January 31, 2017

Feinstein votes no. And there is no overstating what a big deal it is that this will be a party line vote from a committee Jeff Sessions chairs.

Here's why:

....[I]n the summer of 2016, the nominee was one of 21 senators to vote against prohibiting waterboarding and other techniques not found in the Army Field Manual.

He has even expressed support for the detention of Americans, captured on American soil, to be held without charge or trial.

These positions give me no confidence the nominee will uphold our laws and civil liberties as attorney general.

Mr. Chairman, today we are being asked to vote on the one person who will lead the Department of Justice and its 113,000 employees charged with ‘[defending] the interests of the United States according to our nation’s laws’ and ‘[ensuring] fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.’

We are being asked to vote on a nominee that will have to stand up to a president who is clearly willing to ignore the law and even issue orders in violation of the Constitution.

We are being asked to determine whether this nominee’s record demonstrates that he will have the objectivity to enforce the law for all Americans and be an independent attorney general and not an arm of the White House.

Yesterday, early in the evening, we clearly saw what a truly independent attorney general does.

Sally Yates, the acting attorney general who enjoyed broad bipartisan support when she was confirmed as deputy attorney general, declared that under her leadership the department could not defend Trump’s executive order on immigrants and refugees.

Here’s what she wrote and it’s important, and I quote ‘My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts. In addition, I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.

‘At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful. Consequently, for as long as I am the acting attorney general, the Department of Justice will not present arguments in defense of the executive order, unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so.’

Members, that statement took guts. That statement said what an independent attorney general should do. That statement took a steel spine to stand up and say no. It took the courage of Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus who stood up to President Nixon.

That is what an attorney general must be willing and able to do.

I have no confidence that Senator Sessions will do that.

Instead, he has been ‘the fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in Congress of the Trump agenda, and has played a critical role as the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda.’

With this in mind, I must vote no. Thank you.”

You can read the rest of her remarks at her Senate website.

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