tv Deputy AG Knows of No Reason to Fire Special Prosecutor Mueller CSPAN June 13, 2017 10:55am-12:00pm EDT
institute. i yield back the balance of my time. the speaker pro tempore: without objection, -- without objection. pursuant to clause 12-a of rule 1, the chair declares the house in recess until noon today. tod. >> we're going to the other side of the capitol and join the senate appropriations committee hearing with deputy attorney
general rob rosenstein, there he is on the screen, testifying about the justice department's budget request for fiscal year 2018. much of the questioning has been on the investigation into russian meddling in the u.s. election and whether president trump has been an impediment in that investigation. e join it in progress. mr. rosenstein: i think o.m.b. would be the right agency to answer that question. mr. -- senator lankford: i hope to work on that. rather than go back to treasury, as we solve that issue, that budget gimmick goes away. i'll follow up on a question for the record to private prisons that i know you're trying to re-engage and we'll follow up. thank you. chairman shelby: senator coons. senator coons: thank you, mr. chairman. deputy attorney general rosenstein thank you for being ere.
you are here because attorney general sessions abruptly canceled his commitment to appear before this committee it is the attorney general's job to be here today. the fact he has again chosen to skip this hearing is unacceptable. the attorney general, believe, has chosen to skip this hearing today in order to avoid difficult questions about the scope of his recusal. questions which have already been asked of you by several senators, but i'll attempt to explore it further. i do think it's important that we have a full and engaged conversation with the attorney general about the department of justice in front of both the judiciary committee and the appropriations subcommittee responsible for the entity he still leads. let me start briefly with some good news, if i might. mr. rosenstein, you're here in part to talk about the budget of the department of justice. in 2014 congress demonstrated its commitment to the victims of child abuse act by unanimously re-authorizing that in both chambers much the children's advocacy centers funded by this law conducted forensic interviews that meet the needs of child victims.
i'm pleased the president's f.y. 18 budget request funds these programs. i thought we would start with one positive thing. as discussed by others, it is the scope of recusal that is unclear both to lawyers and nonlawyers on this committee. you are here instead of the attorney general, and you are here as acting attorney general with regard to the special counsel, and you exercised the higher and would exercise the final decision with regards to special counsel bob mueller. that's because attorney general sessions is recused from that matter. on may 9, you delivered a memo to stoig sessions entitled rye storing public confidence -- restoring public confidence. your memo focused on director comey's conduct during the clinton email investigation. the way the director handled that investigation was wrong and you ultimately stated having to refuse to admit his errors, he could not be expected to
implement the corrective actions is that correct? mr. rosenstein: yes. senator coons: on that same day attorney general sessions then sent a memo to president trump relying on your memo where the attorney general recommends director comey be removed, is that correct? mr. rosenstein: i believe that's correct. senator coons: during his january 10 confirmation hearing, a.g. sessions said stated he would recuse himself from any matters involving any matters involving campaigns for president of the united states and specifically investigations into secretary clinton's email server. is that correct? mr. rosenstein: that's my understanding, senator. senator coons: why did you write a memo to attorney general sessions exclusively discussing a matter that, as i understand it, attorney general sessions explicitly told us in congress he was recused from. why was that an appropriate basis for him to make a higher fire recommendation to the president. mr. rosenstein: i don't think that's a question for me to answer. i have said in my previous briefings of the senate and the
ouse that my memo truthfully reflects my views. i'm not in a position to comment on anybody else. from my perspective, senator, that memo is about what it's about. i do not know what was in anybody else's mind. serious nd there are allegations that have been raised. i think that it's up to director mueller to determine in the first instance whether any of these issues were weren't serio allegations that have been the scope of his investigation. that's why i haven't commented on it. i disappointed him several weeks ago, haven't talked to him about the substance of the investigation since then. but i recognize the importance of these questions and i think that director mueller ought to review that and make a determination whether or not he believes it is within the scope of his investigation. . senator coons: i want to make sure i understand you. well -- and i'll proceed carefully and let's see if we can get to an answer that is appropriate in a public setting. is it not your argument that the attorney general made a
recommendation to hire or fire the f.b.i. director because that's outside his recusal? the scope of his recusal doesn't affect his ability to manage the department? mr. rostenstein: do i have a person opinion about that, senator. i just don't think it's appropriate for me to be expressing my personal opinion about that. i hope i haven't said anything inconsistent what i said elsewhere and please let me know if i have. yeah, i do not want to comment the recusal. the attorney general made the decision. i wasn't there at the time, as you know, and there were processes already been made before i arrived about what matters would be appropriate for the attorney general to handle. when i stepped in i continued consistent with what had been done by these career professionals in the department and i believe i have faithfully within the department honored that recusal with regard to matters pending at the department of justice. i don't want to comment what may have been in anybody else's
mind or offer an opinion about that because it's not for me to make those decisions. senator coons: it is exactly why senator shotts asked about the scope of recusal because i am a lawyer. senator shotts may not be. he asked better questions than i did but i also am having real difficulty understanding the scope of the recusal. its contours and definition and i have an unresolved question about whether or not that's why the attorney general failed to appear before us today is to avoid having to answer direct questions about the scope of his recusal. i do appreciate and respect your appointment of a highly talented special counsel and there have been questions from both sides that imply strong support for his independence and his conduct and i appreciate the care with which you are answering my questions but i'm simply going to conclude by saying i have unanswered questions that perhaps can only be answered by the attorney general himself and it is my hope we will have him appear before both the
judiciary committee and the appropriations committee charged with overseeing the funding for the department he's currently directing. thank you. senator cochran: senator graham. senator graham: thank you, mr. rosenstein. why isn't jeff sessions here today? mr. rosenstein: well, senator, my understanding is consistent what was in the attorney general's letter. i don't know any reason other than what he said publicly. senator graham: it's 13, june. do you know any reason for cause to fire mr. muler as of this date? mr. rosenstein: no, i do not, senator. senator graham: and that would be your decision if that ever happened, is that right? mr. rosenstein: that's correct. senator graham: and you are going to make the decision? mr. rosenstein: if i am in this position it is my -- senator graham: is [inaudible] from serving in the special counsel's office? mr. rosenstein: no, it's senator, it's not a
disqualification. senator graham: in states judges and prosecutors are elected, donations are part of the system, is that correct? mr. rosenstein: yes, that's true. senator graham: would it be a disqualification for somebody in the special counsel's office who misrepresented ms. clinton in the past to serve? mr. rosenstein: you know, senator, it would depend on the facts and circumstances. as a general matter i think the answer is no. senator graham: isn't that much closer to a conflict of interest? mr. rosenstein: i don't answer a hypothetical, senator. everybody needs to make a determination based upon the facts. senator graham: what process could a member of the senate use to inform the special counsel that you'd have a concern about hiring somebody that represented clinton? mr. rosenstein: we have a process within the department of justice, senator. so i'd encourage you if you have those concerns to raise them with director muler or to raise them with -- director mueller or to raise them with
them. senator graham: i read some things i don't think donations are disqualifying at all but if you represented the clinton foundation or clinton herself, that would be a bit disturbing to me but i'll take care of that. as to russia, do you have any doubt that 17 intelligence agencies report that was submitted last year or early this year that russia interfered in our election is accurate? mr. rosenstein: well, senator, this is an issue that was discussed in my confirmation hearing and several of you attended that. i had access only to the public information from which classified information -- senator graham: what can you tell us now? mr. rosenstein: i now have access to classified information and i think that assessment made by the intelligence community is justified based upon the investigation and evidence they had. senator graham: thank you very much. what role did you play in crafting this budget? where did this budget come from for the department of justice? mr. rosenstein: i appreciate that question, senator. the budget actually is a product of career professionals within the department.
it's $27.7 billion. it's very complicated. some of them are actually seated behind me but they have a whole team behind them and i suspect there are dozens of folks -- senator graham: was it their desire to cut the budget by 2% r did it come from o.m.b.? mr. rosenstein: i don't know. we are accountable for that. that's a political issue. we are accountable for that. they faithfully implement the priorities given to them so i do not mean to shed responsibility for the bottom line but the assistance we have in preparing the budget is -- senator graham: were you directed to cut the budget by 2% or did you agree to cut the budget by -- did that come within the department of justice or a mandate outside the department of justice? mr. rosenstein: i honestly don't know the answer to that. senator graham: that's all right. you can get back to me. in terms of threats to the country, are they going up or down? mr. rosenstein: i wouldn't want -- i haven't done a study. i wouldn't characterize it.
i think everybody recognizes the terrorist threat is extremely serious. senator graham: will we have more f.b.i. agents or less than we had last year? mr. rosenstein: i believe we'll ve senator graham: i don't want to throw you off here. mr. rosenstein: according to the numbers that i have, the f.b.i. will have an increase of 150 for a total of 12,484. senator graham: so there will be more agents by 150, is that correct? mr. rosenstein: that's my understanding, senator. we can check back. senator graham: do you agree the f.b.i., department of justice, national security -- is a national security in another form? is a national security in another form? that the department of justice is a national security role?
mr. rosenstein: it's national security in reality but in another form. senator graham: we are dramatically increasing the defense department because it suffered mightily over sequestration. can you make the argument if you are a national security component of our overall defense strategy, why we would cut you now given the threats we face? mr. rosenstein: senator, i believe if you look at the budget, we are not cutting the critical areas. violent crime, terrorism, the areas that you've raised. or areas that will be no cuts, cybercrime, all those efforts. so the effort in this budget, as i understand it, is to reduce only in areas that are not critical to those operations. it's never to be more efficient to achieve the goals of the american people but i can ensure you that our goal is to use these resources more effectively to reduce crime to reduce drug abuse and to fight terrorism so we are not going to relent in our commitment to those goals. senator cochran: senator van hollen.
senator van hollen: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. deputy attorney general, good to see you. i will say as many of my colleagues have that it's the height of arrogance for the attorney general not to come before the committee that oversees the justice department budget. that being said i'm glad to have you here. as you know, during the confirmation process, you had and i had a conversation about the consent decree between the justice department and the baltimore city police department and baltimore city. since our conversation, the courts have approved that consent decree. i just want your continued assurance that you will work in your capacity as deputy attorney general to make sure that we further that agreement and make sure that we can get the parties together and move it along. mr. rosenstein: senator, our goal is to reduce violent crime, that consent decree as you know is in effect.
i know you're aware and it's very painful to me, we have a crisis in violent crime in baltimore. the murder rate this year is on track at the moment actually to reach a record high. in 2017 we may have a record high murder rate in baltimore city. we need to do everything we can to support our local partners, and we are working in many ways to support that local police department. last year we had about 318 murders. the year before about 342. we're on track now potentially to have more in baltimore this year. that is a very high priority for me. although i am no longer there physically every day, i am very engaged with that and i am going to continue to work with our authorities, with the federal agencies and with our u.s. attorneys office to do anything we can to help support our partners in baltimore and turn around that trend in violence in that city. mr. van hollen: i appreciate that. no, i thank you. i look forward to continuing to work with you on what is an
unacceptable increase in murders. any crime increase or any crime is unacceptable. but seeing the speak is snog we got to -- something we got to tackle with urgency. i want to follow-up my colleagues' questions regarding the special counsel. it's especially pressing in light of the reports that came out yesterday that folks at the white house, maybe the president were looking at ways to fire the special counsel muler. as you already -- mueller. as you already testified today, given the current situation, you are the only person today in a position to actually do that firing, isn't that correct? mr. rosenstein: that's correct. senator van hollen: as i understand your testimony, you said this is a matter that's within your jurisdiction so based on that, i would assume it would be a violation of the attorney general's recusal if he were to try to fire the special counsel, isn't that right? mr. rosenstein: i do not
expect that to happen, senator. senator van hollen: this is now a matter that's under your jurisdiction so it would be a violation of his recusal were he attempt to do so? mr. rosenstein: i think that's probably fair but that is not going to happen. senator van hollen: well, i'm glad to hear that. i am worry bed -- i am worried about the scenario if you received word from the white house to fire the special counsel, i'm less worried about you doing it because you just testified today that you would only do it based on good cause. i am worried about other circumstances the president trying to keep going until he found someone willing to take that action. so my question relates to the definition of good cause because you were very clear in your testimony that the authority to remove special counsel is based on a finding of good cause, is that correct?
mr. rosenstein: yes, that's right. senator van hollen: and is an order from the president to fire the special counsel good cause? mr. rosenstein: good cause would be based on the reasons for the proposed removal? senator van hollen: and removing the special counsel in order to prevent the special counsel from pursuing the investigation, that would not constitute good cause, is that correct? mr. rosenstein: correct. senator van hollen: so if somebody else were to fire the special counsel -- in other words, if the president were to find somebody to do it, my question is, what is the protection in that good cause definition? in your view, could the special counsel contest his firing if special counsel did not believe it was good cause? mr. rosenstein: senator, i hope i don't have to answer that hypothetical. the purpose of that regulation, folks who wrote it put a lot of thought into it and anticipated
people would follow the rules. your questions, what if somebody doesn't follow the rule, what happens next? we have a lot of very well-informed folks and great lawyers in the department would deal with that if it were to arise but i anticipate it will not arise. senator van hollen: in your opinion -- i am hoping it will not arise either. we know there are scenarios that have some historical precedent where this kind of question could arise. so my question is, would the department -- in this case, were the special counsel have recourse in the courts arguing there was not good cause for the firing? mr. rosenstein: i just don't know the answer to that, senator. i hope we never reach that point. i tell you as long as i am in this position he won't be fired without good cause. if he were it would not be my responsibility, but that's like a law school hypothetical. i would be reluctant to answer without doing research first. senator van hollen.
thank you, mr. chairman. senator murkowski: thank you, mr. chairman. welcome, deputy attorney general. i had a conversation in my office with the attorney general prior to his confirmation, and we spoke about the department of justice's government-to-government work with the tribes. he admitted to me at that time that his familiarity with the some 229 tribes in alaska was limited. it was important for him to hear just the depth of some of the issues that we are facing as we deal with any level of law enforcement. so many of our communities have none whatsoever. and as a consequence, we are dealing with some very troubling statistics within our state. i was pleased to note that the department is making grants for implementation of vawa's
special criminal jurisdiction in the f.y. 2017 and then also requesting funds to continue that work in f.y. 2018. so that's good. i think we have some things that we would like to discuss with you and your folks with regards to f.y. 2017 funding levels or perhaps a bit problematic. tribal court funding is again one that i have a great deal of interest with, but i do want to find a path forward with d.o.j. as it relates to some of the more immediate and very unique issues that we have as we deal with our tribal villages and the issues that they face. you would think that we are far enough away and remote enough that the opioid epidemic would not be hitting us in the state
but it is. the level of domestic violence and sexual assault that we face in terms of the statistics, the uptick of violent crime that we are seeing in urban alaska, these are areas that we believe deserve a more specific approach and we would like to work with you. we have invited and welcomed the attorney general as well as you as others within the department of justice to come up with the state to sit down with some of our native leadership to discuss these issues. i would again reiterate that and essentially ask for your continued willingness to work with us in some programs innovative ways to address the issue of justice and law enforcement in rural alaska. mr. rosenstein: yes, senator. i welcome that opportunity. we didn't have this issue in my home state of maryland, but many of my colleagues in the
fast two administrations, u.s. attorneys have talked with me about the challenges that we have on those native american issues. i met early in my tenure as deputy attorney general with our director of our tribal justice office and talked about these issues. we will work with you on that. senator murkowski: we need to do that. let me switch gears a little bit. we have been talking about opioid and addiction but let's talk about another issue. alaska is one of those states that has not only enacted medical marijuana statutes but we through ballot initiative have allowed for a broader sale and use of marijuana that is regulated as we would regulate alcohol. in the state we think the regulatory regime is a fairly strong one and consistent with the memorandum. now, that memorandum suggests the federal government will not get in the way of states which
maintain strong regulatory regimes. i had some correspondence with the prior attorney general, attorney general lynch, relating to this but the fact is the banking sector is still closed to those in the marijuana business making it difficult for states to access paper trail to ensure those in compliant. are we recently heard that postal inspectors believe they can seize state tax payments sent by mail from people in the marijuana business. now i understand that d.o.j. wants to eliminate the appropriations rider prohibiting federal interference with state medical marijuana laws. so i'm concerned and i'm speaking for a lot of people in my state who are worried about the inconsistency between the state marijuana laws as well as the federal policy. the department of justice has not taken the position thus far that state marijuana laws are completely preempted by the
controlled substance act. i don't know if you are headed in that direction. it has strong deference to state laws but we are not seeing the federal government doing very much to ensure those strong state laws are enforceable. the bigger question is, where are we headed with marijuana? mr. rosenstein: i appreciate your concern about that, senator. it's a very difficult issue obviously. a situation where we do have a conflict between federal law and law in some states. 's a difficult issue for parents of teenagers like me how they should treat -- senator murkowski: believe me, i agree with that. mr. rosenstein: i spoke with the administrator of d.e.a. we follow the law and the science. from a legal and scientific perspective, marijuana is an unlawful drug. it's properly scheduled under schedule 1 and therefore we have this conflict. jim cole tried to deal with that in that memorandum. at the moment that memorandum is still in effect. i can't -- maybe there will be
changes to it in the future we are still operating under that policy which is an effort to balance the conflicting interests with regard to marijuana and so i can assure you that will be a high priority for me as the u.s. attorneys come on board to talk about how to deal with the challenges states who legalized or decriminalized marijuana whether it be for recreational or medical use. as attorney general lynch mentioned this at her confirmation hearing in january, 2015, and she explained we're responsible for enforcing the law. it's illegal and that is the federal policy with regard to marijuana. senator murkowski: confusing. thank you, mr. chairman. senator cochran: senator feinstein. senator feinstein: thank you very much, mr. chairman. i would just like to say that i associate myself with the remarks of senator shaheen and senator collins. yesterday, mr. rosenstein, i was in new york and a
distinguished lawyer came up to me after i finished speaking and said -- beware, this president is going to act to terminate the special counsel. and i said he couldn't possibly do that. it would be catastrophic. and he said, just wait. i came home and turned on the television and this morning and that's what i heard. so it's very hard to know what to believe. i do believe it would be catastrophic and i do believe it would destroy any shred of trust in the president's judgment that remains over here. i do not know with specifics what the procedure is if that were to happen, but as i understand what you said, that could not be done without your consent, is that correct?
mr. rosenstein: yes, that's correct, senator. senator feinstein: and what you would not ascent under the present situation because there's no cause? mr. rosenstein: yes, that's correct. senator feinstein: so is it fair to put that to rest? mr. rosenstein: as far as i'm concerned, yes, senator. i appointed him, i stand by that decision. i think it was the right thing to do in the right circumstances and i will defend the integrity of that investigation. senator feinstein: thank you, let me go on to the cops anti-methamphetamine grant. that's a program i helped establish in 2014. if i understand what you said, very quickly, the cut is $7 million in meth and $10 million in heroin. but the addition is $40.4 million for d.e.a. is that correct? mr. rosenstein: that is my understanding, senator. i've been briefed by our career officials. actually whispering in my ear
that, yes, that is correct. we are going to commit more resources to combating heroin and opioid drugs over the next year. senator feinstein: good. so the cops anti-methamphetamine program will remain intact? mr. rosenstein: i think, senator, the answer to that is that what we intend to do is to fund task forces in a different way. i think that funding went directly to state and local law enforcement. senator feinstein: that's correct. mr. rosenstein: our proposal is to fund it through d.e.a. so there will be task forces, but they will be d.e.a. task forces as opposed to state and local task forces. senator feinstein: so you're canceling the funding that goes to local police organizations? mr. rosenstein: the direct funding to establish those -- the grants to establish those local task forces are proposed to be eliminated but there's additional funding to d.e.a. which will be used to fund state and local officers who work with d.e.a. senator feinstein: so the answer is, yes, you are defunding community police
departments that participate? mr. rosenstein: i believe the answer is that we are proposing to defund that $7 million that went directly to local task forces. senator feinstein: ok. i just want you to know that in california alone, in the past few months there have been 61 arrests, 428 kilo grams of meth seized, 442 kilo grams of heash, 728 grams of marijuana and 11 firearms. so it is a very busy task force and it no doubt if the money is not there could likely be eliminated. secondly, there is a growing concern that the russia nvestigation is taking too long. i heard a congressman this morning expressing that point of view. mr. comey briefed senator
grassley and myself as the chairman and ranking of judiciary three months ago and it was a very full and good brief. do you have any estimate as to the time this investigation will take or when we might be expected to have some conclusion? mr. rosenstein: senator, i regret that i do not. the way our investigations are conducted, it depends upon a lot of factors and so it's generally very difficult for us to predict in advance how long the investigation is going to take. i can assure you it's important to me that it be done expeditiously and i communicated that to director mueller and i'm sure he also appreciates the importance of moving as quickly as we can. we need to have appropriate resources which i believe we do have and always have had to conduct the investigation and making good decisions about how to go about conducting that investigation. i believe we can rely on director mueller to do that. senator feinstein: so there is no estimate as to when we might expect some resolution?
mr. rosenstein: correct. senator feinstein: ok. let's go to the wall. it's my understanding that for the 600 miles of wall, there are 400 lawsuits pending. is that correct? mr. rosenstein: senator, i don't believe i have a number for you. i can try to get back to you on that. i don't have a number. senator feinstein: now, my understanding is you put additional attorneys in the budget to handle these, is that correct? mr. rosenstein: that is correct. senator feinstein: and how many are there? mr. rosenstein: senator, we have proposed additional 27 attorneys and $400 million will be able to defend the government and meet enforcement. that's not just about the law. it's about immigration enforcement but include any litigation that arose. senator feinstein: that would be the 400 cases that are now pending. what is your estimate of lawsuits on the remainder of
the law? mr. rosenstein: senator, i am not familiar with that. i can try to get back to you. senator feinstein: i would like you to because i think it's going to be extraordinary. i think as you get into the rio grande valley you are going to find the property owners as i hear are not very pleased and i think we ought to know about it as we budget. so could i ask that you get back to me prior to the time we mark this bill up? mr. rosenstein: i can try to give you information we have. pardon me, senator. it's important to keep in mind, though, we're the lawyers on these issues but it's actually homeland security that would have the primary responsibility for operational needs. i think homeland security would be in better position to comment on that. senator feinstein: we will approach that. thank you very much. thanks, mr. chairman. senator cochran: senator. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to thank senator boozman for his courtesy.
mr. mr. rosenstein:, welcome. thank you. i remember -- mr. rosenstein: it's like feinstein. senator alexander: probably not the top of your agenda but i hope it will be on your agenda as time goes on -- outdated federal consent decrease and specifically how such things affect songwriters in nashville. outdated federal consent decrease, in twoucks i produced -- 2006 i introduced a act is based on democracy by decree. it was by professor sandler who was a attorney for the national resource defense council. it was about the growing number of federal consent decrease that seem to manage everything. a lot of it had to do with education. some with the environment. some in clean air litigation, variety of other things. it took these issues out of the
hands of legislators and courts were running the government. so in general, those -- the legislation would have allowed newly elected governors, mayors and legislators to file motions to vacate the consent decrease and put those issues back out in the democratic process. let me talk about one example of that. has to do with songwriters. might not seem very important in washington, d.c., but we have thousands of them in nashville. it's the center of song writing. most of them are waiters and bus drivers and teachers in the meantime hoping to make a big hit. 75 years ago the justice department noticed some antitrust implications on two organizations that regulate how songwriters are paid for their work. let me give you an example. few years ago i was with some songwriters and i had gone outside a pharmacy and saw an old couple there and i said, how y'all doing? the lady said, we're just falling apart together.
so i mentioned that to the songwritersly bryce and billy montana and other people and said, i think we can do something about that and they wrote a song called "falling apart together." lee bryce put it on his albums and i get a fourth of that today. if the four of us write a song we split it up. last year i got $110 from my royalty even though it's on lee bryce's album and he's a pretty well-known singer. under the consent decree under 75 years old, you have a rate court that sets what the songwriters get paid. it doesn't reflect the market vafment the second is more immediate. your department issues regulations and interpretations of regulations based upon the consent decrease. one recent regulation said that if lee bryce and i and billy montana and another writer are sitting together writing that
we have to check and see who represents us and that any one of us can go out and find that person and make a deal with a bar or a restaurant that affects all the others of us. it would turn the common, ordinary, everyday practice of song writing in nashville upside down. i'm not surprised that someone in the department of justice wouldn't know that you co-write songs. you just sit down informally. you might sit down one weekend and write five, six songs. but what this would do is tear this all apart because these songwriters, not wealthy people to have to consult lawyers, make agreements, do all this kind of thing, the songwriters have appealed the justice department's interpretation. the court, federal district court agreed with that. now you're appealing it further to a higher court. so my request of you is not for you to answer me today on how to solve that problem but, one, would you put on your agenda
somewhere the general issue of democracy by creed, outdated federal consent decrease and consider whether it's not time to give governors and mayors and legislators to get time to file consent decrease and get them back in the hands of the democratic process? second, would you consider the department of justice's interpretation that's now in appeal to a federal district court if you're successful, if you're successful will turn the everyday business of song writing in nashville upside down? i'm sure it's not what's intended by the department of justice, but that would be the practical effect. mr. rosenstein: senator, i happen to be a country music fan. it's something i passed onto my daughters so i'm tempted to comment. senator alexander: it's all right with me if you do. mr. rosenstein: as you recognize there's pending litigation. i am not at liberty to comment on the pending litigation. but i want to comment on the general rich ue with regard to consent decrease. i think there are some questions we should ask with regard to proposed consent
decrease. will it help solve a problem? how do we evaluate success? how do we know if it's working? how much is it going to cost and when will it end? i though those are appropriate questions to the extent we are considering imposing consent decrease and as i recognize, consent decree is consent between the parties and so there are always opportunities to revisit if there's agreement among the parties. if there's not then there may be litigation as you mentioned. i regret i don't have any opinion to offer on the proposed legislation. but i can assure you that we will when there are consent decree issues in the department we'll think very seriously about those and other issues. senator alexander: i thank you for the answer. the consent decree which the rate court established was put in place in 1941. that seems to me to be too long to keep something out of the hands of the democracy. thank you, mr. chairman. senator cochran: senator manchin. senator manchin: mr. rosenstein, thank you for being here. did the couple falling apart
together get anything? senator alexander: there wasn't anything left after each of the four songwriters got $110 more the year. senator manchin: i understand. first of all, it's very reassuring to hear the system you put in place as far as special prosecutor and mr. mueller and the confidence you have in him to do his job is quite assuring and comforting to all of us. did you talk with robert mueller about his investigation and the resources he might need to do his job the proper way, and do you feel he's sufficiently be supported in that effort? mr. rosenstein: i have not. under the regulation, it actually tasks the assistant attorney general for justice management division to consult with mr. mueller about resources and budget. that gentleman happens to be sitting behind me and he has talked with mr. mueller about it. i have not but i can assure you he's going to get the resources he needs to conduct that investigation. senator manchin: there is no --
he will be able to do the job the way he intends? mr. rosenstein: yes, sir. mr. manchin: can you be terminated without cause? mr. rosenstein: yes. senator manchin: who would appoint your replacement? mr. rosenstein: the president. senator manchin: so that's a possibility. mr. rosenstein: anything is possible, senator. senator manchin: i understand. that's what we know. there's great concern in all of this, as you can tell. i'm going to get another opportunity to talk to attorney general sessions in an intel meeting so i know a lot of my colleagues here don't have the same opportunities so they were a little bit concerned about him not being here but i want to thank you for being here. in west virginia we have a devastating opioid epidemic. we are a state that got hit harder. we lost more people per capita than any other state.
we are doing everything humanly possible but we can't do it without the attorney general's office and everyone involved. i guess i would ask, what is your main approach to fighting the war on opioid addiction? mr. rosenstein: well, thank you, senator. this is an extremely high priority for me and i'm very familiar with the opioid challenges in west virginia. in fact, the u.s. attorney in the obama administration worked very closely with me on these issues and participated with us in meetings we held in baltimore and in the capital region about the opioid challenge because some of the drugs that are in west virginia are sourced to baltimore. we had cases in common and i'm aware just how serious a problem this is in west virginia. i have talked with the potential candidates for u.s. attorney in your state and in attorneys and this is one of the issues i talk about. this is going to be one of the high priorities of this administration.
i know you are aware that attorney general sessions actually traveled to charleston in may. he gave remarks at the d.e.a. 360, heroin, opioid response summit. as i mentioned earlier, this 360-degree strategy recognizes the need to coordinate with state and local officials and recognize it's not just about law enforcement. it's about engaging all the community resources that we need to deter people from becoming drug addicts. so we -- senator manchin: i want you to comment on this. in west virginia, population 392 people. out of state drug companies ould supply legitimate businesses, sent nine million highly addicted hydrocould he doan over two years -- hydrocodone over two years to a town of 392 people. that's where we -- it's just unbelievable what's being sent. of course we have an awful lot
of suits, ongoing suits against the drug suppliers. are you all involved in those? mr. rosenstein: i'm not certain, senator, whether we are involved in that particular litigation. d.e.a. has a diversion strategy, a group that focuses on drug diversion and we are certainly aware that a significant proportion of our opioid drug problem is a prescription drug problem. that are drugs diverted from legitimate uses or overprescribed to addicts and that's a significant portion of the problem. so i believe we need to work with the pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, pharmacists and doctors and identify folks who are overprescribing and make sure we hold them accountable. senator manchin: my final question because my time is running out. drug courts have had a tremendous impact on us and we think it's been very positive. we're concerned about drug courts, the funding for drug courts in our state and all over this country. if you can tell me what your administration is supporting on
drug courts or expansion of drug courts, continuing support for drug courts? mr. rosenstein: yes, senator. we are proposing funding for state, local and tribal drug courts. $40 million million proposed in the budget. it would implement drug courts that include substance abuse treatment. along with mandatory drug testing, sanctions and incentives. the goal being to transition people off of drugs. that's part of a larger $100 million request for funding programs that support the comprehensive addiction and recovery act, some people refer to as cara or cara. senator manchin: yes, thank you. senator capito: i think senator boozman is in front of me. he's just yielding right and left. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, deputy attorney general for being here. mr. rosenstein, i want to follow up on something my colleague from west virginia began which are the resources
for special counsel. you said and said more than once that you anticipate and you know the resources that will be needed to do a full investigation will be there in full measure for the counsel, yes? mr. rosenstein: yes. senator capito: we know as appropriators and folks who are looking over budgets that one way to squeeze or change the direction is to have tighter oversight or to squeeze down on the resources available. do you have the ability to do that or do you tell director mueller that he can basically have whatever resources he needs to have? who has the oversight over his budget or is there such a thing? mr. rosenstein: senator, i think within limits he has oversight of his budget. our administrative officers, justice management division, i'm sure if they felt if there was something inappropriate they would bring it to my attention. i don't think that will happen. i think the resources will be available and no dispute what he needs. senator capito: i anticipate
that as well but thank you for that answer. i was going to go to drugs because that's a big issue so i am going to go -- we just had attorney general sessions in the state of west virginia to talk about d.e.a. 360. seems to be a good program that's gotten off to a great start in our state which we have, as you are well aware, much-needed assistance. after the addiction unfortunately to painkillers, many people moving to heroin. much of this heroin is laced with fentanyl. fentanyl is coming in and believed to be coming in u.s. through the u.s. mail from china. what is your department doing on that particular aspect? mr. rosenstein: you're correct, senator. there are really two challenges with regard to fentanyl which is many people are not aware of fentanyl. they will become increasingly aware of it over the coming year because it's an emerging threat. it can be small quantity its of fentanyl can be very dangerous and can be sent in the mail. we are aware that fentanyl is coming in the united states primarily in two ways.
it's coming in through the mexican border and it's coming in by mail from china. senator capito: right. mr. rosenstein: we are going to need to work with d.e.a. and with the postal inspection service to find a way to cut down on that. i think with foreign authorities. we are going to need help from authorities in china and mexico to deal with that challenge as well. so that is at the top of my agenda. i have been in this job only six weeks but i have already talked with a number of folks including chuck rosenburg, the administrator of d.e.a., and we are going to find a way to combat that threat. senator capito: as you know it's a killer but it also affects our first responders. i read a story of first responder, i believe they were in ohio, who had been at the cleanup scene. everything was stair liesed and clean but at some point something came off of his glove nd he end up ended up having to be revised from an overdose. you are aware that the background check, f.b.i. facility is proudly located in
west virginia. it is processing millions of background checks. i am concerned that in this year's budget, a recision was implemented from the fees collected by cjis that they have previously used to update their i.t. we know how important i.t. infrastructure is to get it right in this very important issue. what can you say about that in terms of the support from your department for cjis, and does these recisions occurring this year, do you feel what kind of impact that has? i have some concerns over that. mr. rosenstein: senator, i am not certain i know about the recision. i am happy to look into that for you. i know our request is $17 million increase in cjis. i am not familiar with the recision. senator capito: over the years we have been hearing about a backlog in sexual assault kit backlog and the department of justice -- will the department
of justice reverse this trend and mirror the sentiment expressed by this committee reporting affirming a stronger commitment to increasing the necessary resources for this particular purpose under your direction? mr. rosenstein: senator, i know that is a very important challenge nationwide. i recall the district attorney in manhattan made a priority of that last year and we are committed to working with our state, local and tribal partners to improve d.n.a. and other friendsic testing. this proposed budget includes $105 million for d.n.a. relate and other forensic programs and specifically with regard to your question, it includes $45 million for national sexual assault -- for a national sexual assault kit initiative and i think that will address your concerns. senator capito: i am glad to see the department is doing that. thank you very much. mr. r kennedy: rosenstein, welcome.
mr. rosenstein: thank you. senator kennedy: the justice department sent letters to nine urisdictions alleged to be so-called sanctuary cities under 18 u.s.c. 13 -- section 1373. where are we on that? mr. rosenstein: senator, i believe we actually sent letters to 10 jurisdictions. and these were jurisdictions that had been identified by the inspector general last year as jurisdictions that the inspector general believed may have been in violation of section 1373. and thereby potentially in violation of their obligation under grants to comply with federal law. and so we notified all 10 localities that they needed to certify to us they were in fact complying with section 1373. i believe we gave them until june 30. and as of yesterday we heard back from three that certified they were in compliance and so there are seven that have not yet responded. i anticipate, i hope we will
have those responses by the end of the month. senator kennedy: which three -- which three have you heard back from? mr. rosenstein: i do not know that personally, senator. i can check into that and get back from you. i don't know which three responded. senator kennedy: have you heard from new orleans? mr. rosenstein: i do not know the answer to that. senator kennedy: what if new orleans comes back and says we are in compliance, take my word for it? mr. rosenstein: as with all of our grants, senator, our primary -- particularly when we're dealing with governments, our primary check is the certification, self-certification they provide they are in compliance with all the grant requirements. but there is -- there is an auditing capacity within the department and so in some cases there may be reviews that are done by the granting authority at the office of justice program or what happened last year by our inspector general. if they found violations we would have to deal with the implications as we do in
ordinary grants. as u.s. attorney i dealt with matters in which grant recipients violated provisions of the grants and then the question arises, what's the appropriate remedy. so there is the potential for auditing and oversight of those certifications but primarily we inspect people when they in compliance with the law we expect them to be truthful of that. senator, i just received from my staff a report that new orleans is one of the three that has responded and has certified that it is complying. the other two are clark county, nevada, and the state of connecticut. senator kennedy: i want to be sure -- may i call you general? i don't want to call you assistant general. general.i general, i want to be sure i understand. the department sent letters to 10 jurisdictions that have alleged to be sanctuary cities
and said, are you a sanctuary city and you really expect them to write you back and say, yep? mr. rosenstein: no. let me clarify for you, senator. the request is, are you complying with section 1373? the sanctuary -- whether it's defined as a sanctuary city is really a different issue. our requirement as identified by the inspector general -- our question is, are you complying with 1373? it's not whether or not you are a sanctuary city. senator kennedy: well, to me this issue is not -- it is of course about immigration and legal immigration versus illegal immigration but it's also respect for the law. our mayor in new orleans, who is a friend of mine, on the one hand says i am in complete compliance with section 1373. i am not a sanctuary city. but on the other hand says publicly to the people of
louisiana, quote, i refuse to be a part of trump's deportation force. closed quote. and this is america. you can believe what you want to believe, but we are a nation of laws. and we have lawsuits that have to be followed -- and we have laws that have to be followed. if new orleans disagrees with the law, it should petition congress to change it, but it can't just unilaterally say i don't like it, i am the mayor, i don't like the president, i don't agree with hiss policies so i am not going to follow it and make his comments personal in the process of doing it. that bothered me. so what's going to be done to follow up? all 10 cities will say they are in compliance. mr. rosenstein: yes, thank you, senator. i want to make sure i clarify this. if somebody certifies to the
department of justice they are in compliance, we expect them to be in compliance. and so it would be a very serious matter if somebody sends us a certification. it has to be signed by a person and that person needs to be confident they are right. if somebody signs a certification they are in compliance, we are going to vigorously review those, particularly those 10 because they have been identified by us by our inspector general as jurisdictions whether there was some concern. we will vigorously review those submissions. if they are in compliance and violation of the grant contract we will pursue appropriate remedies. those could suspending an award. it could include termination grant contract and could include requiring repayment of grant funds. it's a very serious matter, senator. if somebody sends a certification we expect them to be accurate. senator kennedy: over what period of time are you going to check their compliance? mr. rosenstein: well, there is -- within the ordinary grant making process, obviously there are a lot of conditions on federal grants and there is a review process within the department, the office of justice programs and other
grant making components of the department. there is potential for investigations by the inspector general. so we do review those in the ordinary course and on a prospective basis, senator, we will require these certifications that jurisdictions are in compliance with 1373 and i'm hopeful people will -- if they weren't following the law in the first place, they will truthfully certify and make sure they change their practices so they are following the law in the future. senator kennedy: thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for your indulgence in allowing me to go over. thank you, mr. general. senator cochran: senator boozman. thank you for yielding to senator alexander. you lost a little time that way. senator boozman: he had a good excuse. he was going to visit with the president. thank you so much for being here. i just want to echo first the -- what my colleagues have said about drug courts on both sides of the aisle. that's something that really does reduce recidivism. they are doing a great job in
arkansas, both the regular drug court and then also the veteran drug courts working with the v.a., using the resources they have, that's just a great partnership that really is making a big difference. i'm pleased that the d.o.j. is reinvesting a strategy that targets violent crime. i understand you created a violent crime strategy task force. can you elaborate on the details, including what agencies are playing what roles and do you have the necessary resources that you need to carry out the mission which is so very important? mr. rosenstein: yes, thank you, senator. with regard to violent crime, as i know you are aware, in 2015 violent crime increase bid 3% which is the largest one-year increase we experienced since 1991 nationwide. number of murders in 2015 increased by 11% which is the largest increase since 1971. we consider this to be an urgent problem for us. the attorney general established a task force on
violent crime reduction and public safety. that task force is drawing on expertise from throughout the department to come up with strategies. and we have a number of proposals. some of which are in this budget. that will help us reinvigorate our fight against violent crime, including -- i'm hopeful we will be able to reinstitute which was called project safe neighborhood. it was a project i was involved in when i first became u.s. attorney and we hope to reinrig vate that -- reinvigorate that rogram to identityify what are the violent -- identify what are the violent crime in your neighborhood. these drug courts are primarily an issue for our state and local partners. they deal with on a daily basis a large volume of offenders of people who committed crimes who are drug addicts. in the federal system, typically when we're prosecuting drug cases they are distributors, not addicts, so we deal with a different type of defendant.
for state and local partners, if they're able to help those folks overcome their drug addiction, they're going to be able to reduce crime. so i think it's critically important for us to support those efforts. senator boozman: very good. i'm chairing the homeland security appropriations subcommittee. one of our concerns is is the number of immigration judges. we have i believe about a 500,000 backlog. i think there are 75 million dollars to put more resources in there, more judges. can you talk a little bit about that, the efforts that you're making in that regard and kind of what the plan is to eliminate the backlog, how you're going to resource those judges? mr. rosenstein: there are really two ways, senator, we're acting immediately to try to deal with that backlog. the first is by filling existing vacancies because there was a delay in filling immigration judge vacancies as they arose so there were a lot
of slots open but were vacant and we're trying to fill those positions. in addition to that our 2018 request, $500 million. office of immigration and review, the office that handles those cases and that will include $75 million for new judges. 75 new judges. 75 new judges and a total of total of 450 staff which includes the staff that support those judges. once we get those out in the field we anticipate we will make a big impact on that backlog. it will represent a 21% increase in our overall staff and will be able to adjudicate the immigration cases much more fairly and expeditiously. in addition to that, we're working to fill those 38 vakeansies that exist. we hired 30 immigration judges already this year and we hope to have a if you complement, have all of the judicial slots filled by the end of the year. senator boozman: are you going to realign or are you in the process of realigning where
they're at? teleconferencing, things like that, do we use those kind of technologies? mr. rosenstein: we are looking at alignment where we need the judges. we will put them in places where we think they're most valuable. i do hope to look at ways we can operate more efficiently. you mentioned teleconferencing, to move the cases quicker, it's not good for anybody to have these cases pending for so long. our director of the office of immigration review recently left the department. we have an acting director and i plan to work closely with him and with his successor when we appoint a permanent director and the challenge that i've given to him is let's fill the vakeansies but see if there are -- vacancies but see if we can move them more quicker. senator cochran: thank you. i have several questions and i'll go to senator shaheen.
the justice department, it's my understanding, currently holds over $4 billion in forfeited and seized assets in a funds set up to compensate victims of the bernie madoff fraud. senator shelby: the department is in year six of the fund and to date no assetses have disbursed to victims. in addition, news reports indicate the special master of this fund has collected over $40 million in fees. questions have been raised about the methodology of making distributions and determine the validity of claims like everything that these methodologies are unorthodox and unworkable. obviously not working if there has been no distribution. would the department be inclined to review this matter, look at this as something wrong here and see if there is a manner in which these
distributions can be made more quickly and efficiently because the fund was set up to compensate the victims, you have been a prosecutor, you still have, can you comment on that? mr. rosenstein: yes. one of the most important things we can do is to reimburse victims. senator shelby: that was the purpose of the fund, wasn't it? mr. rosenstein: yes. and we should do it as quickly as possible. i learned about the issue this week, senator. my understanding is that the problem here was the volume of claims. 65,000 ved i understand claims. each one of those are dealt with individually and we don't distribute the money until we are confident about the pool -- >> we will leave this hearing at this point. you can see the rest of it online at c-span.org. u.s. house will be back in a moment to begin debate on bills making it easier for the v.a. to fire employees for misconduct