Two Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Loretta Lynch's nomination as attorney general, but not before several witnesses questioned how she would manage the Justice Department should she be confirmed.
"If you cross this administration with perfectly accurate reporting they don't like, you'll be attacked and punished," said Sharyl Attkisson, an author and investigative journalist. She is suing the Obama administration for $35 million for allegedly hacking her computer.
Her award-winning reports for CBS News included the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans in 2012 and the botched Fast and Furious gun-running scheme under current Attorney General Eric Holder.
"The nominee, if confirmed, should chart a new path and reject the damaging policies and practices used by others in the past," Attkisson told committee members. "If we aren't grave enough to confront these concerns, it could do serious long-term damage to a supposedly free press."
Attkisson was also joined by Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and Catherine Englebrecht, founder of True the Vote, which lost a lawsuit filed against the administration and the IRS over the targeting of conservative, tea party and religious groups.
Clarke charged that the Justice Department under Holder has undermined local police departments, citing the attorney general's comments during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the death of Michael Brown, shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.
"Rhetoric by Eric Holder created a pathway for a false narrative that then became the rallying cry for people across America," Clarke said. "It sparked a justified hatred toward America's law-enforcement agencies and their officers."
He added that the next attorney general needed to "articulate clearly a renewed commitment to rebuilding trust with local law enforcement. That involves open communication within emphasis on listening to law-enforcement executives.
"Please stop undermining the character and integrity of America's law-enforcement officers," Clarke said.
Englebrecht detailed some of the "inquisitions" by the IRS and the Justice Department after True the Vote sought tax-exempt status in 2010. A community group she also established filed that same year.
She testified before Congress last year about the targeting.
"I was targeted by this government for daring to speak out," Englebrecht said. "I have become a living example of this kind of trickle-down tyranny that is actively endorsed by the current administration and rigorously enforced by the Department of Justice."
She told senators that she had "800 pages" documenting "government subterfuge."
"The Department of Justice has found its way into almost every aspect of my story."
A federal district court judge dismissed True the Vote's lawsuit in October, citing in part that the IRS said it could not locate many of the emails of Lois Lerner, the now-retired agency supervisor who oversaw the department that did the targeting.
"Is there a will to get through to the truth behind this nightmare citizen targeting?"
Englebrecht asked. "The Department of Justice has operated as a rogue agency … . Will this new leadership be any different?"
After Englebrecht's testimony, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah told her that "you have my total sympathy for what you have gone through."
He added that the Senate Finance Committee, which he chairs, has not released its report on the IRS investigation because members are examining as many as 30,000 emails that has recently been located that the agency had claimed were lost.
After the testimony concluded, Hatch endorsed Lynch's nomination from the dias. "I believe she's not only qualified but exceptionally well-qualified and a very good person, to boot."
Another GOP committee member, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, said later he also intended to back Lynch. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he was inclined to do the same.
The endorsements, which appeared to guarantee Lynch's approval by the Judiciary Committee in coming weeks, came a day after two other Republicans, Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana
, said they would not support the nomination because of her support of President Barack Obama's amnesty orders.
If the Judiciary Committee approves Lynch, her nomination would move to the full Senate, where she also is likely to win approval.
On the first day of her hearing on Wednesday, Lynch, 55, the top federal prosecutor since 2010 for parts of New York City and Long Island, promised senators a fresh start from Holder.
He has clashed repeatedly with Republicans during his six-year tenure, and he was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012 for withholding thousands of pages of Fast and Furious documents.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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