Biden DOJ nominee Vanita Gupta expresses 'regret' over anti-GOP remarks: 'I apologize'
Associate Attorney General nominee Vanita Gupta sits for confirmation hearing.
Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said that while Vanita Gupta, President Biden's nominee for associate attorney general, has performed "admirable" work in the past, her past comments about Republicans gave him concerns over whether she could fill a critical Justice Department position.
Grassley raised this issue during Gupta's confirmation hearing before the committee on Tuesday morning.
"Her Twitter feed has painted Republicans with a broad brush, describing our national convention last year as three nights of quote-unquote 'racism, xenophobia, and outrageous lies,'" Grassley said during his opening remarks. "How many of our colleagues in this room were there? Of course Ms. Gupta has in fact launched Twitter attacks on some of them directly. Will that kind of partisan political advocacy affect her legal advocacy in her role where she represents all Americans?"
Grassley went on to note that Gupta has had strong words against members of the judiciary -- including Supreme Court Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh -- who may be handling cases in which she could be involved.
Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., later gave Gupta a chance to address Grassley's concerns regarding her partisan positions.
"I understand why you have them. I take them seriously," Gupta said. "I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years. Perhaps, I think, the rhetoric has gotten quite harsh over the last several years and I have fallen prey to it, and I wish I could take it back. I can't, but what I can commit to you and ask that you do is look at my lifelong record."
Gupta said that throughout her career she has "sought out people who don't always think like me" and have different views in order to "build consensus to get things done." She added that while she has been a "lifelong idealistic civil rights lawyer" she is also "deeply pragmatic," which is why she believes she has the trust of officials in law enforcement.
If confirmed, she said, "you won't be hearing that kind of rhetoric from me."
Later in the hearing, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, alluded to Gupta's past comments by referencing her refusal to accept an apology from Ryan Bounds, who had been nominated to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Bounds had written statements when he was in college that he later recognized as being offensive, but Gupta submitted a letter opposing his selection. Bounds' nomination was later withdrawn.
Gupta had written that Bounds' apology was of "convenience" and not "remorse."
"My question to you," Lee said, "is would you stand by that? Is that something we ought to apply to all nominees? Is it something we ought to apply to you, to Merrick Garland, to all Department of Justice nominees?"
Picking up on what Lee was getting at, Gupta again expressed regret for her past words.
"I apologize for the kind of coarse language I have used in the past," Gupta said, noting that in her career she has worked with members of different parties and in the future would respectfully work with others despite having policy disagreements.
"My hope is that you will take that as genuine and authentic," she said.
Lee then stated that Gupta's response was similar to what Bounds said, yet Gupta "very harshly applied" a standard to Bounds in opposing his nomination. The senator asked if the same standard should be applied to her.
"I am a believer in second chances and redemption, and I would ask for that today," Gupta said.