Cruz challenges Biden DOJ pick's contention that she opposes defunding police
Cruz challenges Biden DOJ Kristen Clarke pick over her position on defunding police
Kristen Clarke sits for confirmation hearing as assistant attorney general nominee for DOJ Civil Rights Division.
President Biden’s Justice Department Civil Rights Division nominee Kristen Clarke insisted during her Wednesday confirmation hearing that she does not support defunding police, but Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, confronted her with a recent article she wrote that, he claimed, proves otherwise.
Early in the hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., attempted to get ahead of the controversy by asking Clarke about a June 2020 Newsweek opinion piece she wrote about the subject.
“The article that you referenced, senator, I wrote to make clear that I do not support defunding the police,” Clarke said. “I do support finding strategies to ensure that law enforcement can carry out their jobs more safely and effectively. And channeling resources to emotional health treatment and other severely under-resourced areas I think is one path forward.”
Later in the hearing, Cruz brought up the Newsweek piece, first by pointing to its headline: “I Prosecuted Police Killings. Defund the Police—But Be Strategic.”
“Do you still believe it is a good idea to defund the police?” Cruz asked.
“I do not support defunding the police,” Clarke responded. “The impetus to writing that op-ed was to make clear that I do not support defunding the police and I spend considerable time talking about the need to channel resources to places such as mental health treatment to alleviate some of the burdens that we place on the doorstep of law enforcement and the issues we ask them to wrestle with that are outside their core competency.”
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Cruz interrupted, pointing to how the article’s title said “defund the police.” He then went into the body of the op-ed. He referenced the beginning, which said that the protests across the country in 2020 “opened up space for transformative policy discussions,” and that “into that space has surged a unifying call from the Black Lives Matter movement: ‘Defund the police.'”
Cruz asked if Clarke believes that defunding the police is indeed a unifying call.
“I don’t support ‘defund the police,” she replied. Clarke claimed that in her article she “wanted to provide a different perspective” during a time of unrest.
“I don’t support taking away resources from the police and putting communities in harm’s way,” she said.
“Ms. Clarke, you know you’re testifying under oath here,” Cruz interjected, leading Durbin to ask Cruz to “show respect to the witness” and let her finish her response.
Cruz then noted that three paragraphs of the op-ed begin with the phrase, “We must invest less in police,” as she argues that there should be greater investments in social workers, social support in schools, and mental health assistance.
“And you just told this committee under oath you don’t support investing less in police. How do you square those?” Cruz asked.
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“I wrote that op-ed without having the power of the purse string behind me,” Clarke said, stating that she supports President Biden’s decision to commit $300 million to police.
When asked if she believes she was wrong when she called for defunding police in her op-ed, Clarke claimed that she was not the one who came up with the headline.
“It’s a poor title chosen by the editor,” she said.
“It’s not just the title, it’s your text,” Cruz shot back, asking if today Clarke would agree that the U.S. should invest less in police.
“Without the power of the purse string, I wrote those words,” she reiterated, while saying that it is “a great thing” that Biden plans to give police more resources.
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Clarke observed in her op-ed that “defund the police” meant different things to different people, ranging from reducing police budgets to eliminating police departments altogether.
“I advocate for defunding policing operations that have made African Americans more vulnerable to police violence and contributed to mass incarceration, while investing more in programs and policies that address critical community needs,” she wrote.
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