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Committee Meeting: Protecting our democracy’s frontline workers 8/3/2022 

10:00 AM Meeting called to order 

Chair Durbin (Committee Chairman): One-sixth of election officials received threats. Today we are here to hear about the progress of the task force. Threats like videos of Donald trump calling elections fraudulent and multiple officials speaking up about threats on their lives. Threats like these take a toll on our democracy. one in five of our election workers before this next election 

Chuck Grassley: I’m here to talk about the crisis faced by our law enforcement. Crisis faced by police like progressive prosecutors who refuse to hold violent criminals accountable. Bail reform helps to release them. Research is clear that crime in cities is done by a small number of people. If law enforcement could focus then they could address the threat, but because of difficulties like progressive prosecutors who turn a blind eye to violent crime, state legislators who soften criminal laws and implement bail reform. 

Federal support is needed and for this, I introduced the combating violent and dangerous crime act. This bill contains common sense proposals that would expand federal prosecution options for offenses like murder, carjacking, bank robbery and assault on police. My fellow Republicans on this committee have co-sponsored this bill and I thank them for doing so. The department of justice should also be treating crime as a top priority 

That’s not what we’re seeing from this department of Justice. In the summer of 2020 under the trump administration conducted operation legend, which was targeted toward prosecuted violent criminals. 

There is currently no task force dedicated to the current surge in crime.    

Chair Durbin: We have held multiple oversight meetings, so my question Mr. Polite, is what the task force is doing to protect our election workers. 

Kenneth Polite (from the department of justice): The department is working intently to protect our election officials. Over the past year we have engaged with our election officials about their needs and the kinds of threats they receive. I want to assure you our commitment will not wane. 

Chair Durbin: You talked about cases being prosecuted before. What dilemmas do we face? 

Kenneth Polite: The number of cases we have charged so far is five. What I can tell you is that we review every referral. So far, we’ve received over 100. Many cases don’t satisfy the legal requirement of a true threat. 

Chair Durbin: Many election officials do not know of the task force. What outreach have you done? 

Kenneth Polite: We have reached out directly to many local election departments. Just last Monday I was on a call with over 600 officials, and we plan on continuing this kind of outreach 

Chuck Grassley: Why is it not just as important to create a task force against historic murder rates? 

Kenneth Polite: Violent crime is at the top of the priority list 

Chuck Grassley: But not as top as creating a task force like there is for violence against elected officials evidently 

Kenneth Polite: I would respectfully disagree. There have been several strike forces that have been established. However, protecting law enforcement is the work of the entire department and not just a specific task force. 

Feinstein: How has the justice department coordinated with states to protect our election officials 

Kenneth Polite: We have provided state and local officials with training as well as information about reporting to the task force. 

Hirono: Minor offenses are not reported to the FBI, yes? Of the 5 cases charged, how many involved physical violence? 

Kenneth Polite: all 5 were threats 

Mr. Lee: I’m concerned that this task force is taking away from other resources 

John Ossoff: I want to note how weak the arguments are to suggest the protection of our election workers and processes is not a vital mission. The department of justice has the ability to both protect the judiciary and go after organized crime. 

And I find it necessary, after having heard some of the comments today to remind my colleagues what happened in Georgia where amidst Donald Trump’s endless barrage of lies, some amplified by members of this body as he sought to hold on to power that republicans in Georgia were warning it constituted a threat to the lives of election workers. The house committee heard a couple of weeks ago from two election workers the threats of lynching they received for carrying out free and fair elections 

I’m astounded that our colleagues, with the opportunity to hear from two senior officials about protecting our election workers, would rather diminish the threat.  

Now my question, Mr. Polite, about specific steps to protect election workers against this elevated threat. 

Kenneth Polite: What I can tell you is that we take this threat seriously and remain in contact with local officials. 

Speaker (could not hear senator’s name): I want to echo Mr. Ossoff’s disgust I feel with my colleague’s effort to dismiss the threat to our democracy. In an era where election workers rightfully fear that they are under increased threat from election deniers and others who may wish them harm. 

Senator Cruz: I am highly concerned that this department of justice is politicizing the enforcement of justice. You told us out of a thousand complaints, there were a total of five prosecutions, none of which involved physical violence.  

However, in the weeks after the Dobbs opinion was leaked, pregnancy centers in Portland, Monascus, Austin and Fredrick were vandalized.  

Jane’s revenge took credit for bombing crisis pregnancy centers. As of July twenty second, there have been more than eighty-two attacks on churches and pro-life institutions. 

Despite these threats, the department of justice instead on July twelfth, set up a reproduction rights task force not to protect pregnancy centers, but to advocate the political agenda of this administration of expanding access to unlimited abortion on demand. I have no doubt that if pro-life supporters were fire-bombing abortion centers the justice department would declare it a national emergency and you might well send out the national guard, but because your politics agree with the vandals these acts have no priority. Why is that? 

Kenneth Polite: I agree politics should not play a role in the decisions of the department. We take seriously any acts of violence in this country. Those incidents, if they are being considered 

Senator Cruz: Wait, if they’re being considered? You don’t know sitting here today if they’re being considered? 

Kenneth Polite: A number of these cases are not just being considered by our department, but by our civil rights department as well. 

Senator Cruz: Is there a task force? 

Kenneth Polite: You do not need a task force to be a priority 

Senator Cruz: Are there any cases being brought up? 

Kenneth Polite: I cannot comment on a pending investigation. 

Senator Cruz: It seems the department of justice picks and chooses which criminal laws to enforce. 

Chair Durbin: We condemn all violence regardless of right or left. It should be said that according to the FBI violence against abortion clinics has increased 

  • 128% increase in assaults 
  • 600% increase in stalking 
  • 63% increase in vandalism 
  • 64% increase in theft 
  • 80% increase in fire-bombing 

I would like to add that after the heinous incident in New Jersey this committee passed legislation and sent it to the floor with protection for judges. It is being held up by one republican 

Meeting Adjourned 

Did you know that the public can attend Board of Registration and Elections meetings?  

These meetings are open to the public by Georgia law and your voice can help prevent voter suppression like this across the state!   

Become a Peanut Gallery Volunteer Monitor at our next training session on the 4th Tuesday of the month at 6 pm! visit https://georgiapeanutgallery.org/contact/ for more information! 

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