Democrats defended Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson against suggestions from Republicans that she called former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “war criminals” in petitions filed during her time working as a public defender representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Jackson’s work on the issue was a repeated area of focus throughout Day 2 of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
Durbin was responding to a question posed by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, earlier in the day, in which he asked: “Why in the world would you call Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and George W. Bush war criminals in a legal filing? It seems so out of character for you.”
Durbin told Jackson he “noticed the little surprise in your reaction, and I was surprised by the allegation.”
Cornyn appeared to be referencing habeas petitions Jackson filed against the United States while representing detainees. The documents named former President Bush and former Secretary Rumsfeld in their official capacities.
“You were advocating on behalf of individuals who argued they were civilians, wrongly classified as enemy combatants in the United States and your filing was part of your professional responsibility to zealously advocate for your clients,” Durbin said.
Durbin said that as part of the briefs, Jackson’s clients had said the government had sanctioned their torture and that these constituted war crimes and that Bush and Rumsfeld had been named in papers in their official capacities.
“To be clear, there was no time where you call President Bush or Secretary Rumsfeld a ‘war criminal’?” Durbin asked.
“Correct senator,” Jackson said.
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