Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder TestifiesBefore U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies
United States
Thursday, April 3, 2014

Good morning.  Chairwoman [Barbara] Mikulski, Ranking Member [Richard] Shelby, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget for the U.S. Department of Justice – and to provide an overview of the Department’s recent achievements and ongoing priorities.

As we convene this morning, I know we’re all mindful of yesterday’s mass shooting at Fort Hood.  I am being regularly briefed on the situation and have directed that the full resources of the Department of Justice and the FBI be made available to ensure the security of everyone on base.  We will work with local officials and the Department of Defense to provide assistance to those who need it and to help conduct a full and thorough federal investigation.

As this investigation unfolds – and as we work to determine exactly what happened and why – my thoughts and prayers will be with all those whose lives have been impacted by this terrible tragedy – and with the entire Fort Hood community, which has displayed such extraordinary strength and resilience since the horrific events of nearly five years ago.  As President Obama said yesterday, it is heartbreaking that something like this has happened again.  And we owe it to all of our men and women in uniform – and their families – to see that justice is done; to ensure that they are safe here at home; and to do everything in our power to prevent these too-common tragedies from happening again.

My colleagues and I are firmly committed to doing just that.  And we are determined to continue building upon the exceptional work that Justice Department employees have performed over the past year.  Going forward, your support will enable us to build on the results my colleagues obtained, and to perform the vital mission with which we are entrusted.

Many of our accomplishments over the past year are notable – and even historic – but none have been more important than our ongoing work to protect the American people from terrorism and other threats to our national security.  Just last week, the Department achieved a major milestone 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.

This verdict has proven that proceedings such as these can safely occur in the city I am proud to call home, as in other locations across our great nation.  It was appropriate that this defendant, who publicly rejoiced over the attacks on the World Trade Center, faced trial in the shadow of where those buildings once stood.   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 would be a good thing for the country if this case has the result of putting 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 to maintain and operate the FBI’s new Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center facility in Alabama.

The FY 2015 Budget also would invest in other key priorities, providing $273 million to bolster the Department’s vigorous enforcement of federal civil rights laws – including $8 million in new resources.  It would allocate $1.1 billion to support the Administration’s work to reduce gun violence.  It would enhance the Department’s ability to combat heinous crimes like human and sex trafficking.  And it would provide $173 million to support our efforts to strengthen the federal criminal justice system as a whole – through the groundbreaking “Smart on Crime” initiative I launched last August.

This initiative comprises a range of targeted, commonsense reforms – including modifications to the Department’s charging policies with regard to mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent, low-level drug crimes – along with a renewed focus on evidence-based diversion, rehabilitation, and reentry programs.  The FY 2015 Budget would sustain investments in the Bureau of Prisons’ reentry programs, including the Residential Drug Abuse Program, Residential Reentry Centers, and reentry-specific education programs.  These and other proven programs will help to make our criminal justice system not only more effective, but also – by freeing up resources for police and prosecutors as well as other vital law enforcement priorities – significantly 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 FY2012 and FY2013, the Department collected a combined total of more than $21 billion – a record amount for a two-year span.  And 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.  And with the $1.2 billion agreement we reached with Toyota just last month – the largest criminal penalty ever imposed on an automotive company – we’re making good on our determination to protect consumers and address fraud in all its forms.

I am eager to work with this Subcommittee, and with the entire Congress, to build on these and other successes – and 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 state, local, and tribal assistance programs.  This level of support will be essential to ensuring that we can continue to protect the American people and take important actions to strengthen our criminal justice system.

I thank you, once again, for the opportunity to discuss this work with you today.  I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Updated August 18, 2015