Kristen Clarke’s ‘Defund the Police’ Op-Ed Faces Scrutiny at Senate Hearing


Kristen Clarke, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, speaks as Biden announces his Justice Department nominees at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Del., January 7, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Kristen Clarke, President Biden’s nominee to serve as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, was repeatedly pressed over a 2020 Newsweek op-ed in which Clarke endorsed proposals to “defund the police.”

“I do not support defunding the police,” Clarke said in response to a question from Texas GOP senator Ted Cruz on Wednesday. “The impetus for writing that op-ed was to make clear that I do not support defunding the police.” She added that she merely wanted to “channel resources to places such as mental health treatment” and reiterated: “I don’t support taking away resources from police.”

Clarke blamed editors for choosing a poor headline for the op-ed (“I Prosecuted Police Killings. Defund the Police—But Be Strategic“). But Cruz correctly noted that Clarke had written three separate times in the body of the 2020 op-ed that “we must invest less in police” and more in social services:

We must invest less in police and more in social workers. …

We must invest less in police and more in social supports in our schools. …

We must invest less in police and more in mental health aid.

“I wrote that op-ed without having the power of the purse-string behind me,” Clarke replied. She said she now wholeheartedly supports a Biden administration proposal to send more cash to local police departments.

While Clarke opposed abolishing or dismantling police departments in 2020, she repeatedly advocated for cutting their budgets and clearly endorsed the rhetoric of “defund the police.” Her claim today that the “impetus for writing that op-ed was to make clear that I do not support defunding the police” is an attempt to rewrite history.

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