As a former prosecutor, I'm here to speak in support of S. 214. I'd like to thank members of the Judiciary Committee for introducing and reporting out this important bill and I'm proud to be a co-sponsor.
I returned from Iraq yesterday Mr. President and I look forward to reflecting on lessons learned from that trip later on the week. But I will say that I and my Senate colleagues had extensive discussions with Iraqi political leaders as well as the American military leaders about the importance of building and maintaining the rule of law in Iraq.
I have always been proud that our judicial process has been the gold standard for the rest of the world. It is ironic, then, that even as I spoke with Iraqi leaders about their challenges, we Americans were learning a very public lesson about how the rule of law can be undermined in even the most advanced democracies.
We have learned this past month that our nation's chief law enforcement officer - our leading guardian of the rule of law in this country - has allowed politics to creep too close to the core of our legal system.
This administration has determined that Washington politicians, not prosecutors out in the field - and even perhaps in some cases not even the facts - will dictate how prosecutions should proceed.
The consequences are unacceptable. Good prosecutors, by all accounts doing their jobs, upholding their oaths, following the principles of their professions, basing their decisions on the facts before them, were pressured, and/or fired, and/or unfairly slandered by this administration - and all of this, it would seem, was motivated by rank politics. That is simply not how we do things in this country. That is why last week I called for the Attorney General to resign.
Before I came to the Senate, Mr. President I was a prosecutor. I managed an office of nearly 400 people. And we always said to our prosecutors, that if you do the right thing, if you do your job without fear or favor, at the end of the day you have no regrets. It may not be easy, whatever your decision is, it may not make everyone happy but you have to explain it. But if you do your job without fear or favor you will have no regrets.
That was true even though I had been elected through the political process - I checked politics at the door when it came to my job. I remember when I first came into the office. There were two prosecutors in my office who supported my opponent.
And I went and met with them the day after I was elected and I said 'you know I've heard nothing but good things about you two I've heard you're great prosecutors and I'd like to know what jobs you want in the office.' One of them wanted to be the head of the drug team the other wanted to be the head of the gang team.
And I put them in those jobs and I never regretted it. They did incredible jobs. They got along with the police they worked well with the community. And that is because we knew that when it came to prosecution there were boundaries. Those boundaries - this month in Washington we found out - were crossed.
Another case I'll always remember was a case where we prosecuted a judge who had stolen 400,000 dollars from a mentally disabled woman that he was supposed to protect.
This young lived in a world of stuffed animals and dolls. She needed people to take care of her and he was the person who was in charge of her money in her accounts. And he systematically stole all 400,000 dollars in those accounts.
He was a politically connected judge, he was a Democrat. And when that case came into our office I got so many calls, dozens of calls from people in the community. Political people saying 'you know he messed up but he's a good guy, he shouldn't go to jail.'
Well Mr. President he went to jail, we asked for a four year sentence and we got that sentence. I still remember that courtroom packed with all of his friends, all of his pals. We did the right thing and at the end of the day we had no regrets
This is a tradition in this country, a simple and deeply rooted tradition, that our party affiliation should not get in the middle of decisions about who we prosecute and how we enforce the law. That tradition is as true - perhaps even more true - in our federal prosecutor's offices as it is in local DA's offices.
This tradition emerged because our justice system is ultimately built on a foundation of trust. Without that trust, the system doesn't work.
When our leaders play politics with the judicial process, we lose that trust. When people get fired for political reasons, we lose that trust. When good prosecutors are removed to make room for political cronies, we lose that trust.
And in losing that trust the very lifeblood of our justice system comes under threat.
The legislation we are considering will not undo the damage that this administration and this Attorney General have caused. But it will prevent this Attorney General - and future Attorney Generals - from ever doing something like this again.
It is time once again to allow federal prosecutors to do their jobs without fear or favor. It is time to place much needed limits on an administration that has far too often and far too flagrantly exceeded its authority and abused the public trust. Today, by passing this bill, we seek to curb that abuse and to give trust back to those that gave it to us - the people of this country.