WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in a floor speech explained by he opposed Kirsten Clarke to lead the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. President Joe Biden appointed Clarke as an Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division on January 7. She is currently the President of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. She also headed the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
Clarke was criticized by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Coryn of Texas for writing in support of the “Defund the Police” movement. An article she wrote for The Harvard Crimson as an undergraduate came to light after her nomination. In the article, she argued Blacks had “superior physical and mental abilities” because of their higher levels of melanin. The Crimson‘s editorial board called for her to retract her comments. Clarke claimed the article was satire, that she was “fighting one ridiculous absurd racist theory with another ridiculous absurd theory.” A fact-check by Newsweek concluded that while the article was a response to those defending The Bell Curve it did not state that it was not serious. In 1994, as president of the Harvard Black Students Association, Clarke invited and praised Tony Martin, an antisemitic conspiracy theorist, as a guest speaker. After her nomination, said inviting Martin to speak was a mistake. Her nomination is supported by the Anti-Defamation League.
Clarke also criticized former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ creation of a religious liberty task force.
Grassley said that Clarke represents a trend of “politicized nominees” to the Department of Justice under the Biden Administration.
Read Grassley’s comments below:
I will not be voting to discharge the nominee Kristen Clarke to run the Civil Rights Division. I want to explain why.
While Ms. Clarke may be a good attorney, she continues the trend of politicized nominees to the Justice Department under President Biden. While I disagree with her strongly on some of her views, especially when it comes to defunding the police, my issues with Ms. Clarke go beyond that.
The Department of Justice, and especially the Civil Rights Division, needs to be committed to impartial and equal justice. In the wrong hands, the Civil Rights Division can be used to target the President’s political opponents. It can threaten law enforcement, school-choice advocates, religious schools, red states and pro-lifers.
This isn’t hypothetical. Under Vanita Gupta, the Civil Rights Division defended an effort to take over Louisiana’s school choice program. Luckily a group of African American mothers stopped them in the Fifth Circuit.
The fact is that our civil rights laws are broad and the mere threat of their enforcement can chill legitimate political opposition. Because of that I think that the head of the Civil Rights Division needs to be above reproach when it comes to partisanship.
Unfortunately, Ms. Clarke is a liberal partisan. She opposed the enforcement of the law against Ike Brown, a Mississippi vote suppressor, either because of the color of his skin or because he was a Democrat. Neither answer is acceptable.
She has disparaged religious freedom groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom.
She has opposed important Supreme Court decisions protecting religious liberty, individual Supreme Court Justices and even some of my colleagues. She has held Republican nominees to standards she doesn’t want applied to herself.
Ms. Clarke has run away from her record. I asked her at her hearing whether Mumia Abu Jamal, the country’s most notorious cop killer, was a political prisoner, like someone said at a conference she helped organize. She wouldn’t answer, telling me that she was unfamiliar with his case. Given her youthful activism, I find that very hard to believe.
Last summer she wrote an article in Newsweek advocating for defunding the police but she insists the words on the page aren’t what she meant. I’m sorry, but if it’s not what she meant, then she shouldn’t have said it.
I don’t think she’s the right person for this job at this time. A nominee to lead the Civil Rights Division should be nonpartisan, independent and up-front about her beliefs. Unfortunately I think Ms. Clarke misses on all three marks.
As I’ve said, I don’t want a return to the Eric Holder days so I’m a no.