Responding to what Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described as softball questions aimed at heading off some GOP criticism of her, Gupta insisted her partisan comments on social media havent prevented her from finding common ground with a diverse group of advocates on a range of issues.
No senator pointed to a specific objectionable tweet and Gupta didn’t identify which ones she regrets. But GOP lawmakers accused her of wanting to defund the police a position Gupta says she rejects and criticized her for a 2012 call to decriminalize possession of all illegal drugs, a position she says she no longer holds.
Democrats said the attacks on Gupta amounted to bad-faith attacks to damage a qualified nominee. Youve been the victim of a smear campaign, a despicable and rancid campaign to discredit you, said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
Gupta described herself as “a lifelong idealistic civil rights lawyer” who is also a deeply pragmatic person and a relationship builder.”
She testified Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee alongside Lisa Monaco, Bidens nominee for the second-ranking position at DOJ. The Senate is expected to confirm attorney general nominee Merrick Garland to the DOJ top post in a Wednesday vote.
Though Monacos designated position is more senior than Guptas, Republicans trained most of their energy on Gupta, a prominent advocate for progressive police reform and civil rights. The GOP scrutiny of Gupta’s social media habits echoed senators’ criticisms of fiery tweets from Neera Tanden that last week helped sink her nomination to become Biden’s budget chief.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) sparred with Gupta over her past statements, although without publicly reading or describing any specific comment she had made. He suggested she was asking for forgiveness for her overheated rhetoric while denying such understanding to nominees she opposed as a civil rights advocate, including Ryan Bounds, an Oregon lawyer President Donald Trump nominated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017.
Trump pulled Bounds nomination the following year after Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) joined Democrats in expressing concern about the lawyer’s college writings against race-thinking groups [which] divide up by race for their feel-good ethnic hoedowns.
After Gupta apologized again for her coarse language and asked senators to consider her broader record, Lee said: I would love to know how that is different from Ryan Bounds. Ryan Bounds gave us almost exactly the same answer. … Does that standard also apply to you?
I am a believer in second chances and redemption and I would ask for that today, Gupta replied.
Gupta, currently the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, also denied claims that her past police reform efforts amounted to an attempt to defund law enforcement.
I do not support defunding the police, she said. I have spent my career, where it has been necessary for greater resources for law enforcement and things like body-worn cameras as well as officer wellness and safety programs.
The White House and Senate Democrats have loudly touted Gupta’s endorsements from police groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Donald Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the moderate face Gupta was putting forward at the hearing clashed with what he called her almost unbroken record of partisan culture war that is in your resume.
Gupta promised to be a champion of access to the ballot box if confirmed. She endorsed the House-passed voting rights bill that is expected to become a flashpoint as the Senate weighs the future of the legislative filibuster, which likely means the measure would need 10 Republican votes to pass.
Following the storming of the Capitol in January by insurrectionists who included white supremacists and militia members, DOJs efforts to combat right-wing extremist groups is also under fresh scrutiny. Monaco said near the outset of her testimony that the problem has grown worse.
Unfortunately and concerningly, the domestic terrorism threat is one that is metastasizing across the country, she said.
Monaco also vowed that if confirmed, she would direct all needed resources to the investigation of the assault on the Capitol and seek to understand the root causes of such an attack that I personally never thought we would see in my lifetime.