- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Kristen Clarke, President Biden’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, told senators on Wednesday that she does not support defunding the police despite appearing to endorse it in an op-ed.

If confirmed, Ms. Clarke would lead the Biden administration’s investigations into police misconduct.

During a contentious confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans grilled Ms. Clarke about a piece she authored for Newsweek in June. The article was headlined: “I Prosecuted Police Killings. Defund the Police — But Be Strategic.”

Republican lawmakers relentlessly hammered her about the op-ed insisting her attempts to distance herself from it were “not credible.” Democrats meanwhile rushed to her defense calling the allegations baseless and suggesting a magazine editor authored a misleading headline.

“I do not support defunding the police,” she said repeatedly throughout the hearing.

Republicans expressed skepticism, however.

“Do you disagree with your article?” asked Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican.

Ms. Clarke insisted that the headline does “not align well with the piece” and said she authored it to “make clear” her opposition to defunding the police.

Republicans said the op-ed explicitly endorses defunding the police, reading excerpts from it throughout the hearing.

“I advocate for defunding policing operations that have made African Americans more vulnerable to police violence and contributed to mass incarceration while investing in more programs and policies that address critical community needs,” she wrote.

Three paragraphs from the piece begin with “We must invest less in police.”

Ms. Clarke said she wrote the op-ed without “the power of the purse” and emphasized that she supports Mr. Biden’s efforts to boost police funding. She said her essay was about how to allocate “a limited pool of resources in a more effective way.”

“I don’t support taking away resources from the police and putting communities in harm’s way,” she said.

Democrats staunchly defended her record, saying she has a history of working with the police.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and the Judiciary chairman, said in his opening statement that accusing Ms. Clarke of being anti-police is “false.”

He said Republicans “are so threatened by the prospect of a revitalized civil rights division that they have already engaged in baseless attacks on this extremely well-qualified nominee.”

Ms. Clarke appeared at the hearing with Todd Kim, who is nominated to serve as assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Republicans largely targeted Ms. Clarke’s record and Mr. Kim fielded only a handful of questions about environment protection. 

Sen. Alex Padilla, California Democrat, for example how he would tackle a case similar to Exide Technologies abandoning its California battery plant, which left taxpayers on the hook for an expensive environment cleanup.

In response, Mr. Kim said he would consult with career lawyers and subject matter experts to ensure that his decisions would be “based on the facts and the law.”

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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