by WorldTribune Staff, May 15, 2022
Memos made public under the Freedom of Information Act show a Democrat senator fed planned questions to a Department of Justice official ahead of two Senate Judiciary Committee hearings last fall, a report said.
Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia even suggested an answer to Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristin Clarke, Just the News reported. The memos were obtained by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
Ossoff’s team forwarded at least four questions the Democrat senator planned to ask Clarke, including one about the need to protect poll workers from possible violence or intimidation that included a suggested answer endorsing Ossoff’s new legislation.
“Please let me know if you think AAG Clarke would have any trouble answering those (as in, whether it’d be hard for her to give a straight ‘yes’ to those and I can redirect them to someone on the second panel),” Ossoff’s general counsel Sara Schaumburg wrote to Deputy Assistant Attorney General Helaine A. Greenfeld in the department’s Office of Legislative Affairs ahead of the first hearing in early October 2021.
“Election workers are vital to free and fair elections,” Schaumberg wrote, providing DOJ with the senator’s “wind up,” followed by his planned question and the answer he expected to elicit. “That is why, earlier this week, I introduced legislation to expand and strengthen protections for election workers, as well polling places and other election infrastructure, which is included in the John Lewis bill.
“Question: Do you expect these threats to continue to grow and why is it important to expand current protections in the law?
“Expected Answer: It’s critical that the law protects the full complement of people involved in ensuring elections are run smoothly. That means expanding current protections for election officials to make sure they [sic] law also protects their families, volunteer election workers, and the people who set up and maintain voting equipment.
“It also means protecting polling places and other infrastructure involved in voting, like tabulation centers. That’s why inclusion of your legislation a critical part of the John Lewis bill.”
Video of the hearing shows Ossoff asked some of the questions almost exactly as presented in the email, and Clarke’s answer to the poll workers protection question closely followed the script.
The memos “provide a rare window into the stage management that occurred between the Biden DOJ and its allies in Congress on what were supposed to be independent hearings,” the Just the News report noted.
Congressional hearings are supposed to show the independence of Congress exercising its oversight of the executive branch.
“We senators ought to take our constitutional duty of oversight very seriously,” Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Just the News. “Coordinating friendly questions and answers with the agency in advance of hearings might serve your political interests, but it fails to improve accountability to the taxpayer. When it comes to oversight, we should be playing hard ball, not tee ball.”