Kristen Clarke, President Biden’s nominee to the assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Justice Department, walked back her past criticism of multiple moderate senators and Justice Brett Kavanaugh in a Judiciary Committee questionnaire submitted late last month.
Clarke’s nomination was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote Thursday after a contentious hearing in April. But her nomination still hangs in the balance as four key swing-vote senators swill haven’t publicly announced whether they’ll vote to confirm her. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., all have yet to announce whether they will support Clarke.
After her hearing, Clarke submitted a 66-page document responding to several senators’ “Questions for the Record,” on April 26. She responded to queries on a broad range of topics from religious freedom to anti-racism.
Among those answers, Clarke, whose controversial past writings and polemic social media history have come under scrutiny during her confirmation, walked back a handful of her past statements, including attacks on some of the senators she may need for her confirmation.
Kristen Clarke delivers remarks after being nominated to be civil rights division assistant attorney general by President-elect Joe Biden at The Queen theater January 07, 2021 in Wilmington, Delaware. Clarke’s nomination was advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) ( Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NOMINATION OF KRISTEN CLARKE, CONTROVERSIAL BIDEN CIVIL RIGHTS PICK, HANGS IN BALANCE
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked Clarke a series of questions about her past comments about Murkowski and Manchin.
“In March, after a news article pointed out that you had called Senator Murkowski ‘disgraceful’ and accused Senator Manchin of ‘hollow words’ when he praised Martin Luther King, you set your Twitter account to ‘private,’ cutting off the public and the news media from being able to review your past public statements,” Cotton wrote.
He continued to ask, “Do you still believe that Senator Murkowski is ‘disgraceful?,’” and “Do you still believe that Senator Manchin’s praise for Martin Luther King, Jr. was nothing more than ‘hollow words?’”
“I have used my platform as the leader of a national civil rights organization to bring attention to legal and policy issues that I deem important to achieving equal justice for all,” Clarke responded. “In retrospect, I regret the tone I occasionally took. I welcome the opportunity, as President Biden and Judge Garland have emphasized, to turn down the volume and lower the temperature.”
Clarke referred to the same statement when asked about comments she made labeling former President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees as “”white male extremists.”
The DOJ nominee also walked back a previous statement she made about another Trump-appointed judge – Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pointed out that Clarke had previously tweeted that, “As a civil rights lawyer with matters that regularly go before the Supreme Court, I can’t underscore how dangerous it will be to have [then-Judge Brett] Kavanaugh on the Court, a man who harbors such bias, rage, fury and is so easily unhinged. We should expect a spike in recusal motions for sure.”
Grassley asked whether Clarke still stands by that statement, whether she believes Kavanaugh will be fair to the Justice Department if she is confirmed and whether the DOJ should seek Kavanaugh’s recusal in civil rights cases.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, speaks during the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting to vote on sending the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be Interior Secretary, to the Senate floor in Washington on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Asked about her past comment that Mu
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