President Barack Obama nominates Loretta Lynch as Attorney General in Washington D.C., on Nov. 8, 2014.
Photo by Rex Features/AP

GOP readies partisan circus as Lynch hearings begin

The first sign that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) may not have been the best choice to lead the Senate Judiciary Committee came two weeks ago. The conservative Iowan boasted that, since his promotion, the Senate had already confirmed 11 judicial nominees. The actual number was zero: Grassley was counting confirmation votes from the last Congress, pointing to nominees he opposed.
The second sign that Grassley is probably the wrong man for the job came around the same time, by way of a deeply odd response to the terrorist violence in Paris.
But the third piece of evidence will arrive this morning.
If you don’t count the Republican members of Congress, outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder has no more determined critic than Sheryl Attkisson. The investigative reporter, who left CBS News last year and now contributes to the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, spent years investigating the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal. Her stories were part of a corpus that convinced the House to hold Holder in contempt of Congress for dodging questions. Just last month, Holder was among the people sued by Attkisson in a case that accuses the federal government of spying on her; she’s asking for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and an injunction preventing the feds from conducting “any surveillance” of her.
And [Wednesday morning], Attkisson will lead the expert testimony on Holder’s likely replacement. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley took control of after the Republicans’ 2014 wins, has called Attkisson to speak on a panel of witnesses after nominee Loretta Lynch is introduced.
Attkisson has become a rather tragic figure in recent months, undermining her own reputation with genuinely bizarre allegations, strange conspiracy theories, and commentary on journalism that really didn’t go well. Grassley, or at least the Grassley staffers who help him make decisions, has decided this far-right media figure is the best person to make the case against an Attorney General nominee? What, were the folks at busy?
Is this really what passes for grown-up Senate oversight in a Republican-led chamber?
It’s not just the Attkisson invitation that rankles; the rest of the GOP’s witness list is troublesome, too.
The witness list for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on Loretta Lynch, the highly regarded nominee for attorney general, indicates the process will be a forum for right-wing media favorites and myths but will have little to do with her qualifications.
I saw a report the other day that Lynch should expect a “grilling” and a series of “tough questions” as part of her confirmation process. Obviously, nominees should expect nothing less – the position of Attorney General, the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, is one of the most important in the federal government. With the Justice Department fiascos of the Bush/Cheney era still lingering in our memories, senators in both parties have a responsibility to ensure Lynch is qualified and capable.
But Grassley’s witness list suggests the Republican majority is organizing a partisan circus intended to impress conservative media., if no one else.