Exclusive: GOP officials offer support for Vanita Gupta
Several former GOP officials wrote to senators on Wednesday urging them to confirm President Biden’s pick for associate attorney general in the face of criticism from other Republicans.
The letters of support for Vanita Gupta, which were first obtained by The Hill, came from former Department of Justice officials who served during the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, as well as one former GOP House member and a former Republican commissioner of the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
“Because Vanita Gupta is a strong leader and consensus-builder, we join to urge her prompt confirmation,” more than two dozen former DOJ officials wrote to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and top Senate Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Among the signatories were Michael Chertoff, who served as Homeland Security secretary during the George W. Bush administration, Don Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general for George H.W. Bush, and several former United States attorneys.
Larry Thompson, who served as deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, separately wrote to the senators in support of Gupta. Thompson cited her bipartisan work in support of the First Step Act, the criminal justice reform bill signed into law during the Trump administration.
Former Rep. Tom Coleman (R-Mo.), who served in the House from 1976-1993 and spoke critically of former President Trump in recent years, said he worked with Gupta on the National Task Force on Election Crises and credited her commitment to “election integrity and the rule of law.”
“I saw that Ms. Gupta is a person who seeks the common good, without concern for partisan gamesmanship, and with a seriousness and competence that I believe will suit her well as the Associate Attorney General,” Coleman wrote.
A fourth letter, sent Tuesday to Durbin and Grassley, came from former Republican FEC Chairman Trevor Potter, who specifically sought to dismiss efforts to characterize Gupta as a partisan.
“I find that characterization to be deeply unfair and belied by Ms. Gupta’s longstanding history of working across partisan lines to promote equality and justice in our legal system,” Potter wrote, highlighting Gupta’s past work with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) when she was seeking pardons for her clients and her efforts with Republicans on the FEC to address disinformation on social media.
“She is someone who, in my personal experience, is driven by principles of fairness, equality and justice, and not by partisan ideology,” Potter wrote.
The letters mark the latest show of support for Gupta, who has been a target for conservatives since Biden tapped her for the number three role in the Justice Department. Gupta previously served as acting assistant attorney general for the civil rights division at the Justice Department during the Obama administration.
Judicial Crisis Network launched an ad campaign that labeled Gupta a “dangerous appointee” and suggested she supported defunding the police. Biden has repeatedly said he opposes defunding the police, and Gupta reiterated during her confirmation hearing last week that she does not support it either.
Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have also sought to paint Gupta as an extremist and seized on her past rhetoric attacking the Trump administration.
Since leaving the Justice Department in 2017, Gupta has served as the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. While leading the group, she tweeted critically about Senate Republicans and nominees for federal judicial seats, including Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Gupta apologized for her “harsh rhetoric” during her confirmation hearing last week and urged senators to consider her bipartisan record throughout her career.
Despite the attacks from the right, Gupta has garnered significant support from unions and law enforcement groups in recent weeks. The National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Fraternal Order of Police are among the groups that have written to senators in favor of Gupta’s confirmation.
Gupta’s path to confirmation appeared to ease a bit this week when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he would likely support her nomination after Attorney General Merrick Garland offered his stamp of approval.
“I have spoken to Merrick Garland, and he is very high on her,” Manchin told CNN. “And I have all the respect in the world on his decisionmaking. I will be leaning towards [voting ‘yes’] because of his support.”
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