Tags: Loretta Lynch | hearings | AG | questioned | immigration

Sen. Vitter Charges Lynch Is 'in Lockstep' With Obama's Illegal Actions

By    |   Wednesday, 28 January 2015 09:38 PM

Two top Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee came out against Loretta Lynch's nomination as attorney general Wednesday after she defended President Barack Obama's amnesty orders and refused to say whether she would challenge the White House over the use of powers.

"We are at a dangerous moment," said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who repeatedly questioned Lynch over the legality of Obama's unilateral actions during the first day of her confirmation hearing. "For the Senate to approve this nomination would bring us another step closer to the point’s edge."

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter charged that Lynch was "in lockstep with his illegal executive amnesty."

Obama's orders, announced in November, would grant work permits and defer deportations for as many as five million illegal aliens.

"I have a huge problem with the president’s illegal, unconstitutional executive amnesty for illegal immigrants," Vitter added. "Frankly, his actions amount to legislating on his own.

"I have a huge concern with the fact that Ms. Lynch thinks it’s entirely within the law."

Vitter had said in December that he would oppose the nomination if Lynch did not oppose the orders.

In a lengthy confirmation hearing that grew contentious at times with several Republicans, Lynch pledged a new start with Congress and independence from the Obama. The assurances were met with much skepticism by several GOP committee members.

"If confirmed as attorney general, I would be myself," she said. "I would be Loretta Lynch."

Obama nominated Lynch in November to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder, who has had a bruising relationship with Congress during his six years as head of the Justice Department. He was held in contempt in June 2012 for failing to turn over documents related to the botched Fast and Furious gun-running scheme.

Republicans have long charged that Holder was contemptuous of Congress and too politically close to Obama — and they repeatedly demanded assurances during the hearing that Lynch would do things differently.

"You're not Eric Holder, are you?" Majority Whip John Cornyn asked at one point.

"No, I'm not, sir," Lynch told the Texas senator, smiling.

He then charged Holder with operating "as a politician using the awesome power conferred by our laws on the attorney general."

Lynch, 55, urged Cornyn to note "the independence that I've always brought to every particular matter," and she said that when merited she would say no to Obama.

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York since 2010, Lynch would become the nation's first African-American female attorney general if she is confirmed. She also held the post from 1999 to 2001.

Lynch's hearing will conclude on Thursday. It will include testimony from individuals representing both sides of Lynch's nomination.

Among those scheduled to oppose her nomination are Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of True the Vote, one of the conservative groups targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, and Sharyl Attkisson, the investigative journalist who sued the Obama administration for $35 million for allegedly hacking her computer.

While Lynch offered few opinions or details on how she would run the Justice Department, she stood firmly behind Obama's executive orders. She said that the legal justification for the policies, outlined in an opinion by the department, were sound.

Her support drew one of several tense exchanges with Sessions.

"Who has more right to a job in this country?" the senator asked early in the hearing. "A lawful immigrant who's here, or citizen — or a person who entered the country unlawfully?”

Lynch responded: "I believe that the right and the obligation to work is one that's shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here.

"And certainly, if someone is here, regardless of status, I would prefer that they would be participating in the workplace than not participating in the workplace," she said.

"This is very troubling," Sessions said.

In trying to be more specific, the senator later asked: "Do you believe the executive action announced by President Obama on November 20th is legal and constitutional? Yes or no?"

"As I’ve read the opinion, I do believe it is, senator," Lynch replied.

But she later walked back the comments under questioning by New York Democrat Chuck Schumer, saying that she was "making a personal observation … not a legal observation."

Lynch was just as evasive in responding to questions from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He asked about amnesty, whether Lynch would contest Obama's use of power, and should the Justice Department appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the IRS targeting scandal.

"I will say that it is disappointing in this hearing that, try as I might, there has been nothing I have been able to ask you that has yielded any answer suggesting any limitations whatsoever on the authority of the president," Cruz said as his questioning period ended.

"That does not augur well for this committee's assessment of your willingness to stand up to the president when the Constitution and the laws so require.

"It is discouraging," Cruz later added. "I hope that if you are confirmed that your conduct in office differs from the answers you have given at this hearing."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham called on the nominee to review Obama's policy of releasing terrorists held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Lynch's older brother, Lorenzo Lynch Jr., was a Navy SEAL who died in 2009. Graham acknowledged that.

"Do you believe we are at war?" Graham then asked.

"I believe we are at war, senator," the nominee responded.

Graham then charged that the Justice Department needed to review Obama's policies for reading terrorism suspects their Miranda rights, which precludes the United States from obtaining valuable intelligence.

"We need to have more flexibility than we have in the current system," he said. "If we do not hold some of these people for questioning them as an enemy combatant, we are going to lose the ability to gather intelligence — and the only way to protect this nation is to interrupt the next attack."

Lynch told Graham that she considered the death penalty an effective punishment, and she called the metadata collection programs by the National Security Agency "constitutional and effective."

He also said that Lynch needed to review cases that decided that Americans could be held as enemy combatants to obtain intelligence and laws that allowed for drones or other lethal force to be used against U.S. citizens who have been deemed to be aiding terrorism.

In total, however, Graham was satisfied with Lynch's testimony.

"In my opinion, you have acquitted yourself very well," he said as his time ended.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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Two top Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee came out against Loretta Lynch's nomination as attorney general Wednesday after she defended President Barack Obama's amnesty orders and refused to say whether she would challenge the White House over the use of powers. ...
Loretta Lynch, hearings, AG, questioned, immigration
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 09:38 PM
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