Live-blogging the Lynch hearing

Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearing is about to start. I’ll live-blog it for a few hours at least. I’ll keep the most recent entries at the top for those who want to keep up with the blow-by-blow. Others should read from the bottom up.

Here goes:

12:39 Sen. Amy Klobuchar is up. A lunch break will follow. I will start mine early, and resume the live-blogging this afternoon. The Republican questioning has been fairly tame and at times rather lame. This should change when Ted Cruz steps up to the plate.

12:28 Now it’s Sen. Mike Lee’s turn. He’s returning to the topic of prosecutorial discretion. You can decline to prosecute people who speed, but you wouldn’t issue permits to speed, Lee observes.

So prosecutors don’t say we’re only to punish you if you speed and someone dies as a result, Lee says. And they don’t say you can speed. That would be improper, wouldn’t it, Lee asks.

Lynch says she doesn’t know. Why is she ducking a question to which the obvious answer is “yes”? Because she recognizes that this, in effect, is what Obama is doing with his executive amnesty.

Lee asks about operation “Choke Point” through which, he says, the DOJ sometimes pressures banks not to do business with those who exercise their Second Amendment rights. Lynch says she doesn’t know enough about the program to talk about it.

As ever, though, she looks forward to talking with Lee about this and all other issues of concern to him. This is her mantra and she’s sticking to it.

12:19 Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is defending the Holder Justice Department, but offers no analysis. Instead, he attacks the Bush Justice Department.

Whitehouse admits that he shouldn’t waste the Committee’s time with this, and he is right.

12:15 Graham wants Lynch to articulate how polygamy can constitutionally be banned, but same-sex marriage not be. She can’t, nor should she be should expected to off-the-cuff. Graham’s questioning proved to be a waste of time.

It seems clear that he will vote to confirm, as expected. But he still could have put on a better show. No preening today.

12:06 Okay, it’s Lindsey time. Does she support the death penalty, he asks. She says she sought it as a prosecutor in some cases. That’s not really an an answer, but Graham accepts it and moves on.

Graham tosses a few soft balls about terrorism and cyber-security. He’s trying to advertise his pet agenda items. Perhaps he’s already decided to vote to confirm Lynch.

Is the NSA program in effect today constitutional? She says it’s constitutional and effective. Good answer.

Now Graham wants to talk about marijuana. Graham is turning out to be a dud today. I wish I had taken my break now.

11:57 Dirty Dick Durbin is up now. I’ll take a short break, but be back in time for Lindsey Graham’s questioning, which should be fun.

11:55 Cornyn asks whether there is a difference between case-by-case use of discretion and refusal to prosecute an entire category of lawbreakers. She says she read what DoJ is doing as figuring out how to use limited resources.

But, Cornyn points out, the Obama administration never asked for more resources with which to prosecute illegal immigrants. Shouldn’t it have? Lynch doesn’t really answer.

11:51 Cornyn finally asks how we know Lynch will be different from Holder. She says she will be herself and will always be open to talking with Committee members. Worthless promises.

11:46 Sen. Cornyn is up now. He invites Lynch to say she isn’t Eric Holder and won’t be “a political arm of the White House.” She accepts the invitation, of course.

Cornyn then whines about Holder. But where are the questions that truly test whether Lynch differs from Holder on substantive legal issues? I like Cornyn, but I think he’s just wasting time here.

11:41 Lynch and Schumer trade cliches about the need for prosecutors to exercise discretion.

Lynch says she sued Seven-Eleven for hiring illegal immigrants and then mistreating them in violation of the labor laws. Good for her. But this in no way shows a commitment to enforcing immigration laws in cases where there is no labor law violation.

11:25 Here’s Jeff Sessions. In response to his first question, Lynch claims she will say “no” to the president when necessary.

Sessions then asks whether a person who enters the country illegal has a civil right to work here and to citizenship (per a statement by Holder to this effect). Lynch tries to duck the question with cliches, but Sessions presses.

Lynch finally says that illegal immigrants have no right to citizenship that she’s aware of (Sessions observes he’s surprised it took her so long to say so). Had she not said this, I’m pretty sure she would have lost votes.

But she didn’t answer regarding an illegal immigrant’s right to work here, but she disputes the term “amnesty.” So Sessions follows up.

She says “I believe that the right and the obligation to work is one that’s shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here,” adding that if a person is here, regardless of status, she would prefer that he or she be working. Sessions asks specifically, should a person here illegally have the right to work here when the law says he or she doesn’t? Lynch doesn’t say.

What if an employer prefers to hire an American citizen over an illegal immigrant granted a work permit under executive amnesty? Would Lynch take action against the employer for discrimination?

It’s a great question, and Lynch totally ducks it. She looks forward to obtaining Sen. Sessions’ views on the subject after she’s studied it more.

So Lynch won’t rule out suing employers who prefer hiring Americans to hiring people who came here illegally. That pretty much rules such suits in.

11:22 Lynch shows herself to be a bipartisan question-ducker. She won’t tell Feinstein whether she’ll agree to provide the Committee with a particular Office of Legal Counsel opinion written years ago by Ted Olson. It’s an appropriate “duck,” though, since Lynch can’t know enough about the opinion and the reasons for withholding it.

11:15 Dianne Feinstein is now doing the questioning. Time for a bathroom break.

11:14 Hatch said he hopes he’ll be able to vote to confirm Lynch. I hope he won’t, but after hearing his questioning, I fear he will.

11:08 Hatch notes that in a speech Lynch favored not applying mandatory minimum sentences to certain crimes. What about that, Hatch wants to know? It’s a matter of prioritizing, she says. In other words, the executive branch can blow off statutory minimums.

11:04 Sen. Hatch is up now. He asks about defending the constitutionality of acts of Congress she disagrees with. Lynch says she will commit to defending them except in “rare” cases where there is no reasonable argument in favor of an act’s constitutionality.

But Hatch notes that Eric Holder gave the same commitment. That’s really the subtext of the entire hearing. Holder, the nominee, appeared no less committed to the rule of law than Lynch appears today. He appeared just as sincere. He too had seemingly stellar paper credentials and endorsements.

Given Holder’s reign of abuse and Lynch’s closeness with Holder, Lynch shouldn’t be confirmed unless she differentiates herself from Holder by disagreeing with him on key substantive positions and denouncing at least some of his abuses.

11:01 Lynch wisely declines Leahy’s invitation to overly tout the criminal justice system as the weapon of choice in the fight against terrorism. It’s just one tool in the arsenal, she intones.

As for waterboarding, she states unequivocally that it is torture. That seems to be the Republican consensus too, so it’s safe for Lynch to say this.

10:57 Now Leahy quotes Bill O’Reilly, who apparently once called Lynch “a hero” for something she did. It didn’t take long for this hearing to descend into farce.

10:55 It’s Leahy’s turn. He says Lynch’s opening statement was so moving he will send copies to his family and close friends. You can’t make this stuff up.

Now he throws her a softball so she can talk some more about police-community relations. It’s a canned, content-free presentation.

10:50 Grassley moves on to IRS targeting. Here, Lynch has an easy out. “There’s no place for bias” by federal agencies, she says, but adds that she doesn’t know the facts of this case.

Grassley wants to know whether it was appropriate for President Obama to say there isn’t a “smidgeon of evidence” of targeting even though an investigation was ongoing. Lynch ducks the question.

10:47 Grassley follows up by asking for the “outer boundaries” of prosecutorial discretion, if an entire vast category can be exempted from prosecution. Lynch doesn’t answer. She just says that this instance of discretion is reasonable.

10:45 Grassley begins the questioning. He starts with Obama’s executive amnesty. Does she believe Obama has the legal authority to defer deportation and grant permits to those who are here illegally?

Lynch gives what is obviously a canned answer. She says she has looked at the DoJ internal opinion that says Obama has this authority. She finds the opinion reasonable. In other words, she backs the legality of the executive amnesty. This should be sufficient reason not to confirm her.

10:37 Now she’s talking about prosecuting sex crimes. Then, she moves on to affirm her great respect for the police. She’s talking about the unshakable bonds between the police and the community, which she wants to strengthen.

Nothing about police racism and abuse. Lynch has put aside the Obama-Holder playbook on the issue for purposes of this hearing.

Is she sincere? I’m skeptical.

10:35 She begins the substantive portion of her statement by focusing on the war on terror. Smart move. Would this be the focus of her stewardship of the DoJ? I’m skeptical.

10:32 Lynch is telling her personal story. It’s a good one, but largely beside the point.

10:30 Lynch is introducing her family and will then deliver her opening statement.

10:26 Sen Gillibrand is introducing Lynch. Realizing what a tough act Schumer is to follow, Gillibrand wraps it up very quickly.

10:23 Schumer gets to the heart of the Democrats’ case. He says that no one can find anything wrong with Lynch, so her opponents are going to change the focus and talk about policies they disagree with. In other words, they will “politicize” the hearing.

Let’s hope so. The Justice Department has been thoroughly politicized, and thus, if Senators are doing their job, they need to make sure Lynch stands opposed to the politicizing.

The Attorney General has enormous power. Lynch should not be confirmed unless Senators are satisfied that she will use the power responsibly and, above all, lawfully. Her ability as an attorney is “table stakes,” not sufficient reason for confirmation.

10:21 Chuck Schumer is now introducing Lynch, in his capacity as her home state Senator. It’s one cliche after another.

This is good. Schumer says that Lynch has a reputation for keeping her head down and avoiding publicity — “just like me.”

10:18 Now, Leahy is bitching about how much DoJ money goes to prisons and how so many people are incarcerated. He could deliver this blather in his sleep, and it’s not entirely clear that he isn’t.

10:16 Sen. Leahy is now giving his opening statement. He says he wants to focus on the nominee not the past. He’s telling Lynch’s “story” now and touting the fact that she would be the first African-American women.

10:14 Grassley says his vote will turn on whether Lynch will be independent. He says he has no reason to believe she won’t. He adds that Lynch had nothing to do with Holder’s policy, but she can fix things.

10:11 Grassley continues his broad-ranging attack on the Holder Justice Department. He’s talking about Fast and Furious and the IRS targeting now.

10:08 Grassley begins his opening statement. He says the new AG will have to restore respect for the rule of law, for the co-equal branches, for transparency, for the faithful execution of the law, etc.

10:06 Grassley urges the audience not to get rowdy. “I know there’s a lot to protest about this administration, but this is not the place to do it,” he says.

10:05 Sen. Grassley, the Chairman of Judiciary Committee, brings down the gravel. It’s on!

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