Biden's Justice Department nominees face Senate confirmation hearing

Both women have garnered bipartisan support for their nominations, though Vanita Gupta has drawn some opposition from conservative groups

  
Vanita Gupta, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be associate attorney general, speaks as Biden announces his Justice Department nominees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., January 7, 2021.

Vanita Gupta, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be associate attorney general, speaks as Biden announces his Justice Department nominees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., January 7, 2021.

Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON - President Joe Biden's nominees for the No. 2 and No. 3 Justice Department jobs face the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and will likely be questioned on topics from civil rights to protecting the United States from domestic extremist attacks.

Lisa Monaco, a former prosecutor who also served as homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to former President Barack Obama, is Biden's pick for deputy attorney general - a sweeping role that entails overseeing the department's criminal and national security matters as well as its 93 U.S. attorneys.

Vanita Gupta is nominated as associate attorney general, a job that oversees the department's civil and civil rights divisions, as well as antitrust, environmental, grant-making and community policing matters.

Both women have garnered bipartisan support for their nominations, though Gupta has drawn some opposition from conservative groups over her progressive views on criminal justice reform and is expected to face a tougher confirmation battle than Monaco.

The committee previously approved Biden's attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, in a bipartisan 15-7 vote, and the Senate is expected to confirm him to the post as soon as Wednesday.

If confirmed as deputy attorney general, Monaco would help oversee the department’s sprawling investigation into the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters.

In her prepared opening statement released by the Judiciary Committee, Monaco said the Justice Department was at an "inflection point ... as we battle violent extremism - foreign and domestic - and mounting cyber threats from nation states and criminals alike."

Now with the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, Monaco has extensive experience as a prosecutor and attorney on national security matters, as well as having served as Obama’s homeland security and counterterrorism adviser.

Monaco's top legal clients have included Apple, ExxonMobil, Humana, Kia Motors Corp and Harvard University, which had been under investigation by the Trump administration over how it considers race during its admissions process, according to her financial disclosure form.

Gupta previously served as acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, where she oversaw high-profile investigations into systemic abuses by police departments in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

"If confirmed, I will aggressively ensure that the Justice Department is independent from partisan influence," Gupta said in her prepared opening remarks.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, in his opening remarks, called Republicans hypocritical for criticizing her, even after they "sat by silently while there was no Senate-confirmed Associate Attorney General for nearly three years during the Trump Administration."

"It is disgraceful that this exceptional nominee has been targeted by a right-wing dark money organization which is running an ad on television that makes a number of patently false claims," he said.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and Leslie Adler) ((sarah.n.lynch@thomsonreuters.com; 202-354-5831;))

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