Rachel Maddow calls into question Cornyn connection to Gupta

MSNBC host Rachel MaddowRachel Anne MaddowCDC's Walensky is the wrong media messenger on COVID-19  Budowsky: How Biden can defeat COVID-19 for good Democratic group launches seven-figure ad campaign on voting rights bill MORE called into question Sen. John CornynJohn CornynMcConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal GOP skepticism looms over bipartisan spending deal Biden's bipartisan deal faces Senate gauntlet MORE's (R-Texas) opposition to President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE’s nominee for associate attorney general, Vanita Gupta, who Maddow says “humiliated and exposed” Cornyn nearly 20 years ago in Texas.

In a segment aired on Wednesday, Maddow delved into the wrongful conviction of multiple people in Tulia, Texas, around 20 years ago, most of whom were Black. Nearly all of these individuals were convicted and imprisoned on the sole testimony of one former police officer.


The former officer, Tom Coleman, gave misleading and inaccurate testimony that resulted in the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of 35 individuals, almost all of whom were Black, as is recounted by the NYU Law Magazine.

Gupta, who was then an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, worked as a defense attorney for the wrongfully convicted individuals. It was discovered during Gupta's fact-finding that Coleman frequently made mistakes when identifying suspects and often used racist language.

Coleman was later convicted on two charges of perjury. The imprisoned individuals were freed and former Texas Gov. Rick PerryRick PerryCollege football move rocks Texas legislature Trump tries to spin failed Texas endorsement: 'This was a win' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers recount the horror of Jan. 6 MORE (R) issued pardons for all of the wrongfully convicted.

Maddow suggested that Cornyn is opposing Gupta's confirmation because he was Texas's attorney general when the Tulia convictions were overturned.


"Here's why this is all worth knowing. ... There's a Republican senator taking point on this, leading the charge to try to keep her from being confirmed. Who's that? It's Texas Sen. John Cornyn," Maddow said on her show Wednesday.

"Who, when he was attorney general of the state of Texas, is the guy who gave officer Tom Coleman the Texas 'Lawman of the Year' award for his great work in Tulia, Texas, before Vanita Gupta came in and exposed who that guy actually was."

"I wonder, I just wonder if Sen. John Cornyn might be at all embarrassed about this. And about the young lawyer who came to Texas and exposed this thing, this terrible and cartoonishly evil thing that he had helped along," Maddow added.

The Hill has reached out to Cornyn's office for a response to Maddow's statements.

Cornyn has not mentioned the Tulia convictions in his criticism of Gupta's nomination. 

He has focused his criticism on her connection and investments with Avantor, a chemical company which creates a product integral in the production of heroin. Gupta has pledged to divest her stake in Avantor, of which her father Rajiv Gupta serves as chairman. 

"The Department requires professional detachment from even the appearance of impropriety and this conflict of interest of Ms. Gupta's goes far beyond simple appearance. Ms. Gupta has financially benefited from the sale of this chemical to cartels in Mexico," Cornyn said on Wednesday.

Republicans opposed to Gupta have also criticized her for other issues.

In a letter sent to Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinMcConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Congress should butt out of Supreme Court's business Inmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan MORE (D-Ill.) on Tuesday, a group of 11 Republican senators, including Cornyn, requested that another hearing be held for Gupta as well as deputy attorney general nominee Lisa Monaco, due to what they referred to as Gupta's "misleading" statement on her positions regarding several justice-related issues including ending qualified immunity and decriminalizing drugs.

"We urge you to immediately schedule a second hearing with Ms. Gupta so that she can answer for her misleading statements, and for her refusal to respond to our written questions," the senators wrote.

The GOP lawmakers also criticized Gupta's "temperament" and her rhetoric, which Gupta apologized for, saying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, "I wish I could take it back,"

Durbin responded in a letter sent out on Wednesday.


"While I always appreciate hearing from colleagues on the Committee, your request to hold a second hearing on Vanita Gupta’s nomination to be Associate Attorney General appears to be little more than a delay tactic aimed not at gathering more information, but at obstructing a highly qualified and historic nominee who has dedicated her career to the protection and expansion of civil rights," Durbin wrote.

"Let me say at the outset that you all have had ample opportunities to question Ms. Gupta about her record, her views, and her priorities should she be confirmed to serve as Associate Attorney General," Durbin added. "The Department of Justice and Ms. Gupta contacted each of your offices multiple times to set up meetings in advance of Ms. Gupta’s hearing, yet only two of you agreed to meet with her."

No Democratic senators have come out publicly against Gupta's nomination, meaning she is likely to be confirmed.