Loretta Lynch did a superb job of testifying this morning. She artfully ducked the few tough questions directed to her, while somehow managing to sound like the most accommodating nominee ever. Only Sen. Sessions laid a glove on her, in my opinion.
The afternoon session will begin soon. I think I’ll present my live-blogging of this one in chronological order rather than reverse chronological order, as I did this morning.
1:42 Ted Cruz is up. Attorneys general have a long history of standing up to the president, Cruz says. But Eric Holder hasn’t upheld that tradition.
How would Lynch’s tenure differ from Holder’s, Cruz asks?
She regurgitates Cruz’s statement about the need for the AG to act in a fair way. How will she differ from Holder? She “will be Loretta Lynch.” It’s a perfectly tautological and vacuous answer.
She then reverts to her mantra — she looks forward to talking with Cruz about his concerns. Sure, she does.
1:46 Cruz turns specifically to immigration. Does Lynch agree with the OLC opinion affirming the legality of the executive amnesty? She says she doesn’t see amnesty being upheld in that opinion. She sees prioritization of prosecution resources, and finds it “reasonable.”
Cruz points out that the OLC operates as the official opinion of the DOJ. So does she agree with the analysis and would it have been her analysis?
Lynch won’t say. She filibusters, presumably hoping to run down the clock on Cruz.
Cruz quotes Obama’s 2011 statement that he can’t override Congress on immigration. Does Lynch agree with what Obama said then? Lynch ducks. She doesn’t know the context, she says.
As U.S. attorney, did Lynch ever carve out a class of offenders that she wouldn’t prosecute. Lynch hems and haws, but basically agrees that she never did.
1:52 Al Franken is now taking his turn. In keeping with his status as class clown, his first question is “how was lunch.” Lynch says it was great.
Everything seems to be great from Lynch’s perspective. She is proving to be the Ernie Banks of confirmation witnesses. It’s a beautiful day in the friendly confines of the Capitol. Let’s play two.
1:56 Franken claims that our prisons contain many people who shouldn’t be there, but should be in “mental health court” instead. Lynch doesn’t dispute this claim. She seems on board with, and indeed enthusiastic about, Franken’s quest to blur the lines of criminality through the wonders of therapy.
If this were a movie, I would say “this is where I came in.” Franken’s BS was all the rage when I studied criminal law in the early 1970s. It was only when such nonsense went out of fashion that we began to make headway in reducing crime.
2:02 It’s Jeff Flake’s turn. Can’t say I’m expecting much worthwhile from him.
Lynch assures Flake that her commitment to securing the border is firm. We can all sleep better at night now.
Flake is pressing Lynch about failure to carry through on an effective border control program in Yuma, Arizona (“Operation Streamline”). Is she committed to the program? Lynch says she’s committed to talking with Flake about his concerns.
It’s a beautiful day in the friendly confines…
2:13 Sen. Blumenthal is on the clock. I should get paid double for listening to this segment.
He commends Lynch for her “forthright and erudite” testimony. Lynch is doing a masterful job, but forthright and erudite she has not been.
Blumenthal thanks Lynch for her sympathy for veterans who commit crimes. He does so as the father of a vet who has served in a combat theater, and he lists all the veterans in Lynch’s family.
But wait! Didn’t Blumenthal himself serve in Vietnam? That’s what he once claimed, but it was a lie.
2:23 Sen. Vitter is up. He was an early skeptic of Lynch and criticized her for not answering his questions when they met in the office.
Lynch told Vitter she would get back to him. But yesterday he received a letter from her stiffing him on his questions. Accordingly, we should be very skeptical of her claim that she will discuss substantive issues with Republican Senators.
Vitter insists that the executive amnesty, by granting work permits, goes beyond simple removal and prosecution issues. In other words, as Sen. Lee pointed out, it is more than an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Lynch filibusters.
Vitter, like Cruz, asks Lynch whether she agrees with the OLC opinion on amnesty. Again, she finds it “reasonable” but won’t answer the question of whether it’s correct.
There is no reason why Lynch shouldn’t answer this question. This isn’t a Supreme Court nominees declining to discuss a case he or she might have to decide. If these hearings are to have any meaning, the penalty for non-responsiveness on a key issue like this one should be a vote not to confirm.
Vitter asks for the statutory basis for having the decisions on deportation made by DHS when the statute says its to be made by DoJ. Lynch won’t answer.
Vitter turns to mandatory minimums. They are in the statute, so why shouldn’t they be enforced whether we agree with them or not? Lynch cites limited resources and the need to prioritize.
But, as Vitter says, this makes the mandatory minimums non-mandatory and allows bureaucrats to override Congress.
This is the defining characteristic of Holder’s lawless reign at DoJ. And in no instance today has Lynch shown any discomfort with it. Indeed, as just occurred in response to Vitter, she has embraced it.
How many Republican Senators will accept this lawlessness by voting to confirm Lynch? The answer, it appears, is more than enough to confirm Lynch.
Vitter won’t be among them. He’s probably been the second toughest questioner so far (behind only Ted Cruz).
2:37 Sen. Coons is now asking questions. Nothing but softballs questions and hackneyed answers so far.
Guess what. Lynch looks forward to talking with Senators about issues related to the Patriot Act.
Coons asserts that the criminal justice system is broken because blacks disproportionately are incarcerated — a non sequitur if ever there was one.
Lynch doesn’t question Coons’ assertion. We can assume that she will follow Eric Holder’s model and take a race-conscious approach to criminal justice. She likely will be a good General in the war on standards.
2:46 Sen. David Perdue is asking questions now. It’s the first time I’ve seen him in action.
He’s asking about a very interesting case, that of a Francois Holloway, a repeat carjacker who was convicted and lawfully sentenced under the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. Judge John Gleason, who has been described as a “defense lawyer in a robe,” made it his crusade years later to obtain leniency for Holloway, whom he had sentenced.
He sought Lynch’s help, asking her to permit Gleeson to reopen the matter to review, and presumably reduce, the sentence. To Lynch’s credit, she originally declined, but a year later changed her position. Perdue wants to know why.
Lynch responds that Holloway got a much tougher sentence than the guy who masterminded the crime (but that’s because Holloway rejected a plea deal). She also says she consulted with the victims before agreeing to Gleeson’s request. And she looked at the case under current DoJ standards which, Lynch says, are more favorable to Holloway.
I’m not sure that anything in this answer explains why she changed her mind. It sounds to me like Lynch simply caved to pressure from a judge that, as a prosecutor, she might have to deal with.
Bill Otis has written about the Holloway case. I will probably take a look at this matter in light of Lynch’s answer to Sen. Perdue’s question.
2:55 The Committee is in recess because there are no Senators present who haven’t questioned Lynch in the first round (only Sen. Tillis hasn’t had a turn, but he’s not present). The next round will begin soon, but I’m going to conclude my live-blogging for the day.
Unlike Ernie Banks, I’m not willing to “play two.’