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Sen. Cruz: The American People Have a Right to See a Department of Justice That Is Committed and Faithful to the Constitution and the Law Regardless of Political Party

Participates in confirmation hearing of William Barr to be the United States Attorney General

January 15, 2019



WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned William Barr during his confirmation hearing to be United States Attorney General. There, Sen. Cruz asked about the rule of law, the First Amendment, and religious liberty, among other topics.

Sen. Cruz’s full line of questioning may be viewed here. Excerpts are below. 

Sen. Cruz: I don’t want to see a Republican Department of Justice or a Democratic Department of Justice. I don’t want to see a Republican FBI or Democratic FBI. What we should see, what the American people have a right to see and a right to expect is a Department of Justice that is committed to and faithful to the Constitution and the laws regardless of political party. And a corollary to that is a Department that is willing to hold anyone who commits criminal conduct accountable regardless of that individual's political party or whatever partisan interests there might be. Would you agree with that characterization? 

Hon. William Barr: Yes, Senator. Yes, Senator. 

Sen. Cruz: I would note as well during the previous administration there was concern by many -- including me on this committee -- that the previous administration, in particular the IRS, had targeted individual citizens and citizen’s groups for exercising their First Amendment rights and had abused its power in doing so. The current Justice Department -- I’ve been dissatisfied with their degree of scrutiny that they have given to that potential abuse of power. And I’m going to ask you going forward, if you are confirmed, to examine that conduct and ensure that if laws were broken the individuals are held accountable. Let me shift to a different topic. One of the most important safeguards of our liberties is the Bill of Rights, and the Attorney General has a unique responsibility defending the Constitution. Can you share for this committee, in your view, the importance of free speech? Of the protections that the First Amendment provides to Americans to speak and even to speak on popular or politically disfavored topics? 

Hon. Barr: I think free speech is at the core of our system, because we believe in the democratic process and power shifting through the democratic processes of voting by an informed electorate. And free speech is foundational to the ability to have a democratic process. The framers, I think, believed that the dialectic, the clashing of ideas in the public marketplace, is the way to arrive at the truth. That is one function. Another function of free speech is that it’s the substitute for other means of settling differences. In some ways, it’s a safety valve. People are allowed to speak their mind and persuade their neighbors of their position. I think that performs a very important function in keeping the peace within a community. If speech is suppressed it can lead to the building up of pressures within society that sometimes can be explosive. 

Sen. Cruz: How about your views on religious liberty? And would you share your thoughts on the importance of the religious liberty protections in the First Amendment, in terms of protecting our diverse and pluralistic society?

Hon. Barr: Yes, I think the framers believed that our system, they said, that our system only works if the people are in a position to control themselves. Our government is an experiment in how much freedom we can allow the people without tearing ourselves apart. And they believed fewer laws, more self-control. They believed that part of that self-control -- and I know that many people here disagree, in our society who disagree -- believed part of that self-control ultimately came from religious values. I think it’s important underpinning of our system that we permit. I believe in the separation of church and state, but I am sometimes concerned that we not use governmental powers to suppress the freedoms of traditional religious communities in our country.



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