Eleven Republican senators have demanded a second confirmation hearing for nominee Vanita Gupta due to “her misleading statements, and for her refusal to respond to our written questions.”
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), John Kennedy (R-MS), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) addressed a letter Tuesday to Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), detailing their belief that Gupta mislead the Committee on at least four issues:
(1) Her support for eliminating qualified immunity
(2) Her support for decriminalizing all drugs
(3) Her support for defunding the police
(4) Her death penalty record
The letter states in “some cases, she doubled down on her misleading statements from the hearing, and in others she refused to answer altogether.”
“In ‘response’ to scores of our questions, she merely copied-and-pasted the same inapplicable, general statements for one question after another,” the Senators wrote.
Breitbart News obtained those questions for the record, which Gupta has refused to answer, confirming the Senators’ position and angst over her obstinance. Many of the unanswered questions are as follows:
I asked you about a tweet of yours that took a particular position on religious freedom rights, in particular, “Yes, freedom of religion is a fundamental right, but it is not an absolute right. It cannot be used as a shield to permit discrimination.”
You replied with a statement of support for religious freedom but did not answer my specific questions.
- Do you stand by this statement?
- Is it a correct understanding of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?
I asked you if “[i]n your view, is a personal philosophical or religious objection to the death penalty on the part of President Biden a valid justification to abandon the defense of Dylann Roof’s death sentence on direct appeal?”
You responded in pertinent part that, “[w]ith respect to matters of policy, because the Department is part of the Executive Branch, the Department advances the policies of the President as long as they are consistent with the law.”
That’s true but it doesn’t really answer my question, so I’ll be more precise and less specific to see if that helps. There are not necessarily right or wrong answers to these questions. I want to see how you approach policy and the law.
- In your personal view, is a personal religious objection to the death penalty on the part of the president a valid justification to abandon the defense of death sentences as a matter of policy?
- In your personal view, is a personal religious objection to the death penalty on the part of the president a valid justification to abandon the defense of death sentences as a matter of law?
Furthermore, according to your lobbyist registrations, you lobbied Congress on behalf of the Leadership Conference against the Stop Settlement Slush Fund Act of 2017. You are, therefore familiar with this issue and you must have a view on my theoretical question. This isn’t an issue you’ll be encountering for the first time at the Justice Department.
Based on your personal legal views as informed by both your time in the Civil Rights Division and as a lobbyist against the Stop Settlement Slush Fund Act of 2017, what do you think is the constitutional justification for the use of these third-party payments in the absence of a regulation prohibiting their use?
During your hearing, Senator Cruz asked you whether it is permissible for the government to prohibit partial-birth abortion. You did not answer that question, instead saying that your duty, “if confirmed, will be to federal laws and the Constitution. Roe v. Wade is established precedent and has been reaffirmed numerous times by the courts, and [your] duty will be to enforce the federal laws and the Constitution.” Under federal law and the Constitution, do you believe that it is permissible for the government to prohibit partial-birth abortion?
Rather than answering whether you believe that the Constitution and federal law allow the government to prohibit partial-birth abortion, you responded by providing almost the exact same response as before:
3/17 RESPONSE: Roe v. Wade is established precedent that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed many times. If confirmed as Associate Attorney General, my duty will be to enforce the Constitution and other federal laws.
I am not asking you whether Roe v. Wade is established precedent, or whether the Supreme Court has reaffirmed it. I am not asking you whether, if confirmed as Associate Attorney General, your duty will be to enforce the Constitution or other federal laws. I am asking you: Do you believe that the Constitution and other federal laws allow the government to prohibit partial-birth abortion?
In my written questions to you on March 12, which you returned on March 17, I asked you the following question:
Do you believe that Americans ought to be treated differently based on the color of their skin?
In the same questions, I also asked you the following:
Do you believe that the Constitution allows the government to treat Americans differently based on the color of their skin? For both questions, you appear to have copied-and-pasted the same response:
3/17 RESPONSE: If I am confirmed, I will seek to ensure that Department actions abide by the laws and Constitution of the United States, including bans on unlawful discrimination on the basis of race.
I am not asking you whether you will seek to ensure that the Department of Justice abides by the laws and the Constitution. I’m asking you what you believe the laws and the Constitution of the United States of America mean: Do you believe that the Constitution of the United States allows the government to treat any Americans differently based on the color of their skin?
You have highlighted endorsement letters issued on your behalf from law enforcement unions and associations. As I noted in one of my written questions to you on March 12:
Several of these same organizations have informed my office that they felt pressured by the Biden administration to endorse your nomination. In more than one case, organizations shared that they had offered to the administration to endorse your superiors (Attorney General Garland and Lisa Monaco) instead, but were told that was “not enough.”
Given the allegations my office received from these groups, in my written questions to you on March 12, I asked you the following question:
Since the date that you first discussed with the Biden campaign or transition team the possibility that you could be nominated to the position of Associate Attorney General until the date of your hearing, please list each meeting or contact you have had with any law enforcement group that endorsed your nomination. For each such meeting or contact, please identify any Biden campaign, administration, or transition team official who joined the meeting. For each such meeting or contact, please also identify whether the meeting included any discussions or suggestion of the organization endorsing your nomination.
You did not provide this information. Instead, you responded with the following:
3/17 RESPONSE: Throughout my career, I have communicated regularly with law enforcement groups and leaders. Many of those conversations are informal.
I am not asking you whether you have had communications with law enforcement leaders throughout your career. I’m not asking about your career in general, either. I asked specifically about the meetings you had with the groups that issued these endorsement letters, between the time that you first discussed your potential nomination with the Biden campaign, administration, or transition team and the date of your nomination hearing. Please list each meeting or contact you have had with any law enforcement group that has endorsed your nomination, since the date that you first discussed with the Biden campaign or transition team the possibility that you could be nominated to the position of Associate Attorney General until the date of your hearing. For each listed meeting, please identify any Biden campaign, administration, or transition team official who joined the meeting, and whether the meeting included any discussions or suggestion of the organization endorsing your nomination.
As then-nominee Merrick Garland stated only weeks ago, a nominee for a position in the Department of Justice is “free to talk about policy.” During your hearing, and in your responses to questions for the record, you repeatedly stated that the positions for which you advocated as the President and CEO of the Leadership Conference were attributable to the organization and not to you personally. This implies a difference between your personal position and the position of the Leadership Conference on at least some issues.
a. Name three issues on which your personal position differs materially from the position of the Leadership Conference.
b. Does your personal position differ materially from the Leadership Conference’s position “in favor of eliminating qualified immunity.” If so, in what way?
c. On behalf of the Leadership Conference, you encouraged a policy of reallocation of resources away from law enforcement, stating that “some people call it ‘defunding’ the police, other people call it ‘divest/invest.’ But whatever you call it, if you care about mass incarceration, you have to care about skewed funding priorities.” Does your personal position differ materially from this position? If so, in what way?
d. If you cannot answer the above questions, please state why you are unable to answer.
At your hearing and in my questions for the record, I asked you about a provision in the Equality Act that expressly strips religious liberty protections from Americans across the country, and you refused to answer. The provision in question states that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “shall not provide a claim concerning or a defense to a claim under, [specific federal laws], or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement [of those specific laws].” You have confirmed, as a matter of public record, that you support this bill. So I asked, on the record, “yes or no, do you support this specific provision,” and “[i]f you still refuse to answer, please state why you are unable to do so.”
You are deeply familiar with this issue, having lobbied in favor of the Equality Act, and yet you again refused to answer the question, or even offer a reason why you were unable to answer the question. Instead, you stated, “if confirmed, I look forward to reviewing any proposed legislation, including the Equality Act, and, in consultation with Department leadership and career attorneys, helping determine the Department’s official position on the matter.”
a. Why did you not disclose in your SJQ that you lobbied in support of H.R. 5, the Equality Act?
b. During the course of lobbying in support of the Equality Act, did you ever advocate in support of the provision referenced above?
c. Recognizing that, if you are confirmed, you will consult with others in the Department to determine the Department’s official position, what is your current personal view of this provision? If you once again refuse to answer, please state the basis for doing so.
For the record, I asked you to provide examples of when you defended the speech rights of an individual whose viewpoint diverged from your own. You responded: “While I was Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, the organization defended the rights of anti-gay protestors to protest at the funerals of LGBTQ people. In the course of my work, I frequently had to defend the ACLU’s participation in this case, even though I vehemently disagreed with the protestors’ message and method of delivering it.” But what you describe is the ACLU’s legal position, and your public “defen[se]” of it. That may not be your personal position, as you have repeatedly emphasized with respect to your work leading the Leadership Conference.
a. Do you agree with the ACLU’s decision to defend, as a matter of free speech rights, the speech and speakers in that case?
b. During your time at the ACLU, did you ever advocate for, support, or espouse a different position with regard to the speech rights of these individuals?
c. If your answer to 5(a) is anything other than “yes,” please provide an example of when you have not only defended the speech rights of an individual whose viewpoint diverged dramatically from your own, but also agreed in your personal capacity with that defense.
The request for a second hearing comes after Breitbart News reported that Gupta has “long praised proposals to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour while also owning stock in her family’s company which pays its Mexican labor force $1.30 an hour.” Additionally, Gupta also owns between $11 million and $55 million of stock in her father’s company that sold acetic anhydride to Mexican cartels, a chemical used to make “high-grade ‘china white’ heroin and methamphetamine.”