tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN November 30, 2015 5:00pm-6:01pm EST
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. and certainly it's an example
that certainly we would hope could be exported to other cities as well as you have noted. and i can tell you that we are committed to continuing to work with the city of chicago and all of our major cities in violence reduction programs. in fact, chicago was represented at the violence reduction summit that i held just last month with the mayor and the police chief, and we had a very robust discussion about the causes of violence, some of the ways in which the department could be helpful in very targeted ways, whether it is increasing our task force presence, whether it is focusing on dangerous fugitives in the area, whether it is focusing on violence prevention efforts as well. so, we remain committed to working not just with chicago but all of our cities who are experiencing these troubling issues. >> so, if you were to suffer something as egregious as a demotion to a member of congress from your high position as attorney general, what do you
think? what would you do? you're back in chicago. you got demoted. you're not the attorney general. you're just one of us -- >> well, i certainly would not call that a demotion. i think all of us in public service have a great opportunity -- >> i guess you get my point. to serve people. >> what would you do? >> -- to serve our people. and certainly i think within this body there's a lot of significant discussion going on. obviously the resources to fund the programs that we have on the ground are essential in funding the department's budget that focuses on the smart on crime initiative, which does focus on violence reduction as well as re-entry and recidivism. because, of course, a grave concern is, as people return home to their communities, that they not return to violence as well. so, certainly the resources that would be useful for the department's overall budget, and particularly when it comes to firearms, the resources for atf to continue its vigorous enforcement of the firearms laws
and the e-trace program would be very beneficial. >> lastly, i'm going to -- so, there's a letter from my colleagues, congressmen reuben gallegos and robin kelly from chicago, and they've asked to meet with you, with a group of members of the congressional hispanic caucus and black caucus. and i want to put it in some context for all the members why we would invite you to meet particularly with that group. because african-americans are 13% of the population. but they constitute over half of all the homicides, over half. so, 13%, 55%, all that's given firearms. and interesting, latinos are relatively less likely to own a firearm than the general population.
and yet, again, they disproportionately die due to gun violence. so you have a population that doesn't own guns, but dies of guns, and 13% black population and over half of the deaths. just could you -- would you -- i know you got -- i hope you got the letter, so i love working with those two colleagues of mine, and i was wondering if i would accept an invitation to come and meet with us. >> i look forward to meeting with the caucus. thank you so much. >> thank you so much, attorney general. >> the gentleman yields back and the chair would now recognize the gentleman from utah, mr. chaffetz. >> i thank the chairman, and thank you for being here. the inspector general act, which is currently on the books, says that inspectors general in carrying out their provisions under the act is authorized, and i quote, to have access to all audits and reviews and documents and papers and recommendations and all the material available to the applicable establishment which relate to programs and
operations with respect to which the inspector general has responsibilities under the act. somehow the office of legal counsel indicated on july 20th that, despite long-standing tradition within the fbi specifically, the department of justice inspector general is no longer allowed access to grand jury testimony, wiretap information, credit information. we disagree with that conclusion, but at this point we have worked with the inspector generally, worked with this committee, and we're still waiting for full input from the department of justice to try to rectify this. i was hoping that i get some commitment from you to work with us and spend time with us on the proposed piece of legislation. i think the current law is sufficient, but you don't. we're trying to come up with something that would rectify this. would you be willing, is somebody from the department of justice give us guidance and input on this? >> thank you, congressman. i think you certainly raised the important issue of the important
work of all agencies, inspectors general, particularly the department of justice -- >> i just want to get a commitment that you'll work with us on this proposed piece -- >> we have sent legislation up that we feel would clarify it and, in fact, ensure that the inspector general would receive all the information that he needed and i'm happy to have -- >> would you meet with us, not you specifically, but somebody from the department of justice to give input on a piece of legislation i'm drafting in a bipartisan way with mr. cummins to try to resolve this? >> we're happy to meet with you. >> okay. and hopefully soon? soon i hope? >> i will have my staff reach out to yours. we're happy to meet with you and work with you on that issue. >> thank you. i've also had great concern on geolocation. in july, the oversight committee, we sent a letter seeking the so-called jones memos. this relates to a supreme court case from a number of years ago. on october 26th, i issued -- i
did a bipartisan bicameral letter, six representatives, five senators including the ranking member from both judiciary committees in the house and the senate, calling on the department of justice to share with the congress these letters. i still don't understand why you won't share this information with us. >> well, certainly with respect to the request that you refer to, to the extent that it refers to the internal deliberative process of the department, we typically do not provide those specific memos. however, we do -- certainly do look forward to working with you to share the information that we can. >> you don't think that the house judiciary committee, the senate judiciary committee should understand your approach in tracking people through geolocation? >> we're certainly willing to sit and work with you to convey what we can and as much as we can about -- >> that would be a huge step forward because thus far the department of justice has not been willing to share any such information or have any such
meeting. i look forward to that meeting. i need to get to one more topic. i'm trying to go quick just because of the time. share with me your thoughts and perspectives on subpoenas. you know, subpoenas are often issued from a variety of different places but congress also issues subpoenas. do you feel duty and obligation to help enforce those subpoenas as well? >> certainly, that's part of the obligation of the department of justice, in terms of its general law ep forcement obligations. >> when would you not enforce a subpoena? >> you know, i would have to know more specific facts and context to provide an answer as to whether or not we would not be able to for some reason or whether there would be a reason not to. i would have to have more -- >> do you feel a duty and obligation to enforce, then, a congressionally issued subpoena? >> certainly with respect to a subpoena issued by any body, be it congress or be it court, be it a court, the decision as to whether to enforce it or not would be one that we would review and determine the best course of action to take. but i would certainly like to have more facts about the
specific issue, if i could. >> i think what the gentleman is asking is, a subpoena goes out and someone does not comply with the subpoena. how do you view the department's obligations to enforce compliance? a subpoena is only as good as your ability to enforce compliance, and we don't have access to a police force, which is a good thing. so, we're relying upon you to enforce them. and i take the gentleman's question to be how do you view your obligation to back up this branch of government when it needs access to documents or witnesses? >> again, mr. chairman, i certainly, with respect to a subpoena from this body or any other that would come to the department of justice for enforcement, we would review all the information about that. certainly, in my career as a prosecutor and as a u.s. attorney, we've had -- i've had occasion to issue subpoenas and then work on alternate means of
compliance, both as a prosecutor and as a private attorney. so, there are a number of ways in which we can obtain compliance, and i would certainly need to know more of the factual predicate before i could provide you with any specific guidance. >> yes, ma'am. the gentleman yields back, the chairman would recognize the gentle lady from california, ms. bass. >> thank you, mr. chair. and attorney general lynch, for your time today and also for your patience. it seems as though many people on the committee would like to have some of your time. >> it's quite all right. >> and i listened to my colleague a minute ago as well as my colleague gutierrez and he mentioned the letter. there's a letter also that i sent to your staff requesting a meeting with you, and perhaps what we could do is just join forces because i didn't realize there were multiple letters, because the concern is really the increase in homicides in a number of cities, and specifically the desire to sit down with you personally, as
well as members of your staff to look at various programs that the agency has that might be allocated in a -- more of an emergency fashion considering there has been a spike in specific cities. so, i would definitely like to continue following up, and perhaps if by the middle of next month we could have the meeting, it would be very good since we've been asking for a while. i wanted to know if you would tell us about some of the programs from a more global perspective, for example, the federal/local partnership like bfed, which i believe is the partnership between federal law enforcement and local police in baltimore, if you could talk about how those efforts are helping to address a spike in baltimore. as well as you mentioned your summit, the summit that you had in detroit, and i wanted to know if you could perhaps share some of the lessons from that summit in terms of how cities are able to address the spike. and then after that i want to
ask you a question about sex trafficking. >> thank you. for those questions on topics of great importance to me as attorney general, to the department of justice, and to the american people. with respect to the violent crime issues that we're facing, while we -- as we have noted for an -- for a number of months and even the last year or so, we're fortunate in that crime in general is down across the country. and in all of our major cities crime generally is down. but we have neighborhoods where there is a persistent issue of violence. and we have neighborhoods where we either have not seen similar decreases or we have seen increases in violent crime. in my former role as u.s. attorney in brooklyn, i had many of those neighborhoods within my district, so i dealt with those on a daily basis. and i know the importance of a partnership in terms of dealing with that issue. baltimore is an excellent example of some of the resources the federal government is looking to bring to bear to deal
with specific situations. we've partnered with the police department in baltimore to provide an influx of federal agents focusing on the violent crime problem to aid with the investigation and literally making those cases, so that we can remove the violent offenders from the streets of baltimore and allow the citizens to continue to flourish in that great city. with respect to the summit that i had, because we were looking at the issue from a host of perspectives, actually this summer i asked my united states states attorneys in cities that had seen an increase in violence in some neighborhoods to meet directly with their local partners and counterparts, district attorneys, police officers, sheriffs, and discuss the nature of the crime increase and try and focus on the reasons, to the extent they could be gleaned from those discussions, for those increases. we were able to essentially accumulate a great body of information there.
and as one can imagine, the crime -- the reasons for a crime differ depending upon -- >> sure. >> -- the neighborhood. with that, we built on that and convened our violent crime summit in october, where we had mayors and police chiefs and u.s. attorneys from those cities here in washington speaking together, sharing best practices for crime reduction. >> great. if there are, and i want to get to my last point, and would ask the chair's patience with this. perhaps we could get the information from that summit that happened in october. if we could get those proceedings, it would be very helpful. finally, i wanted to ask you about sex trafficking, which i know is a high priority with you. and i wanted to know if you could mention any specific collaboration that is taking place with the department of health and human services, in particular because we know that a percentage of the girls involved in trafficking are in the foster care system, so the question is, is there collaboration between doj and dhhs, and can you speak to that?
>> certainly, we have a number of collaborations across different agencies. i cannot recall the specific ones with hhs, but i would certainly like to provide you with that information. we also are working with the department of labor and we're working with state and local law enforcement in many ways to not only improve enforcement but to provide services for the survivors. the services range from housing services to treatment to therapy and the like. >> okay. and i will follow-up with you. specifically getting these girls back into the foster care system is really critical. >> yes. >> so, i'll specifically look for that collaboration. thank you, mr. chair. >> yes, ma'am, gentle lady yields back. >> madam attorney general, you've been sitting there for three hours. votes are coming, which will provide a break. but i am happy to break now given the fact that you've been sitting there three hours. if you would like five minutes, or we can march until they call votes. it is totally up to you. >> i would appreciate five minutes, if that is possible. >> done. >> thank you, sir. >> committee will come to order.
>> committee will come to order. welcome back. thank you for the break and allowing us to go vote, and at this time we'll continue questionings, and the chair recognizes ms. walters from california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. attorney general lynch, last year i followed the various scandals that plagued the department of veteran affairs and, like many americans, i was appalled at the manipulation of patient wait times at numerous
va facilities. you know, our veterans risked life and limb to serve this nation and the v.a. failed them. fbi director james comey confirmed on june 11th, 2014, that the fbi was investigating criminal allegations. and this was within the veterans affairs related to the manipulation of patient wait times. can you provide to us the status of an update regarding the investigation? >> thank you for the question. i certainly share your concern and regard for our nation's veterans. having several of them in my own family. with respect to that matter, i'm not able to provide you an update at this time. i would like to have my staff reach out to you, after we see what information we'd be able to provide to your office. >> okay. are there any cases in which the department of justice has decided to pursue charges against v.a. employees manipulating wait times, and if not, why not? >> i am not aware of the stat
actuals of that matter, so i would not be able to give you that information. what i can say, congresswoman, not to delay the time, certainly the service of our veterans is of great importance to us and we support them in a number of ways, not just through the investigation you referred to but through our service members initiative act and our work protecting their right to vote overseas as well as our implementation of services such as veterans courts and working with local municipalities to alleviate homelessness in veterans, all of these things, all of these issues, plague our veterans and it's something we as a nation need to be engaged in. >> do you happen to know how many v.a. medical facilities are under active investigation for manipulating wait times? >> i'm not able to give you that information at this time. >> okay. okay. so, and you wouldn't know when the investigations are planned to be concluded? >> no. but i certainly would appreciate the chance to get back to you with that. >> okay. just a couple more questions.
how many cases has the doj declined to prosecute or press charges against the v.a. employees for manipulating wait times? >> i'm not able to give you that information. >> okay. thank you. >> i yield back. >> gentle lady yields back. >> the chair recognizes mr. richman from louisiana. >> thank you for coming and enduring several hours of testimony, i will try to be very brief. what i wanted to do in the beginning, mr. chairman, ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a report from the clemency report, talks of 25 women deserving of clemency, sharona jones and danielle mets. i want to give you a copy to talk about it in the future. >> without objection, it will be entered into the record.
>> thank you. there are cases where women were sentenced to either natural life in jail or really large number of years when they were not actual kingpin, they were just either fol he loing their boyfriend or other things and i'd like the department to do something on that, as we talk about criminal justice reform and move forward. i represent the second congressional district of louisiana, which is new orleans. and where he under a very unique situation in which we have a consent decree for our police department and our sheriff's department. and the cost of the implementation of those consent decrees are a large part of our city budget. and in an effort to make the police department more constitutional and the jail more constitutional, which are both laudable goals, we are sacrificing city services that would keep people from having to deal with the police or the sheriff's department. so it's almost, you know --
we're doing something on our left hand to help, but we're depleting all of our resources on the right. so it's not helping, and we now have an increase in police response time that's almost an hour when you call 911. so the question is, as you all decide grants and look at consent decrees, when you have a unique instance where you are -- you have more than one consent decree in a small jurisdiction, can you all help to provide resources so that we can, one, comply with the consent decree, but, two, not lose critical services for our youth and our public to keep them safe at the same time? >> congressman, i appreciate the question. certainly, our practice of being involved with local law enforcement jurisdictions in a host of areas, not just consent decrees but collaborative reform and technical assistance is an important way in which we
provide assistance to our colleagues there. with respect to the new orleans situation, every municipality does see these as a financial challenge. we certainly understand that. we view it as an investment in the future of constitutional policing and constitutional jails. when a jurisdiction is involved with a consent decree, they still are able to apply for grants and other programs and other -- from other portions of the department or any other agency. so it would not preclude the kind of assistance that you are talking about. certainly, i'm happy to have someone from our grant making arm reach out to your staff and talk about options there. >> i would just say that because it has taken up such a large part of our city budget, we're having to raise taxes and we're having to cut services, such as youth recreation and other things that would keep kids out of trouble in the first place. we don't want to overstress constitutionality and then at the same time take opportunity away from kids. to the extent that you can help with the grants or other things, we would appreciate it.
another thing is the attorney general holder and secretary duncan sent out an advisory on the school to prison pipeline. i would just hope that that's something that you all are going to follow up with. we had a bill, but it seems like school districts are still not getting the word that police are not the answer to a school discipline problem. what are you doing in that effort? >> with respect to the school to prison pipeline, it's still a very important focus of the department's civil rights efforts. we provide guidance to school districts and law enforcement organizations. we actually have a number of cases that were brought approximately two, two and a half years ago by the civil rights division challenging school districts, disciplinary policies. and we are trying to provide assistance to reduce the zero tolerance policies that tend to be the start of this problem. that, in conjunction with
providing appropriate training to law enforcement officers should schools choose to have resource officers is a way we hope will be helpful to every school district in dealing with these issues. obviously, school districts have to have discipline. but just as obviously, the education and the future of the children really is the first priority. >> two things as i close. one is to stress the importance of the c.o.p.s. program and additional funding for community police and other initiatives that would help. the second two are a request. one would be to urge you to continue to work with the different district courts, to push specialty courts, whether drug or reentry courts that could help would be very, very important. the other is a request, can your office get to me the statistics on the adjudicated deferral of convictions, the diversion program, how many people get
accepted and what the demographics look like? i am very concerned that diversion programs are usually used for those who have means and those who have some sort of political connection or community connections and that people who really need it don't get the benefit of the doubt to get accepted in it. so if i could get a year or two worth of data on diversion programs, who is admitted and what those demographics look like and who is rejected and what those look like, i would appreciate it. >> the gentleman's time expired. it's a good question. the witness is allowed to answer or provide the information requested. >> i look forward to providing you information on those points. with respect to diversion courts, because they are often run by the court system and not by the relevant u.s. attorney's offices, we would look for ways to get you information from the office of court administration also. certainly, we have a wealth of information on the success of
those programs. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes myself for questions. on september 28, 2015, the v.a. office inspector general report recommended the u.s. attorney's office district of columbia pursue criminal charges against two v.a. executives who have found to abuse their position. the report detailed how they pressured subordinates to accept positions, transfers, only keeping original salaries and having the v.a. pay them for more than $400,000 in benefits. will the doj pursue charges against these employees? if not, why not? >> thank you. with respect to a matter that has been referred to the department, it's a matter that is currently under review. so i'm not able to comment on it at this time. >> i think the one of the things -- i think the gentle lady from california talked about this. the v.a. issue has been ongoing. i think you made a statement that our veterans deserve the support and help. we're seeing -- we have seen it
in georgia where people are transfer and not held accountable. some have been held accountable. i think coming to this conclusion, it's more than words. actions have to be taken here. to say we're going to look into this and frankly the -- the american people on both sides of the aisle are not satisfied with that response. i do appreciate your mention of veterans court. they are working in my home county in georgia. we're expanding that process. the governor as well as local d.a.s and judicial circuits have worked well in that regard. i would commend that and continue the process as we look forward. i want to move to an area that is coming up a little bit in trade secrets issues. we recognize the trade secrets are intellectual company and companies increasingly target sophisticated efforts to steal information harming our global competitiveness. there are many in congress who believe we need to create a federal civil remedy for the misappropriation of trade secrets, keeping and harmonizing legal framework.
so the companies can protect. the administration supports a call for private right on action on trade secrets. do you join them in recognizing that such a private right of action would be beneficial? >> certainly, congressman, you raised an important issue, one of great priority to me and the department of justice. we are committed to prosecuting cyber criminals who seek to steal other intellectual property. i believe the last recent estimate was that we are losing up to $250 billion worth of intellectual property a year through hacks and crimes and the likes. we look forward to working with you on the proposed legislation that you mentioned, that you discussed. >> so you believe a civil -- a private right of action would compliment your efforts given the resources and limited actions that you have? that would be something that would compliment the actions that you currently have? >> i would like to see the language. we look forward to working with you on that. >> also, i want to -- we're jumping to several different issues. one i want to come back to that
was brought up earlier, and it has to do with sanctuary cities, it goes back to a question, i want to know has doj taken action to with hold law enforcement grants or other funding to sanctuary jurisdictions? if not, why not? >> the grant process under which doj operates is a formula-based grant making process. different organizations and entities within cities apply. certainly, with respect to our grant making process in general, we're always cognizant of concerns that come up within certain jurisdictions. we have found that through our grant making process we can with effectuate great change in a host of very significant -- >> madam, but shouldn't following the law be a prerequisite for a grant? >> certainly, we work to enforce not only the laws you are referring to but all the laws with the cities with whom we work. >> but getting a grant, if you are not following the law, have no intention of following the -- at that point in time
the application should be set aside. follow the law, we'll talk to you about your grant. why can't we get to that? >> thank you for the question, congressman. it has been raised in a number of context. we do find that our grants are very focused on specific areas. for example, providing more police officers. on the ground -- >> again -- you have great talking points. i appreciate that. that's not my question. how can you -- if you are using money to circumvent the law as you just basically implied, that's even worse. you don't incentivize this behavior. why would it not be a permanent stop to the process until the city or municipality or government entity complied with the law? >> congressman, with respect to our grant making process, we make very discrete focused grants to specific portions of city government. >> in essence, you subsidize lawless behavior. that's what the attorney general of the united states has just testified to. you can sit -- that's what you testified to.
you will give money to a locality that is not following the law because you want to use your grant in discrete, private ways? is that what you said? >> we use our grants to incentivize better behavior in a host of ways. and our grant making policy is focused on a very rigorous application process. >> you are telling the people that taxpayer dollars that come to them is being used and will not be considered if a locality is not complying with the law, you will still give their tax dollars to a locality not complying with the law? is that your testimony? >> we look at a host of factors -- >> the answer is yes? not your host of factors. it is yes. this is a part that -- the ranking member made a great point earlier when he first started. i want to finish with this. i have had the hearings and you will be before us at another time. i look forward to those hearings. what is amazing to me and the american people watching here is -- he said tell the truth and work those. but also being prepared for questions. you are going to get v.a. questions, sanctuary city
questions, you know, a lot of host of questions. even the ranking member listed those off. coming and giving an answer that we're looking for, that we're not basically a setup where the people don't understand that is a feeling that very much frustrates people in washington, d.c. you have been prepared for those who want to prepare you for the hearings. there's just a big disconnect at a certain point in time when the attorney general of the united states will not say that they would not want to give money to an organization or to a locality that is not following the law, we're still going to give taxpayer money. that's unacceptable and what most people find abhorrent. with that, i recognize the gentle lady from washington. >> thank you, mr. chair. thank you attorney general for be here with us today and all of rour time. as you are no doubt aware, in 2012, voters in my home state of washington passed initiative 502, which legalized the sale, consumption and taxation of marijuana products, including washington,
23 states and the district of columbia have legalized some form of marijuana, and in 2016, several more states are expected to consider marijuana legislation, ballot initiatives. washington has collected over $80 million in tax revenue from sales. since the passage of initiative 502, court filings in washington low level filings have dropped, saving the state millions of dollars in judicial expenses. as you may know, there are a variety of marijuana reform measures that have been introduced in congress. there is the concern about the conflict between state and federal law in many areas, particularly in banking, for example. they range from legalization to rescheduling and a bill that i recently introduced, the smart enforcement act, my bill would give you, the attorney general,
the authority to waive the controlled substances act for states that are effectively regulating marijuana themselves. it authorized a waver from the controlled substances act for states that meet requirements preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, violence or use of firearms and cultivation and distribution and drug driving. and i want to thank your team for answering many questions that my office had as we were in the drafting process. i wanted to hear from you your thoughts on this type of legislation and this approach to reform and about how the enforcement priorities that were outlined in the cole memo have been working. >> thank you, congresswoman, for the question. we're happy to provide information and assistance as needed by your staff as you review this important issue. certainly, the factors that have been outlined and that have been stressed in further discussions with the u.s. attorney community remain consistent. our concerns are the areas that
you mentioned. where a state chooses to have a legalized structure, we will look at that. our concern is, frankly, marijuana getting into the hands of minors and also being trafficked out of state where a state may have not made the same choice. we also have grave concerns about the areas of edible products that are so appealing to children and expose them to this product, which i don't believe is the goal of the regime you are talking about, but is a concern of ours. we're also concerned as well about the violence that is associated with the higher levels of the marijuana trafficking industry. and so at the federal level, we are focusing our resources on that type of enforcement action. and we continue to do so. in my former office, we prosecuted cases of importing large amounts of marijuana
utilizing an indian reservation on the canadian border and also utilizing organized crime connections. we have a robust practice. again, we focus limited federal resources on those types of cases. >> we know that we have states like ours that have challenges, banking in particular, because there is still even while there may not be active activity against states who have legalized, we still have situations where banks are not able to serve these types of businesses because of the conflict between state and federal law. my legislation would allow you to issue waivers to states that regulatory regime and these would be three-year waivers so that you are able to give those states a waiver from the controlled substances act and establish the requirements they were going to meet. is that a type of legislation that you think would help address the issues that we have between federal law and state law today? >> we're certainly happy to
review any proposal that you think would be helpful and to provide comment on that. i would have to look further at that proposal before i could respond. >> it's a bill we have introduced. we work to get feedback from your office. i would welcome any feedback there. i also just wanted to ask quickly, you talked about creating a new cyber security unit within the criminal division. i wanted to ask exactly what made you decide to do that and what are the goals of the -- of that particular new unit. >> that is within our computer crime unit. we have a cyber security unit focusing on computer intrusions, computer hacking and the sophisticated types of computer activity that hackers, many of whom are based overseas, are using to infiltrate our computer systems. the types of activity that we're looking at involve not just the wholesale theft of private information, which can be so challenging at a very basic level of identity theft, but the theft of personal information
such as healthcare information, which raises significant privacy concerns, and also intellectual property. we find that private industry is being targeted, particularly our financial services are being targeted, at an increasing targeted, at an increasing level by cyber intruders who are seeking to essentially take advantage of american technology and siphon it overseas without the benefit of the work that we put into it. and as i have indicated in response to mr. chairman's question, that recent estimates indicate that approximately up to $250 billion worth a year worth of our intellectual property is being lost to us through that. this is a grave concern as all of us seek to make sure that our economy is as strong as possible, that we get the benefit of american ingenuity and american technology and that we protect what our --
many of these matters that are being stolen are not only sensitive but very, very unique to particular industries. and important to the growth of particular, discrete industries. we felt we needed to increase resources to this because the problem is increasing. it is working very, very well. one way in which it's working very well is through our connections to private industry. we along with the fbi and the secret service have made extensive contacts and discussions with private industry, general counsel, ceos, cios, about cyber security and the need to share information about breaches when they occur. we are also ramping up within the federal government our own efforts to provide information to companies when we determine that they have been the subject of a breach or hack. we are working to reduce our response time, to get information to them as quickly as possible, so they can also begin protecting their data and protecting their information. so it has been a very positive effort. >> the gentle lady's time has
expired. thank you. the chair recognizes the gentleman from florida. >> thank you, mr. chairman. welcome, madam attorney general. when you were the u.s. attorney and you received inquiries about an ongoing investigation, how would you respond to those inquiries, typically? >> well, as you -- mr. congressman, thank you for the question. it's department policy and certainly my own view as a career prosecutor, typically our response would be that we're not able to comment on an ongoing matter. >> part of the reason is because if you are out making statements in the press, that detracts from the public's confidence that you are doing it by the facts, if you are trying to prejudice of investigation. is that fair to say? >> that's one of the reasons, congressman. >> let me ask you this. when you were an ausa, did you prosecute against someone with whom you had either a relationship on a personal or professional basis? >> can you be more specific? >> did you get assigned a case where the defendant was somebody that you knew, either personally or professionally, that had a private relationship? >> that did not occur in my experience. >> would it have been
appropriate, do you think, for you to have had a case of someone who maybe you work with prior to taking the position as a prosecutor, would that case have been sent to a prosecutor who did not have that relationship? >> it depends entirely on the facts and circumstances of the case, what type of case it was, whether it involved an individual, an entity. every case is looked at on its own merits. >> so here is why i'm kind of asking these questions. because i delivered a letter -- you probably haven't had a chance to read it yet -- from my colleagues, over 40 of us requesting you appoint a special counsel to look into the situation with former secretary of state hillary clinton's e-mails. the applicable regulations say that that's warranted if there's a conflict of interest for doj or there are other extraordinary circumstances and it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside special counsel. here is why i think it makes sense.
you were appointed to the u.s. attorney in 1999 by president bill clinton. i have had a chance to meet a lot of people who served as as ambassadors. i never met anybody who doesn't have esteem for the person that appointed them. it's a tremendous honor. your current boss, who appointed you to your current job, president obama appointed you to the u.s. attorney's office and now to your current job as the attorney general. it has been -- made statements saying that somehow there's no damage to national security. then you have presumptive presidential nominee of your party is subject to this investigation. to me, that would meet any definition of extraordinary circumstances. i don't think we could probably find a similar fact pattern in american history where such an investigation was put up. so why not, so that the public has confidence this is done in an apolitical manner, assign somebody who is trustworthy to serve as a special counsel and this way, however the investigation goes out, the public is going to have more confidence in the outcome? >> well, congressman, thank you
for your letter. i look forward to reviewing it and will provide a response. >> why not just forget about the letter. why aren't these extraordinary circumstances? >> well, congressman, i would never forget about your letter. we will provide a response to that. certainly, we will review the issues that you raise and we will provide you with a response. >> do you think that you, as the attorney general, then having an investigation that concerns the spouse of somebody that is appointed you to a very important position -- it's not saying that somehow you are not going to try to do a good job. it's just, it's human nature, i think -- then the appearance of whether there's a conflict of interest at stake is something a lot of people are concerned about. i appreciate you are going to review the letter. but do you not see why that would cause people a little bit of pause? >> congressman, we will review everything raised in your letter and provide you with a response. >> we look forward to doing that. hopefully, you will do that in a timely fashion. your predecessor usually did not respond in a timely fashion.
the vetting of the refugees, the testimony you gave is different from the testimony that we had from the fbi director a couple weeks ago about our capacity to vet. he said that you are getting better at it but that you can't guarantee. i think you are confident that they will be able to vet. let me ask you this, your daughter brought terrorism charges against bosnian immigrants, at least one of whom was a refugee. if our vetting is good, what happened in that case involving the bosnian who was indicted in material support for terrorism charges in february 2015? >> i would have to look at that specific case before i could provide you with an answer about that, congressman. of course, if it were an ongoing case, i wouldn't be able to comment about it. so again, i'm not able to give you that answer at this time. we will see what information we can provide about that matter. as i indicated, we have a robust screening mechanism for refugees from all countries. it relies upon efforts of not
just the fbi but the department of homeland security, department of defense, state department. it uses interviews, biometric data. it is, as i indicated earlier, a challenging process. as it everything we do in law enforcement. that does not mean we're not committed to doing everything we can to make sure that the process is as robust as possible and that we do everything that we can to protect the american people. >> i think the concern, though, is that you can do everything right but given the lack of data, the lack of information about we have on people who are being pulled out of a very, very difficult circumstance, an islamic civil war, that you can do everything right and you could still have people come into the country who mean to do us harm. this bosnian was able to get in, and probably circumstances that it would have been easier to vet than syrians. i know a lot of us have concerns. i appreciate your testimony and i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. the chair now recognizes the
gentleman from new york. >> thank the chairman and i thank the attorney general for your presence and your testimony here today and your leadership. one of my colleagues from illinois mentioned earlier that in the city of chicago, 60% of the instances of gun violence can be traced to weapons that were purchased in the neighboring states of wisconsin or indiana as well as, i believe, from mississippi. it's the case that many of the weapons that are used to commit crime in south central los angeles can be traced to the neighboring state of arizona. we have a similar problem in new york in terms of the weapons is that are used often to commit crime in the city. in fact, this has been illustrated recently we have experienced the deaths of four officers in the line of duty over the last ten months. detective ramos, detective brian moore, brian holder.
it was a very diverse group. sort of emblematic of the diversity of the new york city police department. one was african-american, one was white, one was latino, one was asian. they all paid the ultimate price. one of the things they had in common was that the weapons that were used to kill each of these officers came from outside of the state. deck everybody ramos, lou were killed but a weapon that came from georgia. officer moore, a weapon that came from georgia. officer holder, a weapon that came from south carolina. it seems as certain states see fit to tighten their gun violence prevention laws, because there's no national legislative effort, many states have been subjected to closing the front door but guns being able to come into the states through the back door. so my question is, do you think that the gun trafficking laws that currently exist on the books are adequate for the atf, the fbi, the department of
justice to do its job in combating gun violence? >> certainly, congressman, the protection of the american people, particularly when it comes to gun violence, is one of our highest priorities. we are committed to making every effort to carry out that goal and that responsibility. we look to vigorously enforce all of the laws on the books. there are a number of cases -- i recall when i was still in brooklyn that my colleague in the brooklyn d.a.'s office was able to essentially close down a firearm trafficking ring that was bringing guns, as you indicated, from georgia to new york. so it's something that all levels of law enforcement take very seriously. we work closely with our state and local colleagues on this issue. we will continue to do so. certainly, should congress consider additional legislation, we would be happy to provide input and comment on that. that is certainly something that i think there's a debate about. i think all voices should be
part of that debate. >> has the department of justice taken a position as to whether universal background checks or comprehensive background checks would be something that congress should look to do as it relates to tightening our gun violence prevention laws? >> certainly, i think, as we have been asked that information we have been provided information about cases and about trends that we have seen that we hope would be helpful to the analysis here in congress on that. if that were something congress were to consider, we would work to implement that as well. >> it's my understanding that the department of justice is currently investigating whether -- whether the civil rights of eric garner were violated when he died as a result of a chokehold that was deployed in july of 2014 by an nypd officer. is that correct? >> yes. that was -- that tragic incident did occur in 2014 and it was on staten island, which is in my former district.
>> and in december of 2014, i believe the department of justice publically announced that it was considering whether civil rights prosecution would be appropriate, is that correct? >> yes. essentially, as you may be aware, the staten island district attorney initially undertook an investigation and grand jury presentation as is commonly our practice. we awaited the results of that investigation. and after the conclusion of the state matter, began our own federal review, which is ongoing. >> okay. and in the context of the federal review that's ongoing, eric garner, obviously, has been killed. the individual who i think courageously recorded the incident is currently being prosecuted at the state level in a manner that many of us view as retaliatory. it remains to be seen. but the officer who deployed a chokehold that had been
administratively prohibited by the nypd for the previous 20 years remains on the force on desk duty still receiving a salary. at any point did the department of justice communicate to the city of new york that it should refrain from proceeding with disciplinary action against this officer during the pendency of your investigation? >> the gentleman's time has expired by the attorney general can answer. >> thank you, sir. mr. congressman, i'm not able to go into the specifics of the discussions we may or may not have had with the nypd except to say it's common practice during the pendency of the investigation officers are placed on a modified duty assignment consistent with the internal practices of the nypd. and that -- but they still retrain the right to take action. they often do await the results of a federal investigation also. that has been my experience in the past with the cases that i have personally prosecuted and seen prosecuted. >> the gentleman's time expired. the chair recognizes the gentleman from michigan, mr. bishop.
>> thank you, mr. chair. thank you, madam attorney general for being here today and for your patience in sitting through this long testimony. the primary function of any prosecutor is to enforce the law and constitution and ensure justice. as i listen to some of the questions -- this can be applied in several areas we have been discussing today. the chairman took you down the path of talking to you about sanctuary cities. to me, the idea of sanctuary cities is really antithetical to what prosecutors believe and that is justice. because it's the selective application of laws. and i'm wondering what your opinion is of sanctuary cities given all that's been happening in this country. we have cities that have decided to enforce their own brand of law, to ignore law.
we have constituents that we represent that don't understand that. i have members that do not understand how we can have law enforcement community that does not enforce the law. it just is -- it's inexplicable. i think it's important that we have some clarity to this answer. but federal law prohibits, specifically section 642 of the illegal immigration reform and immigrant responsibility act of 1996, any state or local government from prohibiting their officials from communicating with dhs information regarding the immigration status of any purpose. yet it happens. i'm just wondering, your predecessor didn't address this issue, i'm wondering if you can address it. if you can give the american people some clarity as to why
sanctuary cities are still allowed to exist in this country. >> well, congressman, i have to tell you, it's not an issue on which i'm able to give you clarity about the history of sanctuary cities. at this point i'm happy to look into the issue and provide you with what information we can. i know that it is an issue of intense debate and of course the department of justice is able to provide not only the information but to help in that debate. i'm not able to give you the history of how they came about or explain that to you. i do understand the challenges that you note, however. >> that is exactly why americans are frustrated. because that's the answer that they're getting. selective enforcement of the law is not justice. it is, in fact, lawlessness. and we live in a country that we require our citizens to obey the law.
yet our own law enforcement is being directed not to follow the law. so you have to wonder at what point in time do the citizens of this country begin to say, why in the world am i following the law if my own government doesn't apply it in a fair way? i do believe that we are fast approaching a point in time in this country where people will just ignore the law. and we wonder why the crime continues to proliferate. we have -- you have violence reduction summit that you had. i would think this would be a good conversation piece to have. why is it that we allow cities to ignore the law? why law enforcement refuses to talk to each other and why we allow some of these glaring examples of violence to occur in our inner cities. we complain about it. i've heard it here today. yet we're not doing what we could do to ensure that it doesn't happen in the future.
i -- it causes me great anxiety to sit here and not hear someone -- a public official say we will not stand for lawlessness. we will not allow cities to circumvent or ignore the law. we are going to use the power and weight of our office to ensure that justice is done. and i say that with conviction because i believe it's common sense. it has nothing to do with politics. it's common sense. i'll let you respond to that if you have any response to it. >> well, thank you, congressman. i understand the frustration that you outline. certainly, with respect to the statutory regime that you inquired about as i indicated, i'm not able to give you that historical information now. but i look forward to providing you what information we can. >> i yield back. >> the gentleman yields back. the gentleman -- >> there, mr. chairman.
thank you, madam attorney general for being here particularly at a moment when i know you and the entire justice department is offering full assistance to your counterparts in france to respond to this horrific terrorist attack. i want to focus my questions really on gun violence in our country. specifically, as you know, under federal law a gun seller may transfer a firearm to a purchaser after 72 business hours even if the criminal background check has not been completed. and because of that, it's call dead fault proceed policy within the department. because of that, gun dealers went forward with almost 16,000 sales to people who turned out to be prohibited purchasers between 2010 and 2014. so my first question is, do you think that the default proceed policy should be changed to a policy that says firearm sales may only occur if the background check has been completed and the transfer approved? >> certainly you raise an important issue about gun safety and our background system.
we have been looking specifically at this issue, given the unfortunate tragic circumstances that allowed dylann roof to purchase a firearm. what i will say is that while it certainly does make it challenging and make it difficult to ensure that we keep firearms out of those who are prohibited, that is the current state of the law. >> i understand that. you agree, do you not, that if the law in fact said the background check has to be completed and the transfer approved, we would reduce the likelihood that people who are ineligible, 16,000 in that four-year period, from purchasing firearms. correct? >> certainly it would provide law enforcement with another tool to make sure that firearms are out of the hands of prohibited persons and should congress consider something, we would be happy to provide input and comment on that. >> when that information is determined -- it's determined a person is a prohibited purchaser, the agency sends out a retrieval notice to the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and fire
firearms, correct? >> yes. there's a retrieval -- >> do you know what happens to those cases in which atf is directed to retrieve a firearm? >> with respect to retrieval notices, atf will designate an agent to investigate the location and whereabouts of the individual and the firearm and retrieve that firearm from that person. >> under current law and practice, no notice is provided to local law enforcement or the u.s. attorney's office in that jurisdiction? is that correct? >> it is done through atf, that is correct. >> so that we have information that at least some of the cases someone who is ineligible because they are a convicted felony has purchased a firearm but we don't provide notice to local law enforcement, only to atf? >> that's the current system. >> you would agree providing that information to local law enforcement or to the u.s. attorney's office would allow them to prosecute some number of individuals who criminally and
in violation of federal law bought a gun with a criminal record? >> congressman, i certainly agree the sharing of all relevant information helps all law enforcement. every case could would have to be looked at and with respect to the individual facts. >> in addition, i want to focus your attention for a moment on the nick system. director comey testified before our committee that receiving timely records from state and local law enforcement was a potential area for improvement. are there legislative efforts we can undertake to increase compliance by state and local governments? is it your sense that it's a lack of federal standards, general administrative difficulties, or just non-compliance? what can we do as congress to try to encourage or require compliance with the system because it's only as good as the information that's contained with it? >> thank you. yes, it's an important part of our background check system.