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June 2022


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Tag: Patrick Leahy

White Supremacy Is Greatest Threat to U.S., Garland, Mayorkas Testify

Homeland Security Director Alejandro Mayorkas.

By Steve Neavling

The heads of the Justice Department and Homeland Security warned senators Wednesday that white supremacy is the most serious threat facing the U.S. 

In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the departments are cracking down on violent extremism.

“The department is taking a new approach to addressing domestic violent extremism, both internally and externally,” Mayorkas said. 

Garland said the Jan. 6 insurrection was “an attempt to interfere with the fundamental element of our democracy, a peaceful transfer of power.”

“I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said. 

He added, “We will use every appropriate tool at our disposal to deter and disrupt such criminal acts and to bring their perpetrators to justice.”

The Justice Department has charged more than 430 people in connection to the deadly riot. 

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy called the threat “uniquely dangerous” in his opening remarks. 

“Attacks and plots by domestic extremists are at historic highs, with the majority of them being planned by those on the far right espousing white supremacist and related ideologies,” Leahy said. “In 2020 alone, white nationalists and like-minded extremists conducted 67% of terrorist plots and attacks in the United States. We cannot deny we are facing a class of criminals who feel more emboldened than ever.”

Read Garland’s full comments here.

National Fraternal Order of Police Back Atty. Gen. Eric Holder

By Allan Lengel

Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr., whose likely to get a grilling from Republicans over ATF’s Operation Fast Furious when he appears Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, got some welcome backing on Thursday.

Politico reports that the National Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest group of sworn law enforcement officers, fired off a letter the committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) expressing its solidarity with Holder. The letter did not mention Fast and Furious.

“The FOP is very proud of the strong and positive working relationship that we have had with Eric Holder, not just for the two years in which he has served as the nation’s ‘top cop,’ but through his long career of public service,” wrote Chuck Canterbury, the organization’s National President, according to Politico. “As the brother of a retired law enforcement officer and one of the most dedicated and experienced law enforcement leaders, General Holder has been a true partner to the FOP and to our nation’s rank-and-file officers.”

The letter also emphasized that Holder has worked with the organization on fiscal challenges and officer safety, Politico reported.

More than 30 Republican lawmakers have asked for Holder’s resignation over Fast and Furious, an operation that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to middlemen or “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the weapons to the Mexican cartels.  ATF lost track of many guns, some of which surfaced at crime scenes on both sides of the border.

Holder testified before Congress earlier this year that he only learned of the operation after the controversy over it surfaced. But some Republican lawmakers believe he has been less forthright about when he learned of the matter and have asked for him to step down.



FBI Dir. Robert Mueller Gets One Step Closer to 2-Year Extension

Robert Mueller/file fbi photo

By Allan Lengel

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III moved one step closer to extending his 10-year term two additional years.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would clear the way for Mueller to stay on for two years.  The bill must now go before the House, which is expected to give its OK. That vote could come next week.

The current legislation limits the FBI directors term to 10 years. The bill is one time deal that applies to Mueller, and does not change the 10 year limit.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia.)  of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who supported the move, but still raised questions, issued a statement Thursday:

“This is an extraordinary step that the Senate has taken. Thirty-five years ago Congress limited the FBI director’s term to one, 10-year appointment as an important safeguard against improper political influence and abuses of the past.

“Director Mueller has proven his ability to run the FBI over the last 10 years and he has given assurances that he will remain available to Congress and our constitutional responsibilities of oversight. I am glad the Senate was able to reach an agreement that provides a one-time, short term extension of the FBI Director’s term in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution. We live in extraordinary times which make this move unfortunate, but necessary.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) of the Judiciary Committee, who was a big advocate of the extension, issued a statement saying:

“Ten weeks ago, the President asked the Congress to extend the term of service of the FBI Director. I worked in a bipartisan manner to expeditiously report a bill from the Judiciary Committee to the full Senate. While no Senator opposed an extension of Director Mueller’s term, some quibbled over the text of a bill to accomplish this goal, causing unnecessary delay. I believe the bill reported by the Committee was constitutional, and that the revisions to the bill are unnecessary.”

“Nonetheless, I am pleased that a bill passed the Senate today that will maintain continuity of leadership at the FBI as we approach the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, and face continuing threats in the wake of the President’s successful operation against Osama bin Laden. I hope the House will take up and pass this bill so that it can be signed by the President, and the Senate can confirm Director Mueller’s re-nomination, prior to August 3, 2011, when Director Mueller’s current term expires.”


ATF’s Director Ken Melson Agrees to Talk to Senate Investigators About Fast and Furious

Ken Melson/atf photo

By Allan Lengel

The plot thickens.

Acting ATF Director Ken Melson has agreed to talk to Senate investigators about Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF program that encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers so federal agents could trace them to the Mexican cartels , according to The Daily Beast and Newsweek.

The website reported that the development was a “potentially important breakthrough” for Congress, which has been trying to figure out who in the Obama administration gave the okay for the disastrous program. He is expected to provide testimony next months.

Newsweek and the The Daily Beast testimony reported that the deal to get Melson to testify was part of a deal brokered  between Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and the committee’s top Republican, Iowa’s Charles Grassley.

The website reported that the deal involved giving fellow Republicans full access to ATF documents, Melson, and other key witnesses. In return,  Grassley agreed to release three Obama administration nominees — Jim Cole for deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco for assistant attorney general for national security and Virginia Seitz as head of legal counsel, Newsweek and The Daily Beast reported.


Number 2 at Justice Dept. James Cole Remains in Limbo

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Deputy Attorney Gen. James Cole never played in the National Football League — but he certainly knows what it’s like to be a football — a political one at that.

David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post reports that the Republicans in the Senate on Monday voted to block a bid by Democrats to force a final vote on Cole’s confirmation, leaving his status as the number 2 person in the Justice Department in limbo.

President Obama gave Cole a recess appointment, which expires at the end of the year.

The Post reported that the Dems on Monday fell short of the 60 votes needed to knock down a Republican filibuster vote on the matter.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said, according to a statement posted on his website: ” It is hard to believe that one week after the successful operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the world’s number one terrorist, we cannot take this step to ensure that President Obama has his full national security team in place. Now that a measure of justice has been secured for the victims of September 11, I have expressed hope that we can come together as we did in the weeks and months following September 11.”

James Cole/law firm

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Ia) who strongly opposed the nomination, said:

“In particular, I’m seriously concerned about Mr. Cole’s views on national security and terrorism. Back in 2002, Mr. Cole was the author of an opinion piece in the Legal Times. In that piece, he stated, ‘For all the rhetoric about war, the Sept. 11 attacks were criminal acts of terrorism against a civilian population, much like the terrorist acts of Timothy McVeigh in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City, or of Omar Abdel-Rahman in the first effort to blow up the World Trade Center. The criminals responsible for these horrible acts were successfully tried and convicted under our criminal justice system, without the need for special procedures that altered traditional due process rights.’”

Senate Confirms 5 U.S. Attys and 5 U.S. Marshals

Loretta Lynch/law firm photo

Loretta Lynch/law firm photo

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON -– Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) on Thursday lauded the Senate for clearing up a backlog of nominations and confirming five U.S. Attorneys and five U.S. Marshals. He said some of the nominations had been pending before the Senate for more than a month.

“I am grateful that Senate Republicans have released the holds that have prevented the confirmation of these 10 law enforcement nominations,” Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement. “I spoke about them, again, this morning. I thank Senator Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, for helping to clear these nominations at this time.”

“I hope this marks the end of Republican obstruction that has forced procedural motions to end filibusters when there is no opposition, and that they will not continue to make extensive demands for extended debate time when there is no debate,” he said. “We need to get to issues that concern the American people, including Wall Street reform and patent reform. ”

The U.S. Attorney nominations confirmed Thursday afternoon include: William N. Nettles for the District of South Carolina; Wilfredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida; David A. Capp for the Northern District of Indiana; Anne M. Tompkins for the Western District of North Carolina and  Loretta E. Lynch for the Eastern District of New York.

The nominations for U.S. Marshals included: Kelly M. Nesbit for the Western District of North Carolina; Peter C. Munoz for the Western District of Michigan; Noel C. March for the District of Maine; George White for the Southern District of Mississippi;  and Brian T. Underwood for the District of Idaho.

Senate Passes Bill to Lessen Sentences for Crack Cocaine

Sen. Leahy

Sen. Leahy

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — A bill that lessens the sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine sailed through the Senate Wednesday night, the website Main Justice reported.

The Fair Sentencing Act establishes an 18-to-1 sentencing ratio for crack and powder cocaine offenses as opposed to the current 100-to-1 ratio. In other words, a person with crack cocaine currently gets the same mandatory sentence as someone with 100 times the amount of powdered cocaine.

“After more than 20 years, the Senate has finally acted on legislation to correct the crack-powder disparity and the harm to public confidence in our justice system it created,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a news release, according to Main Justice.

“Although this bill is not perfect and it is not the bill we introduced in order to correct these inequalities, I believe the Fair Sentencing Act moves us one step closer to reaching the important goal of equal justice for all.”

To read more click here.