tv U.S. Senate Sen. Grassley on William Barr Attorney General Nomination CSPAN February 16, 2019 11:53am-12:17pm EST
me cause to believe this is why i could be wrong but this is why he received that nomination. implication of presidential power, an unlimited control that mr. barr believes this president has over law-enforcement matters, i cannot support this nominee to serve as attorney general. at this critical time, in our nations history, we must have an attorney who is objective, who is clearly committed to protecting the interests of the people, the country and the constitution. that is the issue, not the president. thank you. i yield the floor. >> i will now turn my attention to the vote that will happen shortly today or tomorrow on william barr to be attorney general.
and obviously attorney general for the united states. mr. barr is highly accomplished attorney and an experienced public servant with an outstanding record. the justice department needs good effective leadership, and we should act quickly to fill this top spot. i believe that mr. barr will be a good leader for the justice department as he has demonstrated in the past. in my opinion, at this judiciary committee nomination hearing, mr. barr was very candid with senators. i believe he did his best in answering questions on his views, on a wide variety of topics, as well as addressing
concerns including my own concerns. for example, at the beginning of this confirmation process, i had concerns regarding mr. barr's prior negative statements on a subject that i'd been working on for four years with senator durbin and senator lee, criminal justice reform. in particular, i was concerned about a 1992 justice department report released when he was attorney general entitled "the case for more incarceration". that title ought to tell you he's tough on law enforcement. and also a letter that he signed in 2015 opposing the bill that we then entitled the sentencing reform and correction act of so obviously if i think that we 2015. need criminal justice reform for
the first time in a generation, and the attorney general puts out a letter against the part of it that senator durbin and i were working so hard on, by the way, the president signed that just before christmas, then i think it's legitimate that i ask him these questions. as attorney -- questions. as attorney general, mr. barr will be responsible for implementing the recently passed first step act of 2018, which 89 members of this body supported. these members also worked tirelessly for its passage. the title "first step act" is the title of the bill that i call criminal justice reform. this is -- reform. this is why one of my first questions during confirmation hearing was to directly and to clearly ask mr. barr if he would commit to fully implementing the first step act considering the
fact that he had written a letter three years ago against the concept. his answer was very clear and convincing to me, and that was one word, yes. he went on to say, and i quote, i have no problem with the approach of reforming the prison structure, and i will faithfully implement the law. end quote. later in the hearing, other senators pointed to mr. barr's past stances on criminal justice and sentencing reform, and those members asked for mr. barr's current views on the subject. they also asked for assurances that mr. barr would dutifully implement the first step legislation, just like i asked that question. mr. barr expressed his current misgivings about high sentences
for drug offenders, established in the 1990's. each time he answered very clearly that he would dutifully implement the first step legislation and work to ensure that the intent of congress was realized. mr. barr's answers regarding the first step act relieved my concerns of his past statements. now while i will continue to use the oversight powers of congress to ensure first step is applied and implemented as required by law, i believe mr. barr's testimony and look forward to working with him on both the implementation of the current law and future steps in criminal justice reform. i want to go on to another issue of importance to me that mr. barr position and that was on the false claims act. if you remember, my participation in
the false claims act going back to 1986, that act has brought in 59 million dollars of fraudulently taken money from the federal taxpayers. leaders and top prosecutors of both sides of the aisle have now as the most effective tool the government has to detect, prosecute and actually recover public money lost to fraud. $59 billion has come as a result of patriotic was a lawyer's who found the fraud and brought the cases at their own risk. in the past, so you know why i am concerned, mr. barr was extremely critical of the false claims act even after it was signed by president reagan.
he called it unconstitutional. at one time he used the word it was an abomination. hearing, ination pointedly asked him, whether he believed the false claims act is unconstitutional. wordsd -- these are his -- no, senator, it has been upheld by the supreme court. mr. barr also stated he would fully and faithfully implement this very important law. he acknowledge the benefits of the false claims act and said, quote, i will diligently enforce the false claims act, and of quote. i also asked mr. barr about his stance on cranston, something called the cranston memo. that memo provides a long list of reasons that the justice department can use to dismiss false claims act cases.
some of these reasons are pretty as, preserving government resources. just think how that can be used by some faceless bureaucrat to avoid some issue that maybe they don't want to know after fraudulent money or they don't like some whistleblower. obviously those words can mean anything that government wants it to mean. of course the government ought to be able to dismiss obviously meritless cases, but we don't , discretion to the administration, without good justification, but even when the justice department declines to participate in a false claims case, the whistleblower can and in many cases still does recover taxpayers money.
yetough mr. barr has not read the memo, he pledged to sit down with me if problems arise. these are positive steps and statements. however, actions speak louder than words. i want mr. barr to know that i am going to aggressively monitor how he enforces and protects the false claims act to ensure that he follows through on his promises. on another matter, during his confirmation hearing, i pressed mr. barr about transparency with regard to the special counsel's report. i made it clear that i want the report to be made public because whatyers deserve to know their money is being spent on. millioncase maybe $25 to 30 my -- $35 million. it is a lot of money.
the only way the taxpayers and congress can hold the government accountable is through transparency. you heard me say many times transparency wins accountability. there is some traditional reasons for withholding certain information, even in a special counsel report such as national security or peoples privacy. there should be as much transparency as possible regarding the release of the report. mr. barr said that he placed a high priority on transparency particularly with the special counsel's report. there is no reason to think that mr. mueller will not be allowed to finish his work. mr. barr told me and other members of this committee that he, quote, provides such transparency as he can
consistent with the law and the departments long dance -- long-standing practices and policies, and of quote. there is a lot of room there for him to work within, i suppose, and still be honest in his answers, at this point i can tell you i have no reason to doubt mr. barr's sincerity or his commitment to transparency and to the law. sure -- confirmed, i am i will be sure to hold mr. barr to his word onto transparency. but i realize there is some difference of opinion around here on what is currently required under the justice department's special counsel regulations. that is why senator blumenthal and i have recently introduced s
236, special counsel transparency act. this bill would require by statute that a special counsel provide a report to congress and the american people at the conclusion of an investigation. not just the molar special counsel report, but special counsel reports into the future. this is common sense transparency, and accountability, under any administration, not just the trop administration. i look forward to working forward -- working with my colleagues and mr. barr. i also passed -- pressed the nominee on a number of issues related to transparency including freedom of information agentsd the foreign registration act. fara.erred to that as
when i served as chairman of the judiciary committee, i helped steer that into law which point, a very important a presumption of openness standard. the justice department oversees the federal government's compliance, so that is why we discussed it with barr. as critical as the nominee have confirmed to leave the justice takes transparency seriously. when you talk about presumption of openness, it ought to be this simple, that any of the public's business ought to be public, and you presume it ought to be and let the government give a justification why it ought to be kept secret or not open to the public under the freedom of information act. i asked mr. barr if he agreed
that it is an important tool for holding government accountable. naturally he said yes. i also asked the nominee if he would commit to ensuring faithful and timely implementation of the 2016 amendments. we will quote, yes, work hard on that. i also think that the entire freedom of information act process would be improved if americans did not have to fight or disclosure in the first place. let me repeat that. fight tooth and nail for disclosure. that is why we have a presumption of openness when it comes to freedom of information act, getting the public's information out to the public automatically should be a top priority. i asked mr. barr if he would help advocate for proactive disclosure of public government
records. again he said he would. assurance, ands of course as i said so many times on different issues, i expect to hold him true to his word. then i went to the foreign agents registration act. i asked him about the importance of it. my oversight work has highlighted the justice department's historically lax enforcement of that act. it,ink we had a hearing on and something like since 1937 there has been less than a dozen prosecutions under it. sudden, it is coming to the attention that there is a lot of people that have not registered under it, and on the other hand, i bet people are hastening to register very fast. but the law has shortcomings.
where we are witnessing more foreign government effort to influence the americans, we should see more transparency and more enforcement against bad actors, not less. he -- mr.ther barr if asr if he agreed with fara an important accountability tool. he said yes. barr if he would be sure to make sure that enforcement a top priority under his leadership. he said he would. i asked mr. barr if he would commit to working with me on my bill to improve fara, that bill before congress is called the disclosing foreign influence act . again he said yes. again mr. barr can expect i will hold him to his word.
i also asked mr. barr about his position on antitrust enforcement, specifically whether he would ensure that the health and care -- health care and prescription drug issues would be a top priority for the justice department. the candidate -- or the nominee responded that, quote, competition is an important factor in containing the cost of health care and that he would work with the antitrust division to ensure a -- appropriate criminal and civil enforcement to protect americans interest in low-cost high-quality hair care -- health care. he stated if confirmed, and the health care and pharmaceutical sectors, will remain a priority for the justice department. candidate about my concerns about agriculture
complication and he indicated that enforcing the antitrust laws in the agriculture sector will remain a priority. the topics i just discussed are just some of the areas that i asked mr. barr about at the confirmation hearing in written questions for the record. and my judiciary committee colleagues question him at length on topics. i take mr. barr at his word. haywoodbow toe any kind ofow to pressure. is an excellent nominee, extremely competent and experienced. mr. barr previously led the justice department and has abilities.leadership
back in 1991 the jet set -- --ate judiciary community under president george h dubya bush, and can you believe it, the senate confirmed him by a voice vote. what has changed, i don't know, peoplesomething some think is wrong if a person by trump nominates somebody. he has proven himself even to be in the private sector but he did so well as a public servant. very capable attorney, he is, straight shooter. he is willing to engage in discussion with congress. that is a key quality that we want in anybody running the justice department. i have had enough trouble with the justice department, i hope
that he can respond to my request for oversight democratsn more than and republicans preceding him. with memmitted to work on my oversight requests, and i think my colleagues know that that is a responsibility that i take seriously. he will uphold the law. barr deserves our support, and you can tell from our remarks that i am proud to vote for him. i yield the floor. inwilliam barr was sworn thursday after being confirmed by the senate, 54-45. three democrats voted yes. senators doug jones, joe manson and kyrsten sinema, and
republican senator rand paul voted no. william barr, as served as attorney general during president george h w bush's succeedsation, 60's -- jeff sessions. weekend, twois books with authors making headlines. joe abramson, and starting sunday at 7:00 p.m. with howard schultz and his autobiography from the ground up plan tos life, and his run for president and the controversy that followed. audience,tell this nobody wants to see donald trump more than me. i will do nothing over the next year to reelect donald trump, but i do feel strongly that it
is an expression of our democracy that i have the right to stand up and consider this me being ae issue of spoiler, how do you spoil a broken system that is already corrupt and not serving the american people? announcer: then sunday on afterwards, abramson talks about the ensuing and controversy over plagiarism accusations. you are suggesting that it was not an error in this copy ended up in your book. you are saying it is a citation error. is it a citation error if it is word for word? revieweds one where i all six. it should have been in quotations, or presumably, one
or the other. interesting, rewriting it entirely, but basically having the same facts said, and pat buchanan, the quote, is that really more honest? >> i should've just quoted it and iid ryerson review wish i had done that more and denuded the actual text of the book. announcer: watch book tv this weekend on c-span2. announcer: a group of congressional leaders talked about their parties agendas. we hear from steve's police -- steve scalise. chair.ocratic policy this event hosted by axios is an ur