Witnesses testify on the second day of hearings regarding Loretta Lynch’s confirmation before the Senate Judiciary Committee to replace Eric Holder Jr. as the next U.S. Attorney General. January 29, 2015. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)
Loretta Lynch wasn’t at the second day of her confirmation hearings either physically or in the testimony of many of the witnesses, who criticized the Obama administration at large and the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.
After finishing her round of questioning on Wednesday evening, Lynch was not expected to attend Thursday’s proceedings. She was just as missing from the testimony of many of the committee witnesses who addressed her nomination, much to the dismay of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democratic members.
All five of the witnesses invited by the Republican committee members gave statements critical of the Obama administration and Holder’s leadership of the U.S. Department of Justice.
One witness, former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, did not mention Lynch at all in her opening statement, which focused on her and other journalists’ fraught relationship with the Justice Department. Attkisson is suing the department over allegations government officials hacked her computer.
David Clarke, sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wis., said Holder’s “incendiary rhetoric” after the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., about his own experience with racial profiling, “created a pathway for the false narrative that then became the rallying cry for cop haters across America.”
Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of the watchdog group True the Vote, spoke about getting audited more than a dozen times by several federal agencies after she filed for tax-exempt status in 2010 for True the Vote and a Tea Party group she founded.
“Who will this committee entrust to protect the rights of all citizens?” she asked. “The wrong choice, and one more season of government-stoked civil unrest could well tip our country back into total apathy or forward into complete chaos.”
Two Republican-invited law professors, Georgetown University Law Center’s Nicholas Rosenkranz and Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School spoke out against President Barack Obama’s executive actions to delay parts of the Affordable Care Act and to defer deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants that meet certain criteria. Turley is representing House Republicans in their suit against the Obama administration’s signature health care law.
One Democratic witness, Professor Stephen Legomsky of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, countered the professors’ testimony. Legomsky devoted his appearance to justifying the legality of Obama’s immigration actions.
On Wednesday, Lynch called the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion on the deferred deportation plan “reasonable” in response to Republican members’ questioning on immigration.
The remaining three Democratic witnesses spoke specifically about their relationships with Loretta Lynch. Sidley Austin partner and former Utah U.S. attorney David Barlow, as well as former FBI agent Janice Fedarcyk, spoke highly of their interactions with Lynch in her capacity as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, a job she has held since 2010 and from 1999 to 2001.
The Rev. Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, who has known Lynch through family ties for nearly her entire life, spoke about their shared history in North Carolina and the Baptist church.
“Members of the Lynch family are known for their exemplary character, integrity, excellent achievement, civic‐mindedness, commitment to the common good, and deep and compelling sensitivity to the well‐being of all people,” Newsome said.
Following the witnesses’ opening statements, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked, “would those who oppose Loretta Lynch as [attorney general], would they please raise their hand?”
No witness raised a hand.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., later accused his Republican colleagues of conducting “what appears to be a soundbite factory for Fox News and conspiracy theorists everywhere.”
Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., has expressed his intent to vote against Lynch’s nomination. A Republican colleague on the committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, on Thursday said he will support Lynch.