Sharyl Attkisson to testify on Lynch confirmation, but why?

Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General, will testify tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It should be an interesting day.

Coming up with lists of questions to ask Lynch has become a cottage industry. I offered my entry in November:

I hope that during Senate confirmation hearings, Lynch will be asked specifically about each issue as to which the Holder DOJ has applied or considered applying disparate impact theory.

More generally, Senators should ask for Lynch’s views on the full range of Holder’s abusive behavior: from his refusal to defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, to his refusal to enforce the contempt citation issued by the House against Lois Lerner, to his overly broad assertion of a privilege claim and refusal to turn over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious. . . .

Eric Holder has done great damage to the rule of law. The Senate should not confirm Lynch unless she can show that there is meaningful difference between her and the man whom she would replace.

Asking Lynch for opinions about Holder’s policy is one thing; parading in witnesses to vent against Holder is another. Unfortunately, it looks like the Committee intends, in addition to the former, to do the latter.

Its witness list includes Sharyl Attkisson and Catherine Engelbrecht. Both have grievances against the Obama administration. Attkisson says the Justice Department hacked her electronic devices when she was investigating “Fast and Furious.” Engelbrecht says the administration unfairly targeted her group, True the Vote. Both have filed lawsuits. Engelbrecht’s has been dismissed.

Both sets of grievances should be taken seriously, but I don’t understand how they materially bear on Lynch’s confirmation. The problems with the Holder Justice Department extend far beyond the particular concerns of Attkisson and Engelbrecht. Republican members presumably take it as a given that if they can expect a repeat performance under Lynch, then she is not a suitable replacement.

The key, then, is not to attack Holder but to test the extent to which Lynch professes allegiance to his policies. Whatever her private views, Lynch will not endorse, as a general matter, hacking journalists’ computers or having the IRS target conservative advocacy groups.

However, when it comes to substantive issues like disparate impact, protecting against voting fraud, the proper scope of executive privilege, “lawfare”/the war on terrorism, and so forth, Lynch can’t so easily skate. The Obama administration and its constituencies are publicly invested in the approach Holder took to these issues.

Accordingly, these issues should be the Committee’s focus. The time granted to Attkisson and Engelbrecht would be better devoted to witnesses discussing the substantive areas where Lynch’s expressed views are likely to diverge from those of Committee Republicans.

Tomorrow’s events may prove me wrong, but I fear the Committee has opted for flash over substance. I hope this is not a sign that Senate Republicans, resigned to Lynch being confirmed, are trying to appease the base by using conservative favorites to attack Holder.

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