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tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  November 30, 2015 4:00pm-5:01pm EST

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the grand jury chose not to. how that was presented, who knows. obviously not as well as a ham sandwich could have presented. i asked the department of justice to look into it. your first response is you monitored the case. now that the case has gone through the grand jury process and not getten the result the d.a. wanted, i would like to ask as i asked in writing before for the department of justice to look into this case and see if civil rights violations may have occurred. >> i would like to have my staff reach out to you and get that information, sir. >> are you familiar with the case? >> we have a number of similar matters under review. >> i hope you will become familiar. it's a situation many people in the city of memphis including myself feel was a miscarriage of justice equal to any of those others in the united states. for some reason it hasn't risen to the radar of the united states attorney general and we hope it will. the dea took a 2015 national
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drug assessment summary. and in that particular summary or study, most agents said mayor marijuana was at like 5% total risk to society and meth and heroin were the most serious drugs challenging them and the american people. do you agree that we should spend more time, our law enforcement, working against meth, heroin and opiates and not marijuana? >> with respect to our narcotics laws, what we try to do at the department of justice and dea is focus on a specific region and problem and devote resources to that. we currently have a crisis regarding heroin and opioid abuse in the country. some communities have been consumed by that particular problem. there are unfortunately some communities that still have problems with methamphetamine. so there might be a different focus depending upon the issue.
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>> marijuana is not where cities have people needing marijuana and knocking off 7-elevens. to get some money to buy their marijuana. they are doing that for meth and heroin, right? >> certainly we have seen violence associated with meth, with heroin, with prescription drugs as well. the type of violence associated with the marijuana trade typically occurs at the dealer level, import level. i certainly have seen cases where there has been significant violence at that level. >> there is. just like prohibition, we made it illegal. it's not because of the marijuana and the need to have it on street level basis where people need to commit violence to get money to buy a drug. we did the same mistake with marijuana that we did in the '20s with alcohol. the public demanded it. racketeers, criminals got involved, we made them rich and they used guns to protect their properties. we made a mistake. do you agree marijuana should not be in the schedule one, same as lsd and heroin?
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>> scheduling is typically determined based on whether or not there is another use for the product. i think there would have to be studies by the fda to determine whether or not a scheduling change in any drug is necessary. >> don't you agree you have to change the scheduling from one to get the studies? one of my constituents died waiting for the opportunity for charlotte's web. a lot of people would like to get canniboids. talk to montel williams and what it does for multiple sclerosis or cancer patients to give them an appetite. don't you agree medical marijuana is serious and should be looked at as an aid to people in our society to get through medical problems and not be considered a joke? >> certainly medical marijuana is significantly different from the criminal enforcement or use of marijuana. the department supports the fda studies in the use of the oils or the substance within
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marijuana that -- >> i hate to cut you off. i hope you would look into initiating what you can taking it off schedule one. it's crazy to have it with lsd and heroin. it should not be there. it should be studied. rifra has been used to allow groups to discriminate against lgbt people. it has been based on 2007 doj office of legal counsel opinion that said it could be used to grant exemptions to federal programs. will you commit today to instruct the office of legal counsel to review and reconsider the 2007 olc legal opinion that is being used today to justify tax payer funded discrimination counter to the president's executive order? >> i would like to look into that issue. if i could have my staff reach out to you and get more information on that, i would appreciate that. >> on that same issue, holdovers from the bush team, there was a holdover from bush for six years. that's why the president got hardly any recommendations for commutations.
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can i have a commitment from you to give more resources to people to study prison records and facilitate the expeditious -- sending expeditiously recommendations to the president for commutations of the thousands of people who are serving time for non-violent drug offenses that aren't serving american people by having them be in federal prison? >> the department has, in fact, taken a significant look at the staffing and resource needs of the office of the pardon attorney and sought to provide additional resources so that every application that comes through, whether it be for pardon or clemency can be considered quickly and efficiently. >> but it hasn't done that. let me remind you what dr. king said. justice delayed is justice denied. every single person serving a day in prison who will get a recommendation is having their justice delayed and denied.
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>> on that note, the gentleman's time has expired. we will recognize the gentleman from ohio, mr. jordan. >> thank you, mr. chairman. on february 2nd, 2014, chief counsel to irs commissioner john koskinen learned that ms. lois lerner's hard drive had crashed and they didn't have all of her e-mails. the irs waited until june of that year, june of 2014 to tell congress. in that four-month time period between when they learned that her hard drive had crashed and they didn't have all her e-mails and june, when they told us, in that four-month time period, mr. koskinen testified twice and did not disclose the fact they knew her hard drive had crashed. one month later, in march of 2014, the irs destroys 422 backup tapes. just so you understand the fact pattern, they know on february 2nd, her hard drive has crashed, they don't have her e-mails, 30
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days later they destroy 422 backup tapes with three preservation orders in place. in fact, one of those preservation orders came from the justice department. ten months before that, you had told them, hey, preserve all the documents, preserve all the e-mails, we've got an investigation going on. there were two other preservation orders as well. so three preservation orders and two subpoenas. that sure looks like john koskinen and the internal revenue service concealed information and destroyed information. but just last month you guys send us a letter telling us you're not going to prosecute anyone in the irs targeting scandal. you specifically say in that letter our investigation revealed no evidence to deliberately conceal or destroy information. here's what i can't figure out. they learn on february 2nd, 2014, that lois lerner's hard drive had crashed and they don't have her e-mails, 30 days later
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with three preservation orders and two subpoenas in place, they destroy the backup tapes. if that's not evidence of deliberately concealing and destroying information, what is it? >> thank you, congressman. with respect to the matter that you've raised, as we set forth in our letter, we did review the issues surrounding ms. lerner's e-mails and the backup tapes. as with every criminal investigation, we're looking for evidence of criminal intent and we're looking for evidence of the specific reasons for why the actions that you note -- >> how many times do you have direct evidence of intent in any other type of fraud investigation? what were you looking for? an e-mail where the commissioner sends an e-mail to the guys in the tape room and says, destroy the tapes? you had three preservation orders, one of them came from the justice department. they knew there were problems with the hard drive and they didn't have all her e-mails. 30 days after that, they destroy 422 backup tapes. that's not enough to take it to a grand jury? >> certainly it was a matter
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under review, congressman. we've outlined in our letter the findings of the review. >> if it wasn't a deliberate intent to destroy and conceal, what was it? >> congressman, as we outlined in or letter the findings that we had based on those actions. >> here's what you said in your letter. justice department's investigation uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement and poor judgment. what i just described, was that evidence of mismanagement by john koskinen? >> congressman, i'm not going to attribute it to just one individual because i believe certainly there would have been others -- >> was it evidence of poor judgment when koskinen learned that her hard drive had crashed, he comes and testifies before congress and doesn't tell us that and waits four months to tell us? was that evidence of poor judgment? >> i can't speak to what was in his mind when he testified before you. i can speak to the information that we provided to this committee outlining the steps that were taken in the department of justice investigation. and the conclusions that were drawn. >> here's what the american people want to know. what was it going to take before you take this to a grand jury? would koskinen have had to wait
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five months before he told us, six months, eight months before he told us? would they have had to destroy 423 backup tapes? 450 backup tapes? would they have to destroy every single backup? what was it going to take before you take this to a grand jury, with three preservation orders in place, they have knowledge that there's problems with the hard drive, and they destroy the backup tapes? if that fact pattern doesn't warrant going to a grand jury and prosecuting, tell me what would. >> certainly, congressman, that fact pattern was a part of the investigation, as were a number of other facts in there. we outlined in our letter not only the investigative steps that were taken but the conclusions drawn. >> who were you referring to when you said evidence of mismanagement and poor judgment? who? it seems to me the guy at the top is the guy responsible. are you saying the commissioner had substantial evidence of
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mismanagement when he informed congress he destroyed 422 backup tapes? is that evidence of substantial mismanagement on the part of john koskinen? >> i would not attribute it to a specific person. >> who would you attribute it to? someone's got to be responsible. let me ask you one last question, if i could, mr. chairman. you sent a preservation order to the irs in may of 2013. in march of 2014, they destroy 422 backup tapes. if a private citizen gets an audit notice from the irs and ten months later they destroy the evidence, would they be prosecuted? >> it would depend on the evidence of intent. >> really? i bet the average american citizen, of course they are going to be prosecuted. yet you guys with that fact pattern wouldn't take it to a grand jury. who mismanaged what? that's the question i want answered. who is responsible? someone has to be. >> we outlined in our letter -- >> no, you haven't. you said "some." i want to be if it was the guy who runs the irs, the guy presiding over the irs when we destroyed the 422 backup tapes.
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is he responsible? >> as we indicated in our letter, there was substantial mismanagement. as we outlined previously, when we indicated we would provide this information to the committee, we are also happy to provide a briefing to the committee on other questions that you may have about this matter. >> the gentleman's time has expired. the chair would recognize the gentleman from georgia, mr. johnson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general lynch, i want to commend you and the department of justice on the fact that 70 individuals have been charged since 2013 for conduct related to foreign fighter activity and home-grown violent extremism. general lynch, this committee has previously heard how isil and other terrorist organizations feel potential recruits in publicly accessible social networking sites via encrypted messages platforms
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and also voice over internet apps. are these encrypted private messaging platforms and also voice over internet apps hampering the ability of the department to quickly ascertain and address threats to national security? and if so, in what ways? >> congressman, thank you for the question. certainly when individuals choose to move from open means of communication to those that are encrypted, it can cause a disruption in our ability to use lawful legal process to intercept those communications and does give us concern about being able to gather the evidence that we need to continue in our ongoing mission for the protection of the american people. >> how so? >> well, with respect to individuals in this country, what we have seen is communications, this is in regard to specific cases, we've seen communications between them and individuals urging them to commit acts of violence, acts of
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terrorism. and then those individuals dropping from one type of communication to an encrypted method of communication. and we no longer have visibility into those discussions. >> when you say no longer have visibility into those discussions, can you break that down and explain exactly what you mean? >> certainly. typically we would, with a lawful court order, go to a communications provider and, focusing specifically on individuals against whom we had probable cause to believe were involved in criminal activity including terrorist activity, obtain the authorization to review their communications in the past as well as on an ongeg base basis. when individuals move to an encrypted platform, one that is not accessible by the provider themselves, then we have a situation where we're not able to have our court orders handled in the typical way, that is to say, we're not able to receive
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that information and ascertain what these individuals are planning, and also, just as importantly, with whom they're planning these actions. and so we rely on other methods and means. but that is a loss of an important means, an important law enforcement tool. >> is there any way that the department can overcome the use of encrypted data and voice communications by terrorists who are trying to recruit within the borders of the united states or a terrorist plot taking place between persons inside the united states? take, for example, the terrorist incident in paris this past weekend, where i heard one expert say that he would be shocked if the terrorists were not using encrypted
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communications, perhaps even during the terrorist events. how can the department thwart that kind of activity taking place here on united states soil, given the fact that we have these encrypted communications? >> well, certainly it makes it very challenging. our approach has been to work with the electronic companies, the internet providers on a case-by-case basis and help them find a way or work with them to find a way to allow them to respond to the valid legal process. and certainly we're having conversations with the industry as a whole to make sure that they can in fact comply with legal process and provide us the information that we need. we rely on other means of surveillance, other means of gathering intelligence about those individuals and their associates. but it does cause us the loss of a very valuable source of information.
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>> okay. with that i will yield back, and thank you for your testimony. >> thank you. >> the gentleman from georgia yields back. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from texas. mr. gohmert. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, attorney general, i appreciate your being here. obviously people are rather sensitive to potential terrorism, especially since isis is known for keeping their word when they make threats, at least as often as they can. and we had a witness sometime back, the fbi director at that time, director mueller. and i was asking him about investigations at the mosque in boston where the stsarnaevs
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attended. and he indicated that the fbi had an outreach program with that mosque where they would commune together. but they never actually investigated at the mosque whether or not the tsarnaevs had been radicalized, even after russia gave the fbi a heads up that the older tsarnaev had been radicalized. they never asked any questions of the people there. and i know i've been through materials with fbi agents that have been cleaned out from the teaching materials at the justice department, and for some ridiculous reason they were classified, so we had to do it in a closed setting. but it appears to me that fbi agents, justice officials, are not even being allowed to be
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taught what it is that radical islamists believe, not even perhaps that osama bin laden indicated that the egyptian martyr, muslim brotherhood member broke milestones that actually helped radicalize him. nobody knew enough to go to the mosque and ask has tsarnaev been reading it? have you heard him talking about milestones? it seems like we blinded as one official told me, we blinded ourselves of the ability to see our enemy. so, i was also surprised since director mueller was fbi director after alamudi was arrested, based on i understand information that britain gave us, but he's doing 23 years for
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supporting terrorism. he didn't know alamudi is the one was at the bottom of starting that mosque. we know that apparently alamudi helped in both the clinton and bush white house find muslims that alamudi said could be trusted to work in those white houses. and i'm just wondering since we now know that he supported terrorism. we know at least the tsarnaevs, perhaps others, who have been radicalized worshipped at that mosque. has the outreach program been terminated with the alamudi-begun mosque in boston? and has there been any investigation into people that alamudi placed in the clinton and bush white house now that we know he supported terrorism, he's doing 23 years. do you know of any such
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investigations? >> mr. congressman, i don't have the information that you're requesting, but certainly what i can say is that you have touched upon the issue that all of us in law enforcement deal with as we work not only to protect the american people but to counter violent extremism that does pull in young people like the tsarnaevs. >> i appreciate you calling it violent extremism. did you have a degree in islamic studies? >> i'm sorry, sir? >> i really don't know. do you have any degrees in islamic studies? >> no, sir. >> well, there's a guy named al baghdadi who happens to be head of isis who has a bachelor's, a master's, and a ph.d. in islamic studies from the university of baghdad. he perhaps is a better expert than you and i and he said isis is islamic, so i think we should take the word of an expert. it certainly doesn't represent the views of all muslims, thank god.
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but i would encourage you to take another look at the justice department training materials. take another look at your outreach program, and look back and investigate who alamudi placed in those white houses to see if they're still around. the fbi completely dropped the ball on tsarnaev. and it concerns americans, they may be dropping the ball on the syrians as we speak. my time's expired. i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back and the chair will recognize my friend from puerto rico. >> thank you, chairman. welcome, general lynch. i would like to address doj's mission to prevent and prosecute violent crime and naturally i want to concentrate on the u.s. territory. this is the same topic i raised with general holder. each time he appeared before this committee. broadly speaking when it comes to violent crime, the narrative
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in puerto rico has been positive lately. in 2011, there were 1,136 murders in puerto rico over three a day, the highest in our history. most of the homicides were related to the drug trade. so, i pushed dhs and doj extremely hard to dedicate more personnel and resources to puerto rico. dhs including the coast guard, i.c.e., cbp, responded to this pressure. doj responded but to a lesser extent than dhs. this enhanced federal efforts have borne fruit. the number of homicides in puerto rico has decreased significantly every year. in 2015 to date there have been 508 murders. if the current trend continues there will be about half as many homicides in puerto rico this year versus four years ago. that is a remarkable statistic. we should be proud of.
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but we're fighting a determined enemy and the gains we have achieved can be easily reversed unless our efforts are sustained and strengthened and the fact is, despite recent improvement puerto rico still has a homicide rate far higher than any state. yet, my staff and i have found it difficult to obtain answers to basic questions about doj efforts in the territory. so, i want a member level briefing on this subject as soon as possible. in the meantime, i have three specific questions for you today. i will ask them all at once and then give you the time to answer them. first, the u.s. attorney's office in puerto rico has a very high criminal caseload. part of the reason is that they are prosecuting a number of cases that in the states would likely be prosecuted in state or local courts as opposed to the federal court. i'm aware that the u.s.
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attorney's office in puerto rico has entered into an mou with the puerto rico department of justice so that state prosecutors can be detailed to the u.s. attorney's office to work on federal cases. while i support this arrangement, i'm a former a.g. and in my time in the '90s i did something similar. i'm concerned that there are not enough federal prosecutors assigned to puerto rico in light of the caseload. have you looked at this issue? and if not, can you please look at it and have your staff brief me on your specific findings? again, number of assistant u.s. attorneys in puerto rico. second, as you have stated here today, doj has a comprehensive program called the violence reduction network. designed to reduce violence in some of our country's most violent cities. i believe there are cities in puerto rico that are suitable candidates for this program, and i urge doj to select a puerto
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rico site in 2016. can you assure me that puerto rico will receive due consideration for inclusion in the vrn program or any other doj program designed to combat violent crime? finally, "the new york times" just reported or recently reported that in 2014 more guns used to commit crimes in puerto rico were purchased in florida than in puerto rico itself. what is doj doing to reduce the number of guns being unlawfully transported from florida and other states to puerto rico and being used to commit crimes in my turf? thank you. >> thank you, congressman. and i am happy indeed to have my staff arrange to provide further information for you on all of these points. i can certainly tell you that we are looking to expand our efforts under that mou, and with respect to specific numbers, i would like to have the opportunity to look into that
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and provide you with a briefing on that. with respect to the firearms trafficking between the mainland florida and puerto rico, we do have a very strong presence on the island of atf along with, as you know, a host of other agencies. and we are looking at ways to deal with that as well. we also will certainly give puerto rican cities due consideration in the violence reduction networks selection for the upcoming year. i would note, however, that we are also committed even beyond the violence reduction network, to working with local authorities in puerto rico as well as the u.s. attorney to deal with the situation there. as you note, the homicide rate is down significantly. but it is still far too high. and that places the residents of puerto rico in an unreasonable and untenable situation, and we feel it is our obligation and responsibility to do all we can to ameliorate that. >> thank you. >> chair thanks the gentleman from puerto rico and now recognizes the gentleman from arizona, mr. franks. >> well, thank you, mr.
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chairman. and thank you, attorney general lynch, for being here. general lynch, several videos as you know have been talked about quite a bit, have been released, that show corporate officers and employees of planned parenthood casually discussing their practice of harvesting little baby parts from the many hundreds of thousands of innocent babies they kill in their clinics across this nation every year. and the videos revealed that some babies are born intact, which is the most i understand desirable and marketable state of the baby's body for people in that business because the little body parts haven't been damaged by the abortion procedure and because of that incentive, some of these little babies are born alive. and i'm wondering has the department investigated or enforced any cases of born alive children being killed from their abortion survivors? >> congressman, with respect to
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the issue that you raise, you're asking about born alive? >> born alive. yes, born alive abortion survivors. in other words, babies that were victims of abortion but born alive much like the situation with kermit gosnell there's some legislation on the books that ostensibly protect born alive children. has the department ever enforced that or had any investigations for protecting born alive abortion survivors? >> congressman, it's my understanding since the relevant statute was passed some time ago there have been some few cases that dealt with certain issues about -- about -- i believe the statute is the national organ transplant act. there have been a few cases under that statute. i'd have to get those facts for you. i don't believe they fit the factual scenario that you just outlined, but i can provide that information to you on that. >> let me shift gears just slightly. there's legislation here in the congress that's passed the house that would give definitive
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protection to born alive, i'm not talking about unborn children, but born alive babies that have survived the abortion process. would you support that legislation? and would you enforce it if it were in statute? >> well, congressman, i have not seen those drafts. certainly with respect to any draft legislation proposed by this body, the department of justice will review it and provide the relevant input to you for your help and for your use. >> but generally would you support legislation supporting born alive abortion survivors? >> having not seen the drafts, i'm not able to comment on specifics. >> just generally. >> we would have to look at that. >> born alive. born alive. >> we would look at whatever proposals you have, congressman. >> it's too bad you can't answer a question like that. so, let me shift gears on you again, then. is the department of justice currently investigating planned parenthood based on the footage released by the center for
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medical progress and if so, what's the status of that investigation? and if not, why not? >> we've received a number of requests for information as well as congressional requests and referrals on this matter. because we're still reviewing i'm not able to comment on the nature or status of that at this time, sir. >> all right. in light of doj's recent public praise of the southern poverty law center, this is an organization that's implicated in the domestic terrorism conviction of floyd corkens, as you know, who used the southern poverty law center publications to identify and attempt to kill employees of pro-family organizations in d.c. it is important for us to know the doj's level and involvement with splc. can you tell us about doj's relationship with the southern
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poverty law center and its employees' publications and events? can you give us any insight into that at all? >> i'm aware of the organization but i'm not able to give you specifics about the department's involvement if any with the southern poverty law center at this time. i would certainly appreciate the opportunity to have my staff reach out to yours. >> well, i hope you would respond in writing to these questions, general, because you certainly haven't answered them here. in all due deference to you, you haven't answered them. and the last person that held your position didn't answer them either and promised to respond in writing and didn't do that either. have you personally reviewed any of the videos released by the center for medical progress? if so, was there anything in those videos that you found disturbing? >> congressman, i have not undertaken a review of the videos. i'm, of course, aware of the news reports about them and as i indicated all of the information received by the department is currently under review so i don't have any further comment on it at this time. >> yes, ma'am. thank you. >> gentleman yields. the chair will now recognize the gentle lady from california, ms. chu.
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>> attorney general, i want to bring your attention to the cases of chinese american scientists. chou, sherrie chen and li, all of these named individuals despite their ethnic names are american citizens and all of them have been profiled, suspected and treated as spies by our nation's government within the past two years only to have all charges dropped. and these are only the cases that actually reached national headlines. there could be countless more. two of these individuals, sherrie chen and xou xi are sitting two rows behind you. i want to take a moment to their share stories with you. dr. xi is a professor and interim chairman of the physics department of temple university. in may of this year on a day that seemed like any other ordinary day, dr. xi and his
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family were woken up at the break of dawn by almost a dozen armed fbi agents in his home pointing guns at him. in his pajamas he was hand cuffed and arrested in front of his wife, two young daughters and neighbors. after months of investigation, after losing his position as chair of the physics department, after the emotional trauma that he and all of his family endured, all of the charges against him were dropped. it turns out the technology the government thought the professor was sharing with china wasn't the right technology to begin with. we also have sherrie chen who like dr. xi was wrongfully profiled and suspected of being a spy for china. she was arrested by six fbi officers and humiliatingly hand cuffed in her own office at the national weather service. after months of investigation and having her reputation smeared all the charges against her were dropped. not only is she suffering from mental and emotional turmoil that the -- turmoil that this investigation has caused, she's
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now fighting for her job as a hydrologist within the department of commerce. these chinese americans were wrongfully suspected as spies and paraded as criminals through their arrest only to have the charges later dropped but not before they were traumatized and their lives nearly ruined. and it leads us to question are all chinese american scientists suspect because they are chinese americans? so, my question to you is, what went wrong in these cases and how are you addressing this internally especially with the fbi to prevent this from happening in the future? >> thank you, congressman. i can state to you unequivocally that the department of justice does not focus an investigation on any individual on the basis of their race or their national origin. with respect to the specific cases that you mentioned, i'm not able to comment on those specifics at this time. >> even if you can't comment on the specifics of the cases, i will follow-up with you personally on the details of these cases. there is no question that we
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must fight against espionage and threats to american innovation, but in this process we must not ensnare innocent americans that make this nation great or undermined our fundamental values of liberty and due process and equality under the law. this is especially true in light of the horrendous paris attacks which senselessly took over 120 lives in an act of terror. while we must combat terrorism and protect our national security, we must also not impinge upon fundamental rights. we must ensure we do not see an increase of profiling against muslims because of these events. we have seen what happens when we compromise our fundamental values. in fact, it wasn't too long ago that 120,000 people of japanese ancestry were removed from their homes, rounded up and incarcerated during world war ii accused of having spies amongst them. they were proud americans but their citizenship meant nothing. in the eyes of our government all of them were potential spies and outsiders and enemies.
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yet 60 years later not a single case of espionage has ever been proven. today when we profile chinese american scientists in this manner or any american on the basis of their race, ethnicity, religion or country of origin our government is telling our own citizens and their communities that they are un-american and it's okay to fear or even hate them. when this happens, it is my opinion that we have failed as a government and as americans. i yield back. >> the chair will recognize mr. marino. >> thank you, chairman. good afternoon, general. >> good afternoon. >> welcome. i'm going to talk briefly on drug diversion. >> i can't hear you. >> i'm going to talk briefly about drug diversion. it's not a question really. it has been a priority of mine to encourage the dea to collaborate with companies in the pharmaceutical supply chain
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to address prescription drug abuse. in the past dea officials used ambiguities in the law to treat businesses like suspected criminals. with the support of this committee the house passed my legislation to clear up the relevant provisions of the controlled substance act. that bill is now pending in the senate and it appears likely to be enacted. the department's response to my recent questions on this subject that the department, quote, recently made some important changes that demonstrate its commitment to work more closely with the drug supply chain and registrants is very encouraging to me. i will closely keep an eye on this, but i am optimistic that progress is being made and i thank you for pursuing that. >> thank you, sir. >> i'm going to switch gears now to the bureau of prison and oversight. and i do have some questions pursuant.
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my district has three high security federal penitentiaries. i'm in pennsylvania tenth district. keenan, lewisburg, and allenwood. three correction officers have died in recent years in the line of duty. eric williams was working alone and unarmed on a cellblock with over 100 inmates at keenan. he was stabbed 129 times. a bop pilot program was put into place to provide officers with pepper spray, which i think eric and others would have had a chance to survive. will you promise and give your word to me that you will support this program and make it permanent to all the personnel? >> congressman, i'm aware of the death that you mentioned as well as the deaths of several of our other brave men and women at our correctional institutions. i do support additional measures to increase their safety.
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i recently actually had a meeting with the heads of the correctional officers unions and spoke about these issues and i look forward to working with them and with this body to make sure that they have all of the tools that they need to have a safe working environment. >> do you believe that pepper spray is one of these protection devices that would help officers but yet not have a weapon that the inmates could take? >> yes. i certainly think that pepper spray is a viable option. i would like to see the results of the pilot study. >> okay. >> but i also would like to make sure that we include every possible option for protecting our correctional officers. >> we're going to talk about staffing for a moment. many of our federal prisons are understaffed significantly below their authorized levels. i constantly check on this. in some cases counselors, not
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corrections officers, fill in to guard inmates, counselors. would you fully staff corrections officers positions with trained officers? >> congressman, i can tell you that certainly not only is the safety and security of correctional officers a priority of mine, but ensuring that they have the appropriate staffing is a priority of mine. it has certainly been a challenge for us from a budgetary perspective. we are certainly looking forward to meeting those challenges in the future and trying to ensure that every facility is fully staffed with professional officers. >> and almost one year ago the committee requested all communications relating to mandatory donation provisions in certain doj settlements. >> i'm sorry, mandatory? >> mandatory donation -- >> thank you. >> -- provisions. >> thank you. >> in doj settlements. last week your staff advised
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that they did not realize that we wanted internal documents. we were very, very clear both via letter and in live questioning that we were specifically seeking internal documents. there always seem to be some jockeying between congress and this administration over oversight matters. this is unacceptable. it's a continual problem. when will we receive the internal documents we requested almost exactly a year ago? >> congressman, with respect to the requests that have been made, to the extent that we receive requests that ask for internal deliberative documents that typically we do not disclose, that may have been the reason for that. what we try and do is work with either staff or the entire committee to provide the information that you need to carry out your oversight function consistent with our law enforcement and privilege obligations, and we certainly look forward to working with you to do that.
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>> i just hope we do not have to continue, as we have in the past, splitting hairs over a particular word. and thank you, and i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. the chair will now recognize the gentleman from florida, mr. deutsch. >> i thank the chairman. attorney general lynch, thanks so much for joining us, especially in light of the horrific attacks in paris. i know that the department of justice is doing everything that it can to help its french counterparts do its part to bring all of those responsible for these heinous terrorist acts to justice. i also want to acknowledge the importance of the work the department of justice does in keeping the american people safe. and as we mourn with paris, it's moments like these where we pull our own loved ones closer. we trust that the administration, including the justice department and law enforcement and our intelligence community and the men and women who serve our country in uniform, are doing all that they can to keep our people safe from the threat of terrorism, home
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grown and abroad. we're grateful for that. we do face daily threats of another kind at home here. i want to talk to you about the daily gun violence that claims nearly one american's life every hour of every day. over 32,000 per year. every day dangerous individuals in the united states buy guns without completing any background check at all. and whether it's dylann roof whose approval went through who wound up murdering nine americans at worship in charleston during the summer or whether it's gang members in chicago where more than 400 people have been killed by gun violence this year. i've served, madam attorney general, on this house judiciary committee for over 5 1/2 years and in that time gun violence has claimed the lives of over 150,000 americans. we haven't had a hearing on this gun violence, not on this -- not on this committee, not after tucson, not after aurora, not after newtown, not after roseburg.
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as the chairman said just today, again, there's no reason to have a hearing. all we need to do is simply enforce the existing laws we're told and everything will get better. and before going on to my specific question for you, i'm sure you would acknowledge that it was i think helpful to hear the chairman say earlier that sometimes the national criminal background check doesn't have all the information it needs. and i would point out that after the virginia tech massacre, where that gunman's mental health record wasn't accessible, the court had declared him a danger to himself, he should never have been allowed to purchase a gun. that congress acted and passed legislation that authorized over $1 billion for states and territories to improve their recordkeeping and reporting to the national institute of criminal background system. congress, however, has only allocated about 11% of all that money. so, i would ask the chairman,
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consistent with his views that there are some problems with existing law, that we work together to fund, to allocate, the funds so that all of the information gets to the national instant criminal background check system so it can actually work to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. that doesn't require a new law. it simply requires making sure we allocate the money, that we spend the money that congress has authorized over the past several years. now, i do want to ask you, madam attorney general, about steps that can be taken. as you know, the gun lobby has made it nearly impossible for the federal government to enforce some of our existing government laws. federal government is barred from keeping records of gun sales for more than 24 hours. it's barred from denying a gun sale if a background check can't be completed within 72 hours. it's barred from electronically managing trace data.
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information about guns recovered at crime scenes, who sold them. investigations into corrupt gun dealers take months instead of minutes and it's barred from requiring gun dealers to keep its book gs in order and it's barred from seeking assistance from agencies like the fbi or dea. i reject the assertion there's no room for improvement clearly there is. i will push to make interstate gun trafficking a federal crime. but general lynch, there may be real ways to strengthen background checks through executive action, executive action that could save lives. every town against gun violence recently issued a report on one such potential action. under current law, only people in the business of selling firearms have to conduct background checks. people who aren't in the business of selling firearms don't have to. but some of these people who technically aren't sellers and don't work in the business sell hundreds of guns a year without background checks at gun shows online or out of car trunks. we have to better define the language.
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couldn't we set a number for how many gun sales it takes to be in the business of selling guns? has your office explored that possibility? are you considering a threshold like that to define who would be technically engaged in the business? >> congressman, with respect to the serious issue of gun violence, the department is certainly pursuing all of our enforcement actions that we do have under existing law. and certainly would always be useful to have additional resources for our atf to allow them to fully investigate everything that we need and that comes under our purview. with respect to the question that you've raised as to a statutory definition, i believe the statute is going to define that at this time. but certainly the department of justice and atf are committed to rigorous enforcement of that statute. >> to the extent that there is an opportunity for -- for executive action that can be taken to help define something that is undefined in statute, is that something that you are looking at?
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or let me simply since i'm out of time encourage you to take a hard look at that, because that would be a meaningful step that could help, again, ensure that the background checks that should be completed, even without additional legislation, are, in fact, completed, i hope you'll consider that seriously and i yield back. thank you. >> the chair will recognize himself. madam attorney general, i want to tell you, i enjoyed visiting with you recently, and i want to thank you for the recent trip to south carolina which was very well received. there are three areas i want to cover with you. first would be mr. kazakh's letter to congress recently, and i'm going to paraphrase one of the paragraphs, but it's a pretty close paraphrase. the irs mishandled tax exempt applications in a manner that disproportionately impacted conservative groups. i read that to mean that he found a discriminatory effect. in other words, there were
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similarly situated people but there was a disparate impact on conservative groups. that's i think the only way to read that paragraph of mr. kazakh's letter. he then wrote, it left the appearance that the irs conduct appearance that the irs conduct was motivated by political, discriminatory, corrupt or other inappropriate motives. you have discriminatory effect. he said the cause, the motive, was mismanagement as opposed to a crime. and then that got me thinking, if my sheriff stopped only red cars for speeding, at what point is it not mismanagement, but it actually is circumstantial evidence of intent? >> well, with respect to. the actions that you referred to, congressman, i think you certainly are accurate when you indicate that our letter noted that the groups that had
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complained were treated differently from other groups, and they were also treated in a way that did not advance their applications. they were treated badly. so, one can understand their concerns and the issues that they raised. with respect to the investigation, as we outlined in our letter, under the relevant statutes that we were reviewing, we needed to find evidence of criminal intent. that intent was not there. with respect to the example that you raise, certainly there are certain statutes that take into effect a discriminatory impact. but, again, even in our civil rights laws, if one had a discriminatory impact, you would not necessarily be able to prove a discriminatory intent. >> it's really hard to prove intent. really hard. which is why usually you use circumstantial evidence. and if female voters were required to show two forms of i.d. but male voters were only required to show one, how many voters would have to pass
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through the prompter before you would say, that's circumstantial evidence of an intent to discriminate? i mean, you -- never do you have direct evidence of intent. it's really hard to prove intent, which is why we typically use circumstantial evidence. and i noted in mr. kazakh's letter, he didn't say there was insufficient evidence. he said there was no evidence. would you agree with me that there's a very big difference between saying insufficient evidence and absolutely no evidence? which is what he wrote. he found no evidence of any intent to discriminate despite the fact that there's a discriminatory effect. >> well, i think the letter does speak for itself in that regard. what i would say that, congressman, as a general matter in how we handle our criminal investigations, we do look for evidence of intent. and it comes in a number of ways, some circumstantial, some
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direct. every case is different. and in every investigation, as this investigation, we gather all the evidence. we gather all the facts. and we apply the law to those facts and let that determine the answer. >> i'm with you, madam attorney general, but you can see the discriminatory effect. so, that's half of what you have to prove, and it's already there. you concede that. and we've got e-mails from ms. lerner that we need a plan but it's not per se a political project. i think a jury would find that's an interesting e-mail. she worried mightily that republican control of a senate might be tantamount to a republican president and she wasn't thrilled about that. that would be circumstantial evidence of a political motivation. she referred to the tea party as very dangerous. i mean, how many pieces of circumstantial evidence -- keeping in mind the author of
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the letter didn't say insufficient. i could have lived if you'd said, look, our prosecutors just couldn't make the case. it's a close call. it's a jump ball. we couldn't make the case. that's not what he said. he said there's no evidence. i just cited three e-mails that i think would be evidence of some intent, don't you think? >> well, congressman, as i said, i think the letter in its full entirety speaks for itself, and does outline not only all of the issues that you raise but the host of other things that were reviewed and looked at in the course of the investigation and does explain the conclusions to which the department came. with respect to the referral, the issue was whether or not there was evidence of a criminal intent, that is to say, did one act on certain views, was that the reason for the actions. and as we've noted in our letter and we've offered to have in further briefings with you, we did not find evidence of that through the million pages of documents and hundreds of witnesses that were interviewed. >> i would love to take you up
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on that offer for a private debriefing, because i need somebody to explain to me the difference between specific intent and general intent, because as i read her e-mails even some of the mediocre prosecutors on this panel, i think, could get to a jury given the evidence that they have. i want to touch on two other issues, and then -- because there's a trend of going over -- i would invite you at some point, and this is going to be a bipartisan comment, because this goes back to 2004. and 2004, 2004, there was a republican administration. if you look at the firearms prosecutions from 2004 to 2012, you're going to be shocked at how few prosecutions there were -- not for 924-c, not for firearms offenses that happened during a crime of violence, but i mean lying and buying, selling a gun to somebody who has been adjudicated mentally ill,
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somebody who has been committed. there were 22 guilty adjudications over the course of nine years for people possessing firearms who were users or addicts of drugs. 22 in 9 years. so, when i hear my friend from florida talk about the need for more gun laws, yes, we're going to say how are you doing with the ones you currently have. and i would invite your attention to this chart, which came from former attorney general holder provided it to on us. i think you're going to be shocked at how few -- and i get that there's not much jury appeal. trust me, i get that it is hard to go in front of a jury in a lying and buying case. but you noted earlier the focus on firearms cases in the context of violent crime. and i think we would all agree the objective is to prevent the violent crime, not to do a really good job of prosecuting it afterward but to keep it from
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happening in the first place, which is why i would invite your attention to this. my last point is simply this, you have been asked repeatedly this morning to comment on ongoing investigations, and you always give the same answer. and it's the exact same answer that marino gave me in the back who is a former u.s. attorney and it's the exact same answer mr. radcliff gave me in the back who is a former u.s. attorney, you can neither confirm or deny the existence of an ongoing investigation and if we happen to know about one, you're not going to comment on it. that's exactly what you should say. i'm just wondering why the president didn't get that memo. and you may, in your will of souls, believe that it does not impact director comey or you, and it may not, but i promise you it impacts the perception of my fellow citizens when the person who is responsible for executing the laws in this country prejudges the outcome and investigations.
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it may not impact the reality, i promise you it impacts the perception. and that's equally dangerous. and with that, i would recognize the gentleman from illinois, mr. gutierrez. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. and welcome, attorney general. >> thank you, sir. >> i posed the same question to the fbi director. i want your advice, and i'd like to work with you. in my hometown of chicago there are 40, 50 shootings any given weekend. that's a whole classroom of children. and it's unacceptable. and we need more federal action, i think, because whatever we do in chicago, according to a city report from the mayor's office and the chicago police department, 60% of the guns are coming from wisconsin, indiana, and mississippi. all states that have weaker gun laws than the city of chicago does. we know this thanks to the chicago police department's tracking of trace data, meaning
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the chicago police department traces every single gun it recovers where it was originally sold and how it may have entered the illegal market. so given that the majority party in congress refuses to take up despite widespread and robust support for gun control legislation, a couple of questions. what's your advice to me as an individual member of congress who supports gun control, and how can i help curb gun violence in chicago? and second, will the justice department encourage the police departments everywhere in the nation to collect trace data on illegal gun trafficking like we do in chicago? so, first, you're in chicago, you're a member of congress, what's your advice? and second, trace the guns, we're doing it in chicago. what do you think about across the nation? >> congressman, thank you for the question. you certainly raise an area of concern and priority for the
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department of justice, which is, of course, violence, be it gun violence or any type of violence, in our cities as it affects our children, not only those who are the actual victims, but children who are exposed to violence, of course, suffer greatly as we know in their later development as well. we feel that the city of chicago is certainly taking a concerted look at this problem. and i'm extremely proud to note that the federal government through the u.s. attorney's office in chicago is working very closely with local law enforcement on this issue, focusing on the issue of not just firearms but also the gang violence in chicago as well. we also have a very strong presence with our federal agencies, fbi as well as atf, who works closely with the chicago police department on the e-trace program that you mentioned. we do find it to be a very useful program. we do find it to be something that arms us with the data to trace the source of weapons into neighborhoods who suffer so grievously from them.


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