressional record. but the court indicated a different and stronger record might support preclearance and i would be in favor, if i'm confirmed, in working with the committee and the senate and the house to try to develop