Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Washington, DC United States ~ Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Testimony as prepared for delivery
Good morning, Chairman [Charles] Grassley, Ranking Member [Patrick] Leahy and distinguished members of the Committee. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some of the recent accomplishments of the Justice Department; to outline some of my priorities as Attorney General; and to discuss how we can continue working together to create a stronger and safer nation.
Our first responsibility is to protect the American people and we are working tirelessly to investigate, detect and disrupt plots that target our citizens, our infrastructure and our values. We have publicly charged approximately 90 individuals since 2013 for conduct related to foreign-fighter activity or homegrown violent extremism and we remain focused on the danger posed by domestic extremists. That includes investigating attacks like the one in San Bernardino using every lawful tool available. I want to emphasize that the Department of Justice takes our responsibilities extremely seriously. We understand this raises serious issues and questions for consideration by this body and the American people. At the Department of Justice, we intend to do our duty – to protect the American people and to uphold the rule of law.
We’re also redoubling our efforts in cyberspace, where – as they do in the physical world – wrongdoers seek to steal data, copy trade secrets and threaten our national security. We’re using or supporting a wide range of tools to counter cybercrime and terrorist use of the Internet, including criminal prosecution, the efforts of our U.S. Attorneys and partnerships with the private sector. We’ve created a cybersecurity unit within our Criminal Division and launched a private-sector outreach initiative under our National Security Division. And we will continue to explore other ways to meet the challenges of law enforcement in the digital age.
Of course, our first line of defense against terrorism and crime are the brave police officers who risk their lives to keep us safe. We are grateful for their dedication and their valor and we are proud to support them in every way we can – from training programs, to grant funding, to technical assistance. But as we have seen, in too many communities, vital relationships between law enforcement officers and the residents we serve and protect have frayed amid long-simmering tensions that threaten to erupt. In order to help repair these bonds, I recently launched the second phase of my community policing tour, which will take me to cities that are making progress in six areas defined by President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. I’ve already visited Miami and Doral, Florida and Portland, Oregon and I look forward to highlighting more examples of encouraging innovation and collaboration in the months ahead.
One of the greatest hazards to both law enforcement officers and the people we serve is an epidemic of gun violence. In January, I recommended – and President Obama announced – important new steps and guidance that will help keep guns out of the hands of individuals who are not legally allowed to have them; enhance the background check system; combat illegal online firearms dealing; and spur cutting-edge gun safety technology. These common-sense measures will make a difference, but addressing gun violence more comprehensively will require assistance from Congress and I look forward to discussing how we can work together to safeguard every American’s right to life, liberty and security.
We are also focused on the most vulnerable members of our society – especially those who have fallen victim to human trafficking. Since becoming Attorney General, I’ve expanded a program called the Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team Initiative – a collaborative, survivor-centered approach to human trafficking investigations and prosecutions that unites experts and officials from across the federal government to enhance our anti-trafficking efforts. Last September, I announced that the Department would provide $44 million in new grant funding to support research, improve care for survivors and bring human traffickers to justice. I want to thank our partners in Congress for their support – by tripling human-trafficking-related funding for our Office of Justice Programs in Fiscal Year 2015, Congress played a vital role in this expansion.
Finally, I want to say a word about criminal justice reform. The Department of Justice has taken steps to build on the success of the Smart on Crime initiative, which has reduced our use of harsh mandatory sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenses and enabled us to focus on more serious federal crimes. Among other actions, we introduced the first-ever Second Chance Fellow to advise the Reentry Council – which I am proud to chair – regarding policies to help formerly incarcerated individuals stay on the right path. We forged partnerships across the federal government to tackle problems that lead to crime in the first place. And we invested and will continue to invest, in promising federal, state, local and tribal reentry efforts, including a $68 million investment in Second Chance Act grants in FY 2016 and a proposed $100 million investment in FY 2017.
These are important steps, but there is much more to be done – particularly with regard to sentencing reform. I want to thank the members of this committee for your support of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, which has been embraced by prosecutors, law enforcement officers and legislators of all political ideologies. I am eager to collaborate with you to secure the passage of this important legislation by the full Senate.
Thank you for the chance to speak with you today and for your ongoing support of the Justice Department’s efforts. I look forward to working closely with you to advance our shared goals. At this time, I am happy to answer any questions.