Chairman Nadler Statement for Department of Justice Oversight Hearing with Attorney General Garland
Washington, October 21, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Department of Justice oversight hearing with Attorney General Merrick Garland:
"Good morning, Mr. Attorney General, and thank you for appearing before our Committee today.
"When the Department of Justice performs as it should, it is a champion of the Bill of Rights, the protector of the rule of law, and the cornerstone of the institutions that make up our republic. As Attorney General, you have the responsibility to keep the Department functioning at this high level, preserving the Constitution for our children and our children’s children.
"You have assumed this enormous responsibility at a crossroads in our nation’s history.
"For four years, the democratic institutions you have sworn to protect—first, as a judge, and now, as Attorney General—were deeply undermined by the former President and his political enablers. During that time, the Trump Administration leveraged the Department to protect the President and his friends, and to punish his enemies, both real and imagined.
"And when the former President lost the last election, he summoned the top law enforcement officers in the country and demanded that they use the full power of the federal government to install him for another term. Trump’s plan failed, at least in part, because at least some Department officials refused to help him overturn the election. Even now, however, the ex-President and his allies continue to cast doubt on the last election and appear to be drafting a plan to overturn the next one. And next time, we may not be so lucky.
"Your task as Attorney General is unenviable, Judge Garland, because you must build back everything DOJ lost under the last administration: its self-confidence, its reputation in the eyes of the American people, and an institutional respect for our Constitution and the rule of law.
"And it is not enough just to right the ship.
"As the chief law enforcement officer of our nation, it is also your responsibility to help the country understand and reckon with the violence and the lawlessness of the last Administration, while maintaining the Department’s prosecutorial independence.
"On January 6, insurgents stormed the Capitol Building in what appears to be a pre-planned, organized assault on our government, seeking to overturn the votes of their fellow Americans and believing in the lie told to them by President Trump and his followers.
"I commend the Department for doing the important work of bringing those responsible for the violence of January 6 to justice. I ask only that you continue to follow the facts and the law where they lead—because although you have rightly brought hundreds of charges against those who physically trespassed in the Capitol, the evidence suggests that you will soon have some hard decisions to make about those who organized and incited the attack in the first place.
"And we must acknowledge the simple truth that none of the individuals who attacked the Capitol that day appeared out of thin air. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, membership in white nationalist groups grew 55 percent during the Trump Presidency. Membership in hate groups overall remains historically high.
"The COVID-19 epidemic, as with many national crises, brought out both the best and the worst of our fellow Americans. While everyday heroes struggled to save lives and keep people safe, anti-Asian hate crimes and hate incidents skyrocketed. Innocent people lost their lives and communities were shattered. I know DOJ and its components are key to the Biden Administration’s National Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism, and I am looking forward to hearing more about how DOJ is working to prevent violent extremists from gaining further foothold in our country.
"This growth in extremist ideology is echoed in an epidemic of violence and intimidation directed at our health care professionals, teachers, essential workers, school board members, and election workers. To be clear, we are a country that prizes democratic involvement at every level of government. The right to be heard, to have a voice, is guaranteed by our Constitution. But nobody has a right to threaten his fellow citizens with violence. You were absolutely right to ask the FBI and federal prosecutors to meet with local law enforcement agencies and set up dedicated lines of communication, so that we can confront this spike in violence head on.
"There is a broader pattern here. In each of these cases—former President Trump’s big lie, the rise in hate crimes against citizens of Asian descent, and the growing threats of violence against public servants—the same set of individuals have leveraged the same sorts of misinformation, stoked the same sorts of grievances, and shown remarkably little interest in solving our problems.
"But this country, and your tenure as Attorney General, cannot be defined only by the outrages of the last four years. We have much more to do to deliver on our nation’s fundamental promise of liberty and justice for all.
"Black and brown Americans deserve to live in a country where they can trust that their local police departments will protect—not endanger—their families. I applaud you for taking steps to limit the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and we must continue to work together to address the issues that allow for our criminal justice system to so disproportionately impact people of color.
"Across the country, state legislatures are restricting the right to vote in service of the most cynical political motives. Your Department has rightly stepped in to secure our next election, and Congress owes you a Voting Rights Restoration Act that will give you the tools you need to consign these nakedly undemocratic efforts to the dustbin of history, where they belong.
"Similarly, Texas’s law to ban abortion after 6 weeks and punish abortion providers is designed to restrict its citizens’ constitutionally protected rights. It does so by offering to pay a bounty to those who would turn in their neighbors, coworkers, or even strangers if they suspect someone violated the law or helped a woman get an abortion after six weeks. This deliberately creates an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that stops women from seeking help. It is a dangerous law that is repugnant to the Constitution and I thank you for Department’s swift action to protect these essential rights."We cannot become a country where only some people in some states enjoy their constitutional rights. As Attorney General, you have the power to help our country navigate the generational trauma of oppression and move past the challenges of the last four years. Thank you again for appearing before us today. I look forward to your testimony."