Democratic Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), gave a long defense of Ketanji Jackson to answer Republican senators’ questions regarding Jackson’s 2005 work as a public defender for the Taliban.
Durbin’s monologue at Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing on day three was specifically about accusations from Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and John Cornyn, R-TX. Jackson called former President George W. Bush (and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield) “war criminals” during a habeas corpus petition to Guantanamo Bay detainee Khi Ali Gul.
“Let me just ask — I don’t know you very well but I was impressed by our interactions. You have been charming and gracious. In a legal filing, why would you label George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld ‘war criminals’? Jackson was asked by Cornyn on Day 2 of the hearing, “It seems so outlandish for you.”
Jackson stated that Jackson did not “remember this particular reference” at the time and said she was “representing her clients and making arguments.”
She continued, “I didn’t intend to disparage either the president nor the secretary of defense.”
Durbin spoke for several minutes Wednesday, citing numerous corporate media fact check on Cornyn’s and Graham’s accusations before Jackson had the opportunity to respond. Durbin stated:
Yesterday Sen. Graham stated that you went too far when calling the government quote “a war crime” when pursuing charges against terrorists. Later, Sen. Cornyn asked Judge Jackson: “You referred the Secretary of Defense to the president of United States as war crimes. What would make you do that?
Durbin quoted then a CNN fact-check, which did not deny Jackson accusing Bush and Rumsfeld “war crimes,” but said that the GOP Senators “left out crucial context.”
“These charges don’t stand up, as I observed yesterday and again this morning. CNN’s fact-check revealed that both Cornyn and Graham left out crucial context. In particular, neither Cornyn nor Graham mentioned Jackson’s claim of war crimes being about torture. Jackson also didn’t use the term “war criminal” explicitly.
Durbin continued reading from the New York Times fact-check, which stated that the allegation was “a distortion and lacks context.”
The New York Times continued to state that Jackson didn’t specifically refer to the former president or defense secretary as a ‘war criminal’. She was also one of four lawyers who signed in 2005 four habeas corpus petitions for Guantanamo Bay detainees. These petitions claimed that the United States had tortured them and that these acts ‘constitute war crimes’.
The senator for Democrats then obtained a third fact-check from the Washington Post owned by Jeff Bezos. It noted that Bush, Rumsfeld and Barack Obama were both named in the petitions.
Durbin, still quoting from the Post, said that Jackson was acting as detainees’ lawyer and as a public defense attorney. “And that is one of the foundations of American justice system. Even the most hated alleged criminals can have a vigorous defense. ‘”
Durbin, after giving Jackson the ammunition she needed for her defense, asked the judge if he would be willing to comment on his “statement.”
“Well senator. I would just like to say that public defense attorneys don’t pick their clients but they must provide strong advocacy. This is the job of a lawyer. She replied, “And as a judge now,”
Lawyers were helping courts to determine the extent of executive power by making arguments in the context of a habeas request. This was especially true when the case was being handled early in the response to the terrible attacks of September 11. We were designated as public defenders. Because of the confidential nature or classified nature of many of the records, we had very limited information. As an appellate lawyer, I was required to file habeas petitions for my clients.
Earlier in the hearing, Cornyn had criticized Durbin for choosing to “editorialize and contradict the point being made by this side of the aisle [Republicans]…”after every series of questioning.” Cornyn said:
I was unable to understand her language and asked if she called them “war criminals”. She said, under oath, “no, I didn’t”, although it is clear that they were accused of committing war crimes.
Cornyn told Durbin that he didn’t think it was appropriate for Jackson to try and defend him against all lines of questioning by the GOP, when Jackson is “doing quite a good job of defending herself and answering questions.”