tv Attorney General Testifies at Senate Oversight Hearing Part 3 CSPAN March 2, 2023 12:04am-12:48am EST
last. we begin the second round with senator whitehouse. >> thank you, attorney general. i will go to a topic that was addressed earlier by senator blumenthal and senator graham, the question of the freezing, seizing and forfeiture of russian oligarch and kleptocratic assets. one of the problems that we are running into is that for the highly valuable assets that can be seized from oligarchs, like massive yachts or faberge eggs, or other works of very expensive art, the value is well above $500,000. right now we have an administrative forfeiture procedure that applies for assets valued only up to $500,000. above that, you have to go through a different procedure. the nutshell way that i think
about this is that the simpler administrative forfeiture procedure allows the government to proceed in rem against the asset. and people have to show up if they have a claim to the asset. it is a little like what the doj did with botnets, they had a proceeding in rem, and anyone who had a claim had a right to show up in court and present themselves. they probably would've gone off in handcuffs, but they had that right. with respect to assets above $5,000 associated with russian oligarchs who are associated with the criminal war putin launched into ukraine, we would like to see the law change. senator graham supports this, senator blumenthal and i supports this and we have legislation to support this. i want to take my moment here with you to make sure you and i,
the marshals service, your forfeiture offices, are all properly aligned so we can move quickly to get this changed. at the moment having to identify the owner of an asset which is often hidden in rushing nesting doll layers of fire away bank accounts, shell corporations, cyprus holding companies. really puts a major crimp in our ability to proceed fairly. i don't think there is any national or public interest in having russian oligarchs who supported this war treated better than american citizens simply because their assets are more valuable. so, would you please tell your team to greenlight working with us to get this bill passed quickly out of this committee, and into legislation on the floor?
a.g. garland: i am wholeheartedly in favor of the team working with you on this. thanks to the work of congress, i was able to certify for transfer to ukraine money that was seized from one oligarch. most recently, our task force klepto capture forfeited 75 million dollars from victor bechtel burke. they have done an enormous amount of work to find nesting within nesting within nesting of shell corporations. it would be easier if that weren't required. we would be happy to work with your team on this. >> thank you, senator whitehouse. senator grassley. >> thank you, attorney general garland for being here. my first question is a follow-up to questioning with senator cotton. he told this committee, quote
the executive branch cannot simply decide based on policy disagreements that will not enforce the law, end of quote. then he released december 16, 2022 memo instructing prosecutors to disregard the law that established sentencing differences between cocaine and cocaine base. your decision not to enforce the law and it congressional discussions at that particular point for compromise. if doj claims that it will ignore the law by declining to prosecute a law that grew out of bipartisan compromise in this committee, it is hard to see how members can trust the department about following any further bipartisan deals. would you withdraw your memo, so that meaningful legislative discussion can resume? and if you don't have an agreement with me, why would you
do that? a.g. garland: senator, i want to be clear, we are not saying we want to enforce the law. in all the examples, people are not being prosecuted for violation of the controlled substances act. it is only a question of what sentence we will seek. this is a matter of prosecutorial discretion. we do not in any way limit the judge. we have to honestly tell the judge what the drug was, and what the amounts was, but this goes to the question of what we will charge and seek. but we are charging these people with violations of the controlled substances act. >> the department of justice charged nicolas maduro with narco terrorism and drug trafficking. and the office of foreign assets control sanctioned him, since then, the biden administration has released $3 billion of foreign venezuelan assets and authorized chevron to drill.
does the department of justice still consider nicolas maduro a fugitive of u.s. justice? if so, do you commit to diligently pursuing his arrest? a.g. garland: senator, i really don't have any information. i know who maduro is and that he was charged, i don't know his current status. i will be happy to answer. >> will you enter in writing? a.g. garland: of course. >> i have strong concerns about competition problems in different areas of the economy. example, i have conducted oversight instructed legislation to address abuses in pharmaceutical agriculture, high-tech industries. can you tell us what the antitrust priorities are for the justice department under your leadership? and are your resources following that priority? a.g. garland: our priorities are
both the prevent increased concentration in industries that are already concentrated. agriculture is a good example. pharmaceuticals is another very good example. we closely look at the mergers, and investigate them. our other priority, closely related is exclusionary conduct by dominant firms. we are doing quite a bit of that work, as referenced by some of the cases we have filed. we are also looking at criminal violations of price-fixing, and others. with respect to resources, we can always use more, we are faced by the opposite side with companies with virtually unlimited resources. i have expressed gratitude for the house merger fees bill which has given us more money to even the playing field a little bit.
>> senator blumenthal? >> thank you, mr. attorney general. i want to thank you for the supportive comments he made about the open apps market act. i'm hoping the department of justice will support us because right now we have a duopoly in the mobile apps stores, apple, google. this measure would stop those two companies from exacting ransoms, boxing out competitors. i'm hoping the department of justice will support this measure. a.g. garland: assistant general cantor has already testified in support of the bill. i hope to get the administration on board as well but he has already and that represents my views as well. >> i want to talk about the
foreign intelligence surveillance act, specifically section 702, not exactly a topic of major inquiry but enormously important. without going into classified information, that provision, i believe, was instrumental in preventing major catastrophic aggression against our nation. and also, helping our allies, like ukrainians with intelligence that was extremely critical to pushing back the russians. and knowing what they needed to know on the battlefield. could you comment on the importance of reauthorizing section 702? a.g. garland: this is a statute we didn't have last time i was at the justice department. i didn't know what to expect
when i came in this time. every morning, i have an all threats briefing with fbi, the intelligence community, our national security division. an enormously large percentage of threats information read are receiving comes from 702 collection. all the examples you are talking about, ukraine, threats by foreign terrorist organizations, threats from adversaries, china, north korea, iran, russia -- a lot of what we do in the area of cyber, particularly ransomware investigations of finding out who is behind the investigation. sometimes it comes from information that is at least in part due to seven or two. we would be intentionally
brining ourselves to extraordinary danger. this is not -- this is something i have learned as i have been at the department. >> and our allies as well. a.g. garland: yes. >> senator cornyn? >> i'm sure you'll agree that the independence of the federal judiciary is one of the crown jewel's of our form of government. historically, federal judges have had a hard time defending themselves against attacks of various kinds. i just want to raise with you my concerns that we're seeing not only attacks like those from former staffers of this committee who happened to now be on the outside in special interest groups. saying that now when reporters cover cases being cited by a judge, they ought to cite the partisan affiliation of that judge.
and saying it is important to say, for example, it is not just chief justice roberts per se that he is a republican, not a conservative leaning justice. this is happening in the press, on social media. as you have already discussed with my colleagues, this has led to political protests at the justices' homes, and even an threatened assassination of a member of the supreme court of the united states. but unfortunately, it is not just limited to the outside partisan rabble-rousers. it includes speeches made by united states senators on the floor of the senate. mr. chairman, i'd ask unanimous consent that this be made part of the record.
this is a speech by a united states senator trying to discredit a judge, happens to be in texas, senator cruz and i recommended and he was appointed and now serves a lifetime tenure as a federal judge, calling him an partisan ideologue and antiabortion zealot. he goes further to say that regardless of how the judge may decide this particular case, that it will inevitably be affirmed by the activist fifth circuit court of appeals. then surely rubberstamped by the united states supreme court. i find this sort of rhetoric, particularly by a united states senator, to be appalling. i wonder if you will join me in condemning that sort of attack on the independence of the southern judiciary? a.g. garland: when i first got
in the judiciary, i am several of my colleagues pounded our heads against the wall trying to get reporters to stop. this was more than 25 years ago. to stop reporting the name of the president who appointed us, or the party. unfortunately, this is a battle that has not been won, and obviously, given the authority of the first amendment, is one that we are not going to be able to win. i come from a kinder and gentler era, and a kinder and gentler court, even in terms of the way members of the court treat themselves. >> general garland, you are the chief justice officer of the united states, will you condemn it? a.g. garland: i am against
divisive rhetoric of all kinds, but i do not have authority in this matter as you know, the speech and debate clause -- >> you have moral authority. >> my moral authority is against divisive rhetoric in all quarters. that is my moral authority. >> senator lee. >> that's the concern i have got. is that you don't seem to condemn the divisiveness if it is on the left. i want to go back briefly to the section 1507, it is pretty darn clear. i personally don't see how anyone could protest outside the home of a supreme court justice. especially while engaging in issue advocacy related to a case they have taken or are currently hearing. it doesn't violate section 1507 so fact that you have put u.s.
marshals service in charge of protecting homes, great. the fact that not a single charge has been made is very disconcerting. as is the fact that even if the marshals don't make an arrest, which is stunning that they haven't. but even if they had, there is video footage, you can identify folks, and the fact that you are not doing that is disturbing to me. as it was on the day when the department of justice took what i believe was a pretty unprecedented step, issuing a skating statement not just saying we are disappointed with the outcome, but making arguments that called into question the legitimacy of the court. i have never seen the department of justice do that. it is cause for additional concern when i see people having received clemency, now facing the prospect of being prosecuted
again, after receiving clemency by a prior president. add all this up with the fact that by the end of this year, we're going to see the expiration of section 702 of the foreign intelligence surveillance act. the department is already chomping at the bit to be asking us to simply reauthorize that. notwithstanding the fact that there are examples of how this has been politicized, how section 702 has been misused. let current standard for warrantless backdoor search of the content of communications of american persons is reasonably likely to return evidence of a crime. but the oh dni's recently declassified semiannual report released on 2022, report all kinds of noncompliant searches. these are just the ones we know
about. just the ones that the odni report identified, of a political party, a individual recommended to participate in the fbi citizens' academy, journalists and even a congressman. politicized asian of the department is a problem. you can tell your department, not a chance in hell we will reauthorize that thing without major reforms. your department is not trusted because it has been politicized. i know you are a good person. you have the ability to reign it in, i ask that you do so promptly. >> senator cruz. >> general garland, the department of justice should enforce the law regardless of politics. i do not believe that has been what is been happening the last two years. among other things, i believe you very much want to indict donald j. trump.
toward that end, the department of justice has leaked that doj is investigating and intends to indict hunter biden. the purpose of those weeks, i believe, was to set a predicate for an indictment of trump to say look how even-handed we are. those leaks are not law or enforcing the law, they are politics. did you know about the leaks, the hunter biden investigation? a.g. garland: i don't know about the leaks you are talking about. the leaks are in violation of our regulations and requirements. >> the leaks are consistently on one side of the aisle. as you know, the fbi raided donald trump's mar-a-lago home.
subsequent to that rate, there had been multiple leaks about what was discovered, including a photograph of documents discovered there. did you know about the leaks before that raid? a.g. garland: the photograph was a filing in court in response to a motion filed by mr. trump. it was not a leak. >> you testified there have not been leaks about the trump raid? a.g. garland: i read the leaks, they are inappropriate. we also don't know where they come from. >> what was interesting is one the shoe was on the other foot, i believe your intention, and i believe it is a political intention to indict president trump, became infinitely harder when classified documents were discovered repeatedly at president biden's multiple residences. according to the public record, those were first discovered november 2, six days before the election.
the department of justice was notified november 4, yet miraculously, there was no leak about classified documents at president biden's home. when it politically benefited the effort to go after and charge donald trump, doj leaked. when it potentially harmful democrat president, doj did not leak. does that strike you as a double standard? a.g. garland: leaks under all circumstances are inappropriate, and not directed by anyone in the justice department. >> let me say in particular on hunter biden, i very much hope an investigation is focused not just on his own personal substance abuse issues, but on connections to his father and potential corruption. that is the matter of public concern, and why people are concerned. it was striking the leak from doj suggests this is just going after some poor person struggling with drugs instead of
looking at the very real evidence of corruption. will you commit that the investigation will actually examine the public corruption aspect? and not simply scapegoat hunter biden as an individual. a.g. garland: i can't comment about the investigation other than to say all the matters involving mr. hunter biden are under the purview of the u.s. attorney in delaware. he is not restricted in any way. >> but then you leak at the same time. >> attorney general, garland, you said your practice is to defer to fbi agent in the field when it comes to investigations of subject. i was interested given your answer to read in this morning's washington post that the fbi is saying you overruled them when it came to rating ex-president trump's personal residence. the morning before the raid,
senior fbi officials in charge of leading the search resisted doing so as too combative. and propose to seek trump's permission to search his pro perty. they wanted to shudder the criminal investigation in early june but they were overruled by doj. in light of your earlier testimony, my question is, how often do you overruled fbi agent for political purposes? a.g. garland: that is not an accurate reflection of what the article says. i am not able to comment on the investigation. my earlier comment was about tactics on the ground. >> wait, wait, wait, i'm reading from the article, "senior fbi officials who would be in charge of leading the search resisted the plan is too combative, and proposed instead to seek trump's
permission," according to four people. a.g. garland: again, i have to say, i am not able to describe the investigation. as a general matter, in my long experience as a prosecutor, there is often a robust discussion. it is encouraged among investigators and prosecutors -- >> yes, and you made the decision. right? you said you did. a.g. garland: i'm sorry. what i said was i approved the decision. to seek a search warrant after probable cause. >> overruling fbi agent who do not want to do so. did you talk about this at the white house? a.g. garland: that post article does not say what you are saying. >> i will ask that this entire article be entered into the record. >> without objection.
>> by invite people to go and look, it says exactly that fbi field agents were overruled by doj. so, it doesn't seem to me, attorney general, that the fbi has more confidence than you because what they are doing is trying to distance themselves from your decisions. they are leaking, saying, it wasn't us. we didn't want to do it, he made us do it. what does that say about their competence and your leadership? a.g. garland: the previous senators that they are all leaking in favor of the left, now you are saying -- >> answer my question based on this evidence. don't dissemble. >> time has expired. >> i want to return to the illegal protests outside of justice homes last summer. it is plaintly unlawful. you testified earlier that no
charges have been brought against those protesters. but why have no charges been brought? a.g. garland: the decision about making arrests is left of the marshals on scene. >> marshals are law enforcement officials, not prosecutors. i did not say arrest, i said charges. these people were not criminal masterminds. they posted videos of themselves on their social media accounts. they advertise the protests in advance. it is possible to arrest someone after the incident has occurred, has it not? why did you not send anyone in the days after those protests? a.g. garland: we are allocating resources towards protecting the lives of justices, and their families. decisions have to be made on the ground as to what is the best way to protect those lives. >> do you not think it would perhaps provide a deterrent effect if you are arrested some criminal protesters and threw them in federal prison? a.g. garland: we are trying to
protect the lives of justices that is our principal priority. using the marshals service to make determinations on the ground of what they see. >> consider the efforts your department has put in to tracking down everyone on the capitol grounds on january 6, 2021, you dedicated millions of man-hours to study videotape, do forensic analysis of computers and devices, to conduct interviews. you can't allocate just a few agents to look at people's social media accounts? say they were present outside a justice's, home? it's a clear violation of the law. a.g. garland: our priority is protected protect the justices, that's what we're doing. >> these are not masterminds, they posted pictures of themselves protesting. you could probably arrest one today from a cold start. why can't you do that? a.g. garland: again, our purpose is to protect lives and safety
of the justices. >> you sent the fbi to do an early morning raid in front of his children for the grave crime of singing hymns and saying prayers outside an abortion clinic. charges of which he was acquitted within an hour, you can't send the fbi to track down anyone protesting outside the home of a supreme court justice? a.g. garland: our priority is to protect allies and safety of the justices. >> you are sympathetic to the protesters. you didn't like the decision that justices would issue. we knew what you would do if conservative protesters were outside the home of a democratic appointee to the supreme court. it is a simple violation. he will not send a single agent to conduct a single arrest on something they have zero defense for because you are sympathetic
to left protesters. >> mr. attorney general, i want to go back to the two tears of justice. the answers you have given us are very subjective in how you approach decisions. you don't seem to be rules based in how you make decisions. as a matter of fact, you come across as being very political in the decisions you make. and politicizing your work is something that offends most tennesseans. i want to ask about these two tiers of justice, particularly the way you responded to congressional oversight investigations. the house judiciary committee requested that you turn over documents relating to the special counsel investigation. president biden's mishandling of classified documents. but your doj so far has
stonewalled the house request, claiming you can't turn over documents on an open matter. now let's compare that with your decision. obviously, very subjective. to fully cooperate with document requests from the house january 6 committee. your fbi had no problem at all turning over documents and information to that committee. even though they related to an open investigation. do you see this comparison here? do you appreciate this? this is a prime example of two tiers of justice. your two-tier system, who you cooperate with, so why have you cooperated with document requests made from democratic led committees? but you have refused chairman
jordan, and you have refused the house judiciary committee. when they are requesting documents that pertain to president biden's mishandling of classified documents. a.g. garland: we greatly respect the oversight response abilities of the committees of congress. and at the same time, we have to protect ongoing investigations. i do not believe we turned over information to the january 6 committee -- >> you give one set of responses for republicans. another for democrats. you have one tier of justice for conservatives, and another for those on the left. you told me earlier you didn't know who he has, they are all over twitter. i will do you have favor. i will send you a letter with a
whole lot of twitter and different feeds to help you in that investigation for the hope clinic. >> thank you, senator blackburn. senator graham is on the way. i am going to take my three minutes now. there was a reference made earlier to the drug war legislation of about 25 or 30 years ago. as a member of the house, i voted for it. it was an overreaction to crack cocaine. a new narcotic that scared us to death. it was cheap, addictive, lethal and heavily damaging. we did what most people do in reaction to such phenomena, we raised the penalty to an unimaginable height. the sentencing penalty went from 1 to 1 to 100 to 1. the net result is the opposite of what we hoped for, the price
of the drug went down, supply of the drug went out. it filled prisons. i don't want to make that mistake when it comes to fentanyl. it is a deadly dangerous situation, and i hope the initial reaction of getting tough and sentencing mandatory minimums has substance animal that we do. the second point i'd like to make is it is interesting to step back and follow what you face today, in terms of resources that the government protecting elected officials when it comes to supreme court justices, we hear you didn't do enough. you have got to do more. i can understand this sentiment. but when it comes to school board members, the fact that you sent out a memo suggesting they may be in danger at a meeting has been translated into invidious diminution of freedom of speech in this country. you have to decide on a daily basis as attorney general where he will apply resources of
government. i hope and i believe you share the bottom line that violence is unacceptable from either side politically in any circumstance. if we use that standard objectively, it will be an effective standard for the future. the last point should be set again, you have authorized special counsel to investigate classified materials both at president biden's home as well as president trump's home. special counsels have some independence by their designation, can you explain why you did that? a.g. garland: we publicly explain why we appointed special counsel. with respect to president trump, he announced he was candidate for president. president biden indicated he would be a candidate.
that is extraordinary and well-fitting within the regulations to provide the level of independence and accountability that fit the purpose of the special counsel regulations. >> senator graham, take it away. >> do deserve a purple heart for being here all day. i have enjoyed working with you and your team regarding ukraine oligarch seizures and complement you, you have done a really good job seizing some of their assets and sending it to the ukrainian people. i want to work with you as much as you can to create an international tribunal to let putin and his cronies know you will pay a price. there is no forgiving and forgetting. they picked the wrong side and they need to pay a price, do you agree? a.g. garland: i do. >> some areas of disagreement.
arkansas, mississippi, south dakota, utah have announced legislation that regulates certain medical interventions on minor children, 21, 18, whatever the state, regarding transgender surgeries and puberty blocking medical procedures. your office wrote a letter march 31, 2022 to the state suggesting that if a state passed a law banning medical procedures to transition minor children, they may be running afoul of equal protection for due process clause of the 14th amendment, is that your position? a.g. garland: the department believes all people in the united states are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. the situation you are talking about has to be evaluated by
doctors and families. individuals have to make those determinations. >> states have passed laws, okay? we have 50 states here, they have passed laws and more are coming for hitting this procedure because they believe that allowing transition medical procedures on a minor is a life-altering intent and should not be done until you are older and better appreciate what you are doing. states have taken that view, i think more of them well. is it the position of the department of justice that such laws are unconstitutional? a.g. garland: the position is categorical across the board, prohibitions on certain kinds of surgeries have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. the civil rights division will do that with respect to laws they are talking about when the
time comes. >> so the bottom line is, the four laws in question, have you looked at the laws in arkansas, mississippi, south dakota and utah? a.g. garland: i haven't. >> do me a favor, look at them, get back to me and answer my question. are they constitutional in the eyes of the department of justice? thank you, i did it in three minutes. >> the record of the hearing will remain open for a week. questions may be cemented by senators before 5:00 p.m. on wednesday, march 8. general garland, please provide answers on a timely basis. with that, the hearing is adjourned. [gavels]
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