Republicans confronted Associate Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta in her confirmation hearing Tuesday with her radical views and record of partisan attacks, prompting Democrats to intervene after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) questioned her.
Gupta has favored ending qualified immunity for police officers, testifying in favor of that position before the committee last year. She has also advocated defunding the police in a seminar in June, complaining about “skewed funding priorities.” She led the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division during President Barack Obama’s second term — a period in which the department backed the Black Lives Matter movement by imposing consent decrees on large urban police departments.
In addition, Gupta has a long history of harsh rhetoric and radical views, including packing the Supreme Court. As recently as 2019, she described Republicans as “driven by hate, bigotry and fear of any threat to the status quo.”
She apologized on Tuesday for some of her past rhetoric in her hearing, and pledged that she would be impartial in her new position.
Republicans made clear that they saw Gupta’s views and behavior as a problem, bringing it up last month during the confirmation hearing for Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland. They confronted Gupta directly on Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Cruz began by asking Gupta about her positions on abortion, gun rights, and religious liberty — all issues on which she has taken strong ideological stances in the past. (For instance, she opposed religious freedom as an exemption from same-sex discrimination laws, and would have forced bakers in Colorado to provide a cake to a gay wedding over their objections — a position that was later defeated in a narrow decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.)
On every issue, Gupta evaded the question about her own views, saying that she would only apply the law of the land.
Committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) took the extraordinary step of interrupting Cruz, demanding that he allow Gupta to answer — when, in fact, she had been evading his question about her views on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Gupta similarly evaded questions from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and others about whether she would uphold a Trump-era policy preventing the Department of Justice from seeking massive payouts for third parties as a result of litigation. President Barack Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder had used such payouts to fund left-wing interest groups. Gupta said that she would follow the regulations — but Senators noted that, too, was an evasion, given that regulations could be changed.
She also dodged questions from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on whether she supported ending qualified immunity for police:Senate Judiciary Committee
On the question of apologizing for past offensive remarks, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) reminded Gupta that she wrote in 2018 that the Senate should reject an apology from judicial nominee Ryan Bounds for some of his past remarks while a student at Stanford University, saying that “the timing of that apology suggests it is one of convenience rather than remorse.”Senate Judiciary Committee
Later, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) confronted Gupta with the fact that she had advocated for the decriminalization of all drugs, not just marijuana, despite having told the committee several times that she did not support that position. He suggested she had misled the committee under oath; she said that her views had merely changed. Cotton also disputed Gupta’s view that every institution in America was tainted by racism, asking her if President Joe Biden’s White House, too, was racist.
Democrats, rattled by the questions posed by Cruz and others, attempted to save Gupta. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) complained that Cruz had criticized Gupta for her partisan rhetoric, yet used an allegedly partisan series of questions about her views. Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) told Gupta she had been the victim of a “despicable and rancid” smear campaign.
Lisa Monaco, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Deputy Attorney General, received considerably less scrutiny. Cotton elicited an answer from Gupta affirming that one could oppose a woman of color on the merits, without racism or sexism.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.