When attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a two-day confirmation hearing this Wednesday and Thursday, there are many questions she must answer in detail — not just about her conduct as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, but also about her views of the law and specific, deeply troublesome actions (and inactions) that the Justice Department has taken under Attorney General Eric Holder.
Some of the actions and statements of Eric Holder during his years in office have made a mockery of principled law enforcement, yet there has been little to stop him. Congressional oversight, embarrassing unpopularity, and repeated 9–0 Supreme Court decisions against the DOJ’s extreme legal positions have done little to alter the leftward course of this most powerful of federal agencies. Holder has held nobody at the Justice Department accountable for scandal after scandal, from the unjustified dismissal of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case to the reckless Operation Fast and Furious program and the criminal targeting of reporters for alleged leaks. Even finding Holder in criminal contempt of Congress for his refusal to provide documentation to which Congress is entitled has failed to constrain him.
The upcoming confirmation hearings give members of Congress their best opportunity to have meaningful oversight over Justice Department policy.
While it might be difficult to block Loretta Lynch’s nomination successfully, it would not be difficult to condition her confirmation on her disavowal of some of the most radical DOJ policies of the last six years, particularly those policies that have divided Americans along racial lines and led to prosecutorial abuse. At a minimum, effective and informed questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee might wring out a commitment to break from the most extreme positions of the Holder era.
Lynch has an obligation to answer questions about the decisions made by Eric Holder on a host of issues not only to provide guidance on how she would act as attorney general, but also because she has been a member of Holder’s advisory committee of U.S. Attorneys. It is entirely appropriate to ask her what advice she gave Holder on his many questionable decisions and whether she agrees with the legal positions and actions he has taken over the past six years.
Several areas where tough questions from senators might obtain a commitment from Lynch to break from the past:
If confirmed, will Lynch agree to stop hiring lawyers who previously represented Islamic terrorists to work on formulating Justice Department policies that direct our fight against Islamic terror? Holder placed such lawyers in top political slots, as well as in trial-attorney positions.
Does she agree with Eric Holder’s view that terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay should all receive civilian trials? That when caught on the battlefield, they should be treated like stateside criminal defendants and read Miranda rights before they can be interrogated? Will she continue the Clinton-era, criminal-justice model of handling terrorists that Eric Holder reimplemented when he became attorney general?
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