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Amid Mounting Opposition, Democrats Move Forward on Stalled Justice Dept. Nominee

Kristen Clarke has come under fire for racist and anti-Semitic writings

Kristen Clarke / Getty Images
• March 25, 2021 2:15 pm

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Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are considering a mid-April confirmation hearing for Kristen Clarke, President Joe Biden's nominee for the top civil rights job at the Department of Justice, whose nomination has stalled amid mounting controversy and logistical delays. 

A source with knowledge of the committee’s plans told the Washington Free Beacon that Clarke’s confirmation hearing will take place on or about April 14. The hearing is expected to be contentious, given the anti-Semitic and psuedoscientific theories of black racial superiority Clarke promoted as a college student, as well as her alleged opposition to prosecuting African Americans for civil rights violations. 

Clarke submitted customary vetting paperwork to the committee on March 17, according to the source, almost 10 weeks after Biden announced her nomination on Jan. 7. Those documents are not yet public. While Democrats have accused Senate Republicans of stonewalling Biden’s Justice Department nominees, the source attributed the lack of progress on Clarke’s nomination to her tardy submission of confirmation materials. 

Executive branch nominees must submit a financial disclosure and a standard but lengthy questionnaire to the panel. Hearings are usually held about 28 days after a nominee’s paperwork is submitted, thus the mid-April hearing timeline. 

If that timeline holds, Clarke could appear before the panel around the time the Senate votes on the confirmation of deputy attorney general nominee Lisa Monaco and associate attorney general nominee Vanita Gupta. 

The Judiciary Committee advanced Monaco’s nomination to the full Senate by voice vote on Thursday. The panel split 11-11 on Gupta’s nomination, meaning Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will have to clear procedural hurdles to get her to the floor. 

Committee Republicans have already flagged positions Clarke promoted as a student at Harvard, signaling a bruising confirmation battle. As president of Harvard’s Black Students Association, Clarke held an event with the anti-Semitic writer Tony Martin, a college professor who wrote a widely-criticized book about the slave trade called The Jewish Onslaught. She also promoted the pseudo-scientific melanin theory of black superiority in a letter to the editor of the college paper. 

Those writings have prompted testy exchanges between Republican senators and Biden Justice Department nominees. Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) made reference to Clarke’s writings during Attorney General Merrick Garland’s nomination hearing in February. Garland, who is Jewish, fired back in defense of Clarke that he is a good judge of anti-Semitism . 

The Free Beacon reported that Clarke has a history of opposing civil rights prosecutions of black defendants in February. A Bush-era Justice Department veteran identified Clarke as part of a group of civil rights litigators who "believe incorrectly but vehemently that enforcement of the protections of the Voting Rights Act should not be extended to white voters but should be extended only to protecting racial, ethnic, and language minorities."

Clarke may have trouble courting support from Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W. Va.), who could hold the decisive vote on her confirmation. The Free Beacon reported on March 11 that Clarke was part of a legal coalition that helped kill the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which Manchin strongly supported. And the Daily Caller News Foundation reported that she criticized the West Virginia Democrat on Twitter after he voted to confirm former attorney general Jeff Sessions.

Clarke’s Twitter timeline also reveals that she criticized the Chicago Police Department for investigating claims actor Jessie Smollett staged a fake hate crime. The investigation found that Smollett paid two associates to "attack" him. 

The Biden administration has said little in Clarke’s defense. Senate Democrats are following an aggressive tack, accusing the GOP of holding female minority nominees like Gupta and Clarke to a double standard.