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Tag: U.S. Senate

Magnus, Biden’s Nominee to Lead CBP, Advances to Full Senate Vote

Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, picked to lead CBP.

By Steve Neavling

A Senate committee on Wednesday narrowly advanced President Biden’s nomination of Chris Magnus to lead U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

The Senate Finance Committee voted 15-13, pushing the nomination to a vote before the full Senate. The only Republican to vote in favor of Magnus was Sen. Bill Casey, of Louisiana. 

Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., cited Magnus’ experience as a police chief and his compassionate but tough stance on immigration. 

“He shares the view that enforcing our immigration laws and treating people humanely — those two priorities are not mutually exclusive. We can do both,” Wyden said, Arizona Public Radio reports.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, wasn’t on board, pointing to Magnus’ testimony during a conformation hearing last month. 

“The nominee was asked by members of this committee multiple times to acknowledge we face a crisis. He declined to do so,” Crapo said.

During the confirmation hearing, Magnus sought to assuage some Republicans by signaling support for two of former President Trump’s most controversial policies. He said he would consider finishing some of the border wall that the Biden administration has stopped and indicated he supported the Trump-era public health order that authorizes the rapid removal of migrants and asylum-seekers without an immigration hearing. 

Magnus, 60, who has served as Tucson’s police chief since 2016, was a vocal critic of some of Trump’s immigration policies and a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement before his nomination. 

If confirmed by the Senate, Magnus has a tough job ahead of him as the nation grapples with a border problem and the separation of migrant children from their families. 

Magnus also would be the first openly gay CBP commissioner. 

Biden’s ATF nominee David Chipman floundered in the Senate after every Republican and Angus King, an independent from Maine, refused to support him.

Wray Says FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Caseload Has More Than Doubled

FBI Director Christopher Wray testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in February 2020.

By Steve Neavling

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday told a U.S. Senate committee that the number of domestic terrorism cases has more than doubled in the past 18 months. 

The caseload increased to 2,700 current investigations from about 1,000 since the spring of 2020, Wray told the Senate Homeland Security Committee. 

“Some of these same people before might have been stewing away in the basement or the attic in one part of the country and not communicating with each other, but today terrorism moves at the speed of social media,” Wray testified. “You have the ability of lone actors, disgruntled in one part of the country to spin up similar like-minded individuals in other parts of the country and urge them into action.”

Wray said that white supremacy represents the “biggest chunk” of racially motivated violent extremism tracked by the FBI. 

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who also testified, said social media is a “terrain that can so easily propagate misinformation, false information and allow communications to occur among closely affiliated individuals.”

To read Wray’s complete statement before the committee, click here.

Sen. Grassley Urges Attorney General to Appoint Federal Investigator to Review Botched Nassar Case

Sen. Chuck Grassley

By Steve Neavling

Sen. Chuck Grassley is calling on a federal investigation into the FBI’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar case.

Grassley, the top member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Attorney General Merrick Garland should appoint a federal prosecutor or special counsel to examine the botched investigation and potentially pursue criminal charges. 

“Nassar abused hundreds of young athletes while FBI sat on its thumb,” Grassley said in a written statement Friday. “DOJ refused to attend the Judiciary Committee hearing this week to face questions. Attorney General Garland should assign a federal prosecutor or special counsel to uncover what the FBI knew and when, as well as to seek prosecutions of those involved in the cover-up. These brave gymnasts and all Nassar survivors deserve accountability, especially from the Justice Department.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday heard testimony from U.S. gymnasts and FBI Director Christopher Wray, who apologized for the bureau’s handling of the case.

Two months earlier, the Justice Department’s Inspector General concluded that the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office “failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required.”

In the meantime, Grassley and his colleagues are working on legislation that would strengthen a federal “child sex tourist” statute that the inspector general said was inadequate. 

Biden’s ATF Nominee Is Three Votes Away from Getting Confirmed

Former ATF Agent David Chipman, via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling

The confirmation of David Chipman, President Biden’s pick to lead the ATF, appears to rest in the hands of two Democrats and an independent in the U.S. Senate. 

All 50 Republican oppose Chipman’s confirmation, so it will take the support of the remaining senators to approve his appointment. 

The holdouts are Democrats Sens. Joe Manchin, W.V., and Jon Tester, Montana, along with independent Sen. Angus King, of Maine, The USA Today reports.

“As a proud gun owner, Senator Tester believes ATF needs a strong leader to support the agency’s law enforcement mission,” a spokesperson for Tester said in a statement to The Hill. “Senator Tester will continue to review David Chipman’s record and testimony to ensure he would support our brave law enforcement officers and respect Montanans’ Second Amendment rights.”

King “continues to review the nomination,” a spokesperson said. 

Chipman’s confirmation is controversial among conservatives because he has advocated for firearm restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons, such as AR-15s. The National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation have joined in the fight with more than $4 million in radio and TV ads in the home states of moderate Democrats and King. 

Chipman is a gun owner and former ATF agent

The ATF has been without a Senate-confirmed director since 2015. 

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that Chipman’s nomination “wouldn’t be easy.” 

“We’ve been eyes wide open into the challenge from the beginning,” she said.

Psaki added, “We are disappointed by the fact that many Republicans are moving in lockstep to try to hold up his nomination and handcuff the chief federal law enforcement agency tasked with fighting gun crimes.”

Chipman’s nomination advanced from the Senate Judiciary Committee after a 10-10 vote last month. But since then, Democrats have not scheduled a confirmation vote because they’re not sure if he has enough support. 

David Chipman’s ATF Nomination Held Up by Uncertain Democrats

Former ATF Agent David Chipman, via Twitter.

By Steve Neavling

David Chipman, President Biden’s pick to lead the ATF, is facing strong opposition from Senate Republicans and uncertainty among some Democrats. 

Chipman, a gun owner and former ATF agent, is under fire for his support of firearm restrictions, including a ban on assault weapons. 

The National Rifle Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation are putting up a fight to stop Chipman’s nomination and have spent more than $4 million in radio and TV ads in the home states of moderate Democrats and Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Meanwhile, gun-control groups are putting up a fight of their own. 

“Confronting the epidemic of gun violence head-on is a cornerstone of the president’s gun crime strategy, and he looks forward to the Senate quickly voting on Chipman’s nomination as ATF Director,” Michael Gwin, a White House spokesman, said.

Chipman’s nomination advanced from the Senate Judiciary Committee after a 10-10 vote. But since then, Democrats have not scheduled a confirmation vote because they’re not sure if he has enough support. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., recently said there are “three or four” holdouts among Democrats.

With a 50-50 split in the Senate, every Democrat must support the nomination. 

Sens. John Hickenlooper, Colo. and Jon Tester, D., Mont., have recently indicated they are undecided.

FBI Probes Possible Illegal Donations to Sen. Collins’ Campaign

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. Photo: U.S. Senate.

By Steve Neavling

The FBI is investigating whether a defense company made illegal campaign contributions to the 2020 reelection campaign of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican. 

An unsealed search warrant reveals the FBI is focused on $150,000 in donations from Navatek, a Hawaii defense contractor that has been renamed Martin Defense Group, Axios first reported.

With the help of Collins, Navatek received an $8 million Navy contract before a bulk of the donations poured in. 

According to a court affidavit, Former Navatek CEO Martin Kao used a shell company to donate $150,000 and reimburse family members for smaller contributions. 

Kao was indicted last year on charges of bilking the federal government out of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief aid intended for small businesses. 

“The Collins for Senator Campaign had absolutely no knowledge of anything alleged in the warrant,” Collins spokesperson Annie Clark told Axios.

Merrick Garland Gets Confirmation Hearing Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

By Steve Neavling

Merrick Garland, President Biden’s nominee for attorney general, will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday for the first day of a two-day confirmation hearing. 

Garland is expected to get bipartisan support. 

Garland, 68, rose to national prominence in 2016 when President Obama nominated him to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Republicans denied him a hearing. 

With Democrats now in control of the U.S. Senate, Republican won’t be able to block his nomination to serve as attorney general.  

Garland was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1997. 

Garland is a graduate of Harvard University’s college and law school.