Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today questioned Lisa Monaco, nominated to be the Deputy Attorney General, and Vanita Gupta, nominated to be the Associate Attorney General, during their Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.
High-resolution video is available here.
Full transcript of the remarks:
Feinstein: “Just one personal comment. I’ve been on this committee for more than 20 years. It’s the first time I’ve seen two highly qualified women, young women, before this committee for two very critical important positions. And it’s really, for somebody like me, a very sincere and important moment. So I just want to say thank you both for what you have done in the past decades. You are obviously both qualified.
“Now, let me move ahead. Ms. Monaco, you’ve had a very impressive career in government, including at the Justice Department. You’ve covered a wide array of issues. You’ve received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service for your work on the Enron task force. You’ve helped then Director Bob Muller, transform the FBI after 9/11. And as assistant attorney general for national security, you lead the department’s efforts to integrate intelligence with law enforcement. So what will be your priorities as the deputy attorney general?”
Monaco: Thank you, senator. And thank you for your leadership and the time we spent previously during your chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee. My priorities, senator, I will want to talk with Judge Garland of course, but here’s how I would approach it: First and foremost, reaffirming the values of the Department of Justice, its independence, its focus and mission on enforcement of the federal law without fear or favor. Secondly, focusing on protecting the American people from a range of threats. Unfortunately, we find ourselves not only battling, of course, a once in a century pandemic, but facing the metastasizing threat of domestic terrorism, we cannot stop being vigilant with respect to foreign terrorism, cyber threats, the challenge of violent crime that I know is something so many of the members of this committee are focused on, and ensuring that we are focused on the equal application and the equal protection of our law when it comes to everything from consumer protection to combating environmental degradation.
“Those are the some of the things that I think we will focus on assiduously. And doing so always understanding that the Department of Justice employees are there to do their job, just putting their head down doing their work every day. I think they don’t want to see themselves in any partisan scrum, back and forth and in the headlines. I think they want the resources and the tools to do the job for the American people. And it’ll be my focus and approach as deputy attorney general to make sure they have those tools and resources.”
Feinstein: “Thank you. Ms. Gupta in 2007 when you were part of the ACLU, you filed a lawsuit about an immigration detention center in Taylor, Texas. The issue was specifically about the conditions at the center for the children and their families. Children at the time were required to wear prison uniforms and guards would threaten to separate children from their families if they miss behaved I’ve been told. You won a settlement in that case that protected these children, many of whom were released from the facility with their families. At the Department of Justice, what steps would you take to ensure that children and their families are protected when it comes to immigration?”
Gupta: “Senator, thank you for that question. The health and safety of children has been something that I have long been concerned with throughout my career and in this particular facility the conditions were quite horrific. And it was important that I was able, with other lawyers and advocates, to step in to protect the health and wellbeing of these children’s while complying with our nation’s immigration laws. And so we litigated actually then against the Department of Justice on the other side and reached a really important settlement. And if I am confirmed as associate attorney general, I will be motivated to enforce our federal laws to protect and enforce our immigration laws. I believe that we can have border security and safety for all of our communities while ensuring fair treatment of those in our facilities and in our communities. And that is a dual role and responsibility that I would look forward to working, of course, with the deputy attorney general and the attorney general who have even greater authority over immigration than I would.”
Feinstein: “Thank you. And if I can quickly get in one last question. The Associated Press reported that hate crimes rose to the highest level in more than a decade. The AP also reported that the United States recorded the most hate-related killings since the FBI began collecting data in the 1990s. Despite this finding, only 13.9 percent of the agencies in the FBI’s hate crimes report indicated that hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions. So I’d like to ask both of you, what steps would you take at the Department of Justice to combat the rise in hate crimes in this country?”
Monaco: “Senator, you’ve identified a very pressing and concerning issue, the rise in hate crimes is something that I take very, very seriously. Also, the rise in crimes against Asian Americans in the Asian American community. The first thing I would do, senator, is sit down with Director Wray and understand what are the resources that the FBI has applied to these issues? What more can be done with the data? And how can we get more and better data because if we don’t understand the problem, we can’t fight it.”
Gupta: “And senator, when I was at the Justice Department before, hate crimes enforcement was a top priority. When Congress enacted the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009 and gave the Justice Department greater tools but also greater responsibility to do everything it can to prosecute hate crimes when they occur. I think vigorous enforcement of that law, working with U.S. attorneys offices around the country is going to be really important. But also equally important is ensuring that communities that may be the most vulnerable to hate crimes, understand and trust their local law enforcement partners, the Justice Department as one that will protect them in when these types of things occur. And then we have to ensure that we are also doing what we can and in communities around the country to help prevent these crimes from happening to begin with. And there’s any number of partnerships that the Justice Department has had in the past that I believe, hopefully are still ongoing with community-based organizations to help ensure that communities feel safe and reporting these things. And so the full force of the Justice Department working in partnership with local law enforcement can react in real time when these things happen.”