Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Kristen Clarke, Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Clarke appeared along with Todd Kim, the nominee to head the Environment and Natural Resources Division. This meant a pretty easy time for Kim.
Clarke, by contrast, came under heavy fire. She tried to deflect it through a combination of lies and nonsense.
Consider her exchange with Sen. Ted Cruz. In June 2020, Clarke wrote an article for Newsweek called “I Prosecuted Police Killings. Defund the Police — But Be Strategic.” So Cruz asked Clarke whether she still favors defunding the police.
Clarke responded that she doesn’t support defunding the police, and that she wrote the Newsweek article to make it clear that she does not support defunding the police (she later made clear that she equates “defunding” the police with investing fewer resources in the police). Clarke blamed the title of the article, which called expressly for defunding the police, on Newsweek.
Cruz showed, however, that in the body of her article Clarke repeatedly advocated taking resources away from the police. Three paragraphs in a row began with the words “we must invest less in police.” (Emphasis added)
Unable to sustain her false statement, under oath, that her article didn’t call for defunding the police, Clarke resorted to a fallback position. She defended her article by saying that, at the time she wrote it, she lacked “the power of the purse.” In other words, she lacked the power to defund the police.
That’s an interesting defense. Is it one of general applicability?
If a nominee for a civil rights job had called for defunding the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, should the Senate overlook that advocacy because at the time of publication, the author lacked the power of the purse? If I advocate life sentences for pickpockets, is it unfair to hold me accountable for that position because I’m not a prosecutor, a judge, or a legislator?
Clarke noted that Joe Biden supports increased funding for the police (through the federal COPS program), and that she concurs. I suspect that the devil is in the details when it comes to Biden’s position on more funding.
But let’s put that aside. If Biden really wants more money for the police, then jobs in his administration that intersect with policing should be filled by presidential appointees who didn’t disagree with Biden’s view nine months ago.
In any case, they shouldn’t be filled by nominees who, like Kristen Clarke, lie under oath as to what their position was.