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Liveblogging Holder Hearing
By David Swanson
9:29 I'm watching on C-Span. I see signs held up reading "Restore Justice," "Rule of Law." C-Span is predicting only questions about Clinton pardons, and predicting another hearing tomorrow with other witnesses. Of course, I'm hoping for senators to ask these questions, which they have been bombarded with requests to ask.
9:33 Caucus room is packed. Leahy says that if anyone stands up, he will tell police to remove them.
9:34 Leahy is advertising Holder and pre-denouncing criticism of him as "partisanship." Kumbaya. MLK. Kumbaya. This hearing is a step toward people being judged by the content of their character, says Leahy (criticism is racism). Leahy has just announced he will refuse to do his job and bow to the king in the White House. If anybody's betting the Democrats ask any decent questions, I'll be glad to take your money. If anybody's betting the Republicans ask any decent questions, I'll take your money (see DONATE button at top left).
9:41 Specter says AG has duty to people and rule of law, not to president. Senate has duty to advise and consent. Good point. Too bad principles only show up on Capitol Hill when convenient. Specter wants to ask about the PATRIOT Act and "interrogation techniques" and "waterboarding" - "it's torture", and signing statements. Glad somebody came to work today. Maybe I'll lose my second bet above. I hope so.
9:52 Former Senator John Warner tells the senators to advise and consent, but how will Leahy do that from the position he's assumed on his knees? Warner says Holder is bi-partisan, which he equates with supporting the rule of law. Warner is just advertising Holder, which is clearly what Leahy brought him in to do.
9:58 If Holder's eyes blink rapidly when he's nervous, he's nervous.
10:02 Warner comments on what will be in Holder's opening statement, suggesting he's seen it, but maybe they all have by now. Warner proposes that senators should respect the president and wish him well by approving Holder, but also "advise and consent," which clearly means CONSENT, but not consider the possibility of refusing to consent.
10:09 Eleanor Holmes Norton is also speaking in support of Holder.
10:16 Holder beginning to speak.
10:22 He gets past the fluff. Says his focus will be "defeating our adversaries" but -- for a change -- do so by adhering to the rule of law. Second, he'll work to restore credibility of a department tainted by partisanship. Holder thinks Mukasey and Phillip have done much to restore DOJ already. Third, even while fighting "global terrorism," he'll ensure civil rights, protect environment, and some other things I didn't catch because C-Span cut out on my computer. Will respect Congressional oversight and judicial review with humility. Will take on powerful interests. Admits he has made mistakes (presumably he does not mean the horrendous mistakes discussed here, since nobody will ask about them).
10:29 Leahy: is "waterboarding" torture and illegal?
Holder: yes, it is torture.
Leahy: Can other nations legally torture Americans?
Leahy: Can President of the United States immunize acts of torture?
Holder: Nobody is above the law. President has Constitutional obligation to enforce the laws. We have laws and treaties. The president acts most forcefully and has the greatest power when consistent with Congressional intent and directives. The president does NOT have the power that you have indicated.
Leahy: Washington Post yesterday reported that the top Bush Admin. official on military commissions says we tortured a detainee.
THERE IT IS. NOW HOW CAN HOLDER POSSIBLY SAY NO TO PROSECUTION AND STILL CLAIM TO FOLLOW THE RULE OF LAW?
OK, I lost my bet, Leahy listened to our demands. But he did not follow through and ask the obvious follow-up: will he prosecute or appoint an independent counsel to prosecute?
10:39: The audio cut out on my computer for a while and now we're onto the Marc Rich pardon, and it's still Leahy asking the questions but clearly taking his cue from the Republicans.
10:42 Specter now going after the Marc Rich pardon. Specter does not ask any of the other questions he said he would ask. Maybe he never will, which would be a good example of Specterism.
10:53 Herb Kohl: If you were not sufficiently independent of the Clinton White House, how will you be independent of Obama and undo the partisan corruption of the Bush era?
Holder: AG must have distance between himself and president. My record shows I can do that. [after lasting all through Specter's BS, I lost the audio again for a while]
Kohl: Guantanamo - when will it close and what will we do with the detainees?
Holder: We'll have to do a review to figure it out, and that will take an extended period of time.
Kohl: Administration claims Justice Dept says their [torture] techniques are legal? Will you put an end to the use of abusive interrogation techniques?
Holder: It is intention of President elect to make sure we use techniques that fit with who we are as Americans. (He keeps speakign on behalf of Obama after having claimed to be independent of him). Holder says Bush Admin made "tough" decisions, and it's too easy to look back and criticize. (Will he view all criminal prosecutions as improperly looking back and criticizing.)
Kohl then moved on to asking nonsense questions about basketball.
Jon Kyl: Collecting of DNA samples: will you make sure they are collected?
Kyl: Will you support reauthorization of FISA provision called "lone wolf"?
(Isn't this a question for Congress members?)
Kyl: What about reauthorizing PATRIOT Act wiretap measures?
Kyl: PATRIOT Act Section 215?
Holder: maybe. probably.
11:37 They're back.
11:38 Feinstein's up. She's asking about DOJ IG reports on politicized hiring and firing.
11:40 Holer says he hasn't read the report but opposes such practices.
Feinstein: this documents lying to this committee, and that's a violation of law. The DOJ should take action.
Holder: prosecutors in DC have made a determination. I will review that determination. I will want to know why the determination was made not to pursue criminal charges.
THAT'S TWO COMMITMENTS NOW TO PROSECUTE OR GO BACK ON THE SPIRIT OF EVERYTHING BEING SAID HERE.
Holder: Might use military courts or even military commissions. :-(
Feinstein: if moved to the U.S. would prisoners fall under U.S. law?
Holder: maybe. but even if not what we do will be (somehow, magically?) consistent with our values
Feinstein: we've introduced a bill to close G in 12 months and (stupidly and redundantly) prohibit torture. [Then I lost audio for a minute.]
Holder: Restricting ourselves to Army Field Manual legal and effective and being considered by the president elect. (I doubt she asked about the president's opinion. She asked for Holder's.)
Feinstein: Can we restrict interrogation to govt employees, not mercenaries?
Holder: I'd like to (but non-commital).
Orrin Hatch: Does president have authority to engage in warrantless surveillance?
Holder: No one is above the law. (THERE'S THREE.) But if Congress passes a law that is unconstitutional, then the president has the ability to act contrary to a Congressional dictate. :-( (WOW - there's support for signing statements). In case of FISA, president should have worked with Congress.
Hatch follow up.
Hatch: did you authorize warrantless search of residence of Aldrich Ames in 1993?
Hatch: Can president's inherent authority in the Constitution's Article II. be limited by a statute?
Holder: No. :-( (The Unitary Executive Lives.)
Hatch: Should telecoms get retroactive immunity.
Holder: They have it under statute. Obama was against it but voted for it. (Who asked about Obama's contradictory views?) [I lost audio for a minute].
Holder: No one's above the law. But we don't want to criminalize policy differences that might exist.
Hatch: Would you consider these policy differences?
Holder: (evades, refuses to answer).
12:00 Back to Leahy citing endorsements of Holder from big name Repubs and generally blowing more air up ....
12:02 Feingold: lawyers at DOJ and WH and OVP wrote memos that were clearly illegal. Will you make a break with the past? What is your view of the Presiden't Constitutional authority to authorize violations of the law?
12:03 Holder: the president does not have that power.
Feingold: Does president have authority to authorize illegal warrantless wiretaps?
Holder: (He stammers and stutters and calls it a hypothetical but basically says) No.
Feingold: Anything in FISA statute that makes you believe president has authority to violate the FISA statute.
Feingold: Reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act: last time the WH used scare tactics. (Come on, Russ, stop yapping and ask some pointed questions! You have 5 mninutes!)
[Lost a bit of audio.]
Holder: I look forward to working with you to have laws consistent with our values. (Are these values written down somewhere the way that, you know, LAWS are?)
Feingold: IGs next summer will finish review of warrantless wiretapping. Will you work with that and make as much of the report as possible public?
Holder: Yes. There will be concerns, but these tools have been effective :-( (Effective and LEGAL, or just effective?)
Feingold: Political hirings, firings, and prosecutions: will you hold anyone accountable?
Holder: I will have to do a damage assessment. Blah. To extent there are documents that will help this committee I will make them available.
Sessions: You like Bush say you will defend the country and act within the Constitution. Shouldn't the Constitution come FIRST?
Holder: (He doesn't understand the question.)
Sessions: You have said that actions after 9-11 were excessive and unlawful. Is that just your impression?
Holder: Yes, just my impression. I was speaking of the surveillance program. There may be parts of it I don't understand. :-( (DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE FOURTH AMENDMENT?)
Sessions: Are you threatening to prosecute people?
Holder: No. I only had in mind sharing information with the American people.
Sessions: Goldsmith says OLC has power to bestow pardons by giving opinion that illegal things are legal. Can't officials rely on OLC opinions?
Holder: Depends if opinion drafted appropriately and in good faith.
12:27 Schumer is kissing up to Holder, after which there will be another break in the hearing.
NOTE BY EMAIL FROM LORI PERDUE:
CP and others had lots of seats filled in the Holder hearing this AM. We capitalized on wide angles and open mics in the breaks and managed to get some signage on camera. I believe Col Ann Wright got a good shot of a sign which read "Prosecute War Crimes" on camera for several seconds, close up and dead center. Just thought I'd let you know...it's at around 11:50 AM in the coverage.