- A group of 16 left-wing prosecutors endorsed Kristen Clarke to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
- Kim Foxx, the Chicago prosecutor who dropped charges against actor Jussie Smollett, signed the endorsement letter, which was released ahead of Clarke’s confirmation hearing.
- Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney, also endorsed Clarke. He is under siege from critics who say his soft-on-crime approach has caused murders to skyrocket in his city.
Kristen Clarke, the nominee to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division, received endorsements from several big city prosecutors who are under fire over their soft-on-crime policies, according to a letter released ahead of her confirmation hearing this week.
“The Civil Rights Division must take on great importance during the Biden Administration,” reads the letter, signed by 16 prosecutors.
They noted that Clarke, who serves as president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, would be the first black woman to lead the civil rights division.
“At this crucial time for our country, there is no better person to take on this role,” they wrote.
The letter is unlikely to sway many Republicans or moderate Democrats whose votes Clarke will need to win confirmation.
Two district attorneys who signed the letter, San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles’s George Gascon, are facing recall efforts by opponents who say their policies are responsible for spikes in crime in their cities.
Kim Foxx, the state attorney for Chicago, also endorsed Clarke. Foxx rose to national prominence after she dropped charges against actor Jussie Smollett for filing a false police report alleging he was the victim of a hate crime.
A special prosecutor later charged Smollett in the case.
Thirteen other prosecutors signed the letter endorsing Clarke, including Philadelphia district attorney Larry Krasner and St. Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner.
A report from Politico last week noted that Krasner is expected to face a tough primary challenge due to a surge in violent crime in Philadelphia during his tenure.
Kim Gardner, the circuit attorney for St. Louis, who also signed the letter, gained national attention for pressing charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who brandished firearms outside their home after a group of Black Lives Matter protesters ventured on their property.
Gardner charged the McCloskeys with unlawful use of weapons and tampering with evidence. But she was removed from the case after she cited it in a campaign fundraising email.
Clarke is likely to be grilled on Wednesday over some of her past remarks on race and social justice issues.
As a student at Harvard in 1994, Clarke wrote in a letter to the school’s paper that black people were superior to whites. She also hosted an event for a professor who wrote an anti-semitic book.
Clarke also hyped Jussie Smollett’s since-debunked allegations that he was attacked by two white Trump supporters in January 2019 who shouted anti-gay and anti-black slurs at him.
Clarke would lead federal investigations into hate crimes and racial discrimination if she is confirmed to the civil rights post.
Clarke criticized Chicago police two days later for requesting access to Smollett’s phone as part of their investigation, accusing the department of “demonizing survivors and casting doubt on their claims.”
Smollett was later indicted on felony charges of filing a false police report of the attack. Two brothers who knew Smollett told police that the actor paid them to stage an attack against him.
Clarke also defended Foxx, the Chicago prosecutor, over her handling of the investigation.
Foxx dropped charges against Smollett soon after he was indicted by a grand jury. It soon emerged that Foxx was friends with Smollett’s sister.
In another tweet, Clarke suggested that the decision to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Foxx’s handling of the Smollett case was racially motivated.
“Prosecutors use their discretion every day,” she tweeted on Feb. 23, 2020.
“But when a duly elected Black prosecutor, Kim Foxx, uses her discretion to move on from the Jussie Smolett matter, it’s a different story. A special prosecutor is brought in to undermine her power.”
The special prosecutor, Dan Webb, found that Foxx committed “substantial abuses of discretion” in her handling of the Smollett case, according to a report released in August.
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