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Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies


United States

Good morning.  Chairman [Frank] Wolf, Ranking Member [Chaka] Fattah, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget for the U.S. Department of Justice – and to provide an overview of the Department’s recent achievements and ongoing priorities.

Despite significant challenges, the past year has been characterized by remarkable progress – from expanding civil rights for all Americans to holding private corporations accountable for wrongdoing.  In the financial sector, concerns have been raised recently about a practice called “high-frequency trading.”  This practice, which consists of financial brokers and trading firms using advanced computer algorithms and ultra-high speed data networks to execute trades, has rightly received scrutiny from regulators.  I can confirm that we at the Justice Department are investigating this practice to determine whether it violates insider trading laws.  The Department is committed to ensuring the integrity of our financial markets – and we are determined to follow this investigation wherever the facts and the law may lead.

Across the board, many of the Department’s ongoing activities and recent accomplishments are notable – but none have been more important than our work to protect the American people from terrorism and other threats to our national security.  I know we’re all mindful, as we come together this morning, of Wednesday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood.  As I indicated yesterday, I have directed that the full resources of the Department of Justice and the FBI be made available to help conduct a thorough federal investigation.  And as we keep striving to achieve justice on behalf of our men and women in uniform – by working to determine what happened this week, and bringing help and healing to those who need it – my colleagues and I will continue to do everything in our power to prevent these horrific and far-too-common tragedies from happening again.

We also will remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure America’s national security – and to hold accountable those who seek to harm our nation and its people.  Last week, the Department achieved a major milestone in this regard when we secured the conviction of Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, the son-in-law of Usama bin Laden and a senior member of al Qaeda, on terrorism-related charges.

We never doubted the ability of our Article III court system to administer justice swiftly in this case, as it has in hundreds of other cases involving terrorism defendants – and this outcome vindicates the government’s approach to securing convictions of senior al Qaeda leaders.  It is my hope that this case will help lay that political debate to rest.

The President’s budget request would strengthen our national security work by investing a total of $4 billion in the Department’s cutting-edge counterterrorism and national security programs, including $15 million in new funding to maintain and operate the FBI’s new Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center facility in Alabama.

It also would provide $173 million to support our efforts to strengthen the federal criminal justice system through the groundbreaking “Smart on Crime” initiative I launched last August to make our criminal justice system both more effective and more efficient.

This, in turn, would enable us to further invest in the outstanding work that’s performed every day by dedicated attorneys and support staff in each of the Department’s litigating divisions and United States Attorneys’ Offices.  Thanks to their efforts, during the fiscal year ending in 2013, the Justice Department collected a total of more than $8 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties.  This represents more than double the approximately $3 billion in direct appropriations that pay for our 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and main litigating divisions.  During FY 2012 and FY 2013, the Department collected a combined total of more than $21 billion – a record amount for a two-year span.  And, particularly in recent months, we’ve obtained a series of historic resolutions and taken other significant actions to ensure that we’re serving as sound stewards of taxpayer dollars – and protecting American consumers from fraud and other financial crimes.

Last November, the Justice Department secured a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan Chase & Co. – the largest settlement with a single entity in American history – to resolve federal and state civil claims related to the company’s mortgage securitization process.  As part of our ongoing efforts to hold accountable those whose conduct sowed the seeds of the mortgage crisis, the Department also filed a lawsuit against the ratings firm S&P.  Last month, we reached a $1.2 billion agreement with Toyota – the largest criminal penalty ever imposed on an automotive company.  And just yesterday, we announced a record $5.15 billion settlement with Kerr-McGee Corporation and certain affiliates, and their parent Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, including $4.4 billion for environmental cleanup and claims.  This represents the largest recovery for cleanup of environmental contamination in the history of the Department of Justice.  It holds the company and its subsidiaries accountable for decades of significant environmental damage and fraudulent attempts to evade responsibility for its actions.  And it marks another critical step in our effort to protect the American people from all forms of fraud, to combat corporate misconduct, and to safeguard the environment.

As we move forward, I am eager to work with this Subcommittee, and with the entire Congress, to secure the timely passage of the President’s budget request – which provides a total of $27.4 billion in discretionary resources for the Department of Justice, including $25.3 billion for vital federal programs and $2.1 billion for discretionary state, local, and tribal assistance programs.  This support will be essential to ensuring that we can continue to protect the American people and strengthen our criminal justice system.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, FY2014 marks a critical year in the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, as states will soon be required to comply with national standards for curbing sexual assault in prisons.  The Department is committed to helping state and local governments overcome any challenges they may encounter as they work towards implementing the National PREA Standards and – with funding this Committee has provided – has established a PREA Resource Center in order to assist with implementation.  We are confident that these standards, which were the results of extensive public comment, are attainable.  The problem of sexual assault in prisons is too great to settle for anything less than an aggressive approach to implementing these key reforms.

I thank you all for the opportunity to discuss this work with you today.  And I especially want to thank Chairman Wolf for his exemplary leadership and support of the Department’s work – and particularly our efforts to combat the heinous crime of human trafficking – over the course of a long and distinguished career in the House of Representatives. 

Mr. Chairman, I have come to greatly value your advocacy of the Justice Department’s essential mission and your high regard for the tireless career employees who make our work possible every day.  Your expertise – and your steadfast support of our public safety efforts – have been invaluable over the years.  And upon your retirement from the House of Representatives at the end of this year, they will be greatly missed.

Thank you, once again, for your service and leadership.  I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Updated August 18, 2015