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In an deep dive piece for Vox, Alexia Fernández Campbell captures how Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) tore into a top Trump administration official — Kathy Kraninger, Trump’s pick for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — for her role in the family separation scandal.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
When we ask ourselves what would be different if Democrats regained majorities in both the House and the Senate, Senator Warren’s performance yesterday should serve as foreshadowing. Her grilling of an official who was involved in the family separation scandal gives us an idea of what oversight and investigations will look and sound like.
Currently, Republicans do nothing to hold this administration accountable. For example, there have been precisely zero hearings in Congress regarding the Trump administration’s scandalous separation of some 3,000 kids from their parents. Zero. That will surely change should Democrats regain control of the House and the Senate.
In the meantime, bravo to Senator Warren. We salute you for showing the way.
Alexia Fernández Campbell’s article is excerpted below:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, only wanted to know one thing about President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the consumer watchdog agency — and it had nothing to do with financial regulation.
During Kathy Kraninger’s Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, Warren asked about how Kraninger was involved in the administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy that led to the separation of more than 2,000 immigrant children from their parents in recent months. Kraninger’s portfolio as the associate director for government programs at the White House’s Office Management and Budget includes oversight of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice, the agencies that carried out the policy.
But Kraninger would only say that she had nothing to do with setting the policy and that she only participated in a few meetings about it. She wouldn’t even condemn the practice of separating children, which nearly every Republican in Congress has done.
The exchange grew heated, and Warren became visibly angry:
“I will remind you, you are under oath and lying to Congress is a crime. I’ll also remind you that many of the documents I’ve requested about your role in this policy could eventually become public under the Freedom of Information Act,” Warren said. “So let me ask again the specific question. Were you involved in developing or implementing the policies that led to children being taken away from their parents at the border?”
“Senator, it’s difficult to separate —” Kraninger said before she was cut off.
“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” Warren interrupted.
“So, as I said, I will not characterize the advice that was provided on the —”
“I didn’t ask you to characterize,” Warren cut in again. “I asked you a simple yes-or-no question. According to reports, in some cases, the Trump administration isn’t sure which children belong to which parents. As of Monday, the administration had not identified the parents of 71 separated children. Which means right now they can’t be reunited. DHS is the agency which took parents away from their young children. Did you work with DHS to create a plan for eventually reuniting these children with their parents?”
Once again, Kraninger refused to talk about it. And once again, Warren repeated the question.
“I didn’t ask what the plan was or what advice you gave. Did you work with them on a plan to reunite these children who were taken away from their parents?” Warren asked.
“I understand the question, Senator, but it becomes a slippery slope in terms of characterizing the advice that was provided or the analysis or the questions that were raised —”
“No, it’s not a slippery slope. You don’t want to characterize because you don’t want to admit that you had something to do with this. You know, this was a policy that was designed to traumatize children and families as a way of scaring them away from the border. Even if they were seeking asylum, even if they were fleeing death threats, gang violence, rape, domestic abuse,” Warren said.
It was the most heated exchange in an already tense confirmation hearing.
…Here is Warren’s question and Kraninger’s exact response.
“Do you think that purposefully inflicting that on innocent children is immoral?” Warren asked.
“Senator, I think there are many heartbreaking stories that appear on the news every day, from the conversation we had about American families, hardworking, who are —” Kraninger responded.
“It’s a simple yes-or-no question,” Warren interrupted, growing more agitated. “Do you believe it is immoral to set up a plan whose deliberate intent is to inflict harm on children?”
“Senator, it’s not appropriate for me to provide my personal opinion and internal deliberations and discussions on this matter,” Kraninger answered.
Warren’s response was scathing:
“You see the videos of some of these children being returned to their parents after long separations,” she said. “They’re dazed, they’re unsmiling, they’re dirty. It’s like the life has been sucked out of them. These are innocent children who may be scarred forever by this policy. It is fundamentally immoral and you, you, were part of it, Miss Kraninger. It’s a moral stain that will follow you for the rest of your life. If the Senate votes to give you a big promotion after this, then it is a stain on the senators who do so.”
Then someone in the audience began playing the audio recording of children crying in their immigration cells after they were separated from their parents — audio that was obtained by journalists at ProPublica and published online last month. The children’s wails drowned out the committee chair as he called on the next senator to question Kraninger.
Kraninger sat there with a pained, flustered expression for a few seconds before the audio was turned off. Then she regained her composure and began taking more questions.