Join us as Beth Williams, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy at the United States Department of Justice, discusses the priorities and work of her office during COVID-19 and 2020.
Hon. Beth A. Williams, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy, United States Department of Justice
Teleforum calls are open to all dues paying members of the Federalist Society. To become a member, sign up on our website. As a member, you should receive email announcements of upcoming Teleforum calls which contain the conference call phone number. If you are not receiving those email announcements, please contact us at 202-822-8138.
Dean Reuter: Welcome to Teleforum, a podcast of The Federalist Society's Practice Groups. I’m Dean Reuter, Vice President, General Counsel, and Director of Practice Groups at The Federalist Society. For exclusive access to live recordings of Practice Group Teleforum calls, become a Federalist Society member today at fedsoc.org.
Dean Reuter: Welcome to a special Capital Conversations edition of The Federalist Society's Practice Group Teleforum Conference call as today, October 30, 2020, we host a special Capital Conversations Teleforum with the Honorable Beth A. Williams. She's the Assistant Attorney General, The United States Department of Justice. We're very pleased to have her with us today.
I, by the way, am Dean Reuter, Vice President, General Counsel, and Director of Practice Groups at The Federalist Society. As always, please note that all expressions of opinion are those of the expert on today's call.
Also, as usual, this call's being recorded and will be transcribed, all for use as a podcast on The Federalist Society's website in the future. This call today is open to the public and open to the press. As always, we're going to have audience questions after initial remarks and some questions, perhaps, by your friendly moderator.
But when we get to that portion, I'll make an announcement, let you know how to ask questions, and we're going to ask folks to identify themselves if they would like to ask a question. But that'll probably be around the 30-minute mark or so. I think our opening remarks are going to be about 10-15 minutes. I look forward to those.
With that, Beth Williams, the floor is yours.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Well, that's great. Thank you so much, Dean, for inviting me, and I'm really honored to be here and to be part of the Capital Conversations series.
It's been a real privilege to have led the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice these past three and a half years. For those of you who don't know about our office, OLP's tasked with being the principal office to research, plan, and develop the Department's major policy initiatives.
This process often involves components across the Department that have special expertise in the policies being considered. OLP coordinates that effort and advises the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General on the path forward.
Additionally, as this audience may know, we are responsible for vetting and shepherding the president's judicial nominations for the federal courts. I sometimes remark that with so much going on in our jobs and so much happening in a single day, it's easy to lose track of time. But over these years, there's been an incredible amount of good work that's been accomplished.
And so today, I'd like to focus on some of the good news, which I think too often goes a bit under-reported. First, starting with judicial confirmations. In the course of this period, we've confirmed 220 new Article III federal judges, including 2 on the Court of International Trade, 162 on the federal district courts, 53 on the courts of appeal, and of course 3 Supreme Court justices, including our newest justice, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
Those numbers don't even account for the many other federal judges the President has appointed to specialty courts. This has been no easy task and has required an incredible amount of work from the White House, my office, and, of course, the Senate. But I give the credit first and foremost to those individuals who are willing to serve their country for lifetime appointments and endure a judicial confirmation process that is incredibly taxing, both for themselves and for their families.
As I said before, the pace of nominations has not come at the expense of qualifications. One liberal commentator has acknowledged that based solely on objective, legal credentials, the average Trump appointee has a far more impressive resume than any past president's nominee. And even though the group has been hostile and, in some cases, unfair to certain nominees, that same conclusion is largely reflected in readings from the American Bar Association, which has rated President Trump's judicial appointments as among the most qualified in recent history.
But I can tell you, having worked closely with these judges throughout the nominations process, I didn't need the ABA's assessment to tell me how extraordinary they are. These confirmed judges are men and women of character and patriotism, stepping forward to choose a lifetime of service to our country. They're some of the very best of our profession.
And what makes them so extraordinary is neither their number nor their credentials nor even their historically well-qualified ratings. What makes them extraordinary is the principles they share. These judges come from all across the country from many ethnic backgrounds and all walks of life.
Before becoming judges, they were prosecutors and professors, immigrants and trailblazers, veterans and public servants. But what they share in common, the principle that binds them, is the unwavering commitment to exercise neither force nor will but only judgment. By binding themselves to the Constitution, these judges will ensure that our Judiciary does not become the most dangerous branch, as the Founders feared.
I know that many people have been uplifted by the confirmation hearings for now Justice Barrett. Those who watched the hearings thought two things, first, a woman of incredible integrity and intelligence who was enormously well-qualified for the position to which she'd been nominated. If you could deny that if Justice Barrett's nomination had occurred in 1986 or 1993, her confirmation would be unanimous or near so.
Second, the American people saw over 40 of the confirmation hearings, a debate in the best spirit of the traditions of this society. They saw some senators affirm that it is the duty of the Judiciary to say what the law is, now what it should be. They heard Justice Barrett say repeatedly that she would put any personal views aside and judge according to the law. And they heard her say that she would approach each case with an open mind, that she harbors no agenda or hostility.
On the other side, the argument was made clearly that there's little difference between law and policy. A preferred policy outcome should play a paramount role in deciding cases. And it was suggested in a profoundly pessimistic view of a judge's role that it's a fallacy to believe that any judge can rule without his or her personal views factoring in.
There could hardly have been a starker debate. But what this should reaffirm for everyone listening is that when there is free speech, open debate, and fair time accorded for real discussion, the American people will be able to make up their own minds. Ideas matter, and those who are confident in the strength of their arguments, who have the courage of their convictions do not shy away from free speech and they do not try to silence opposing views.
While judicial nominations have certainly taken a good deal of our attention, I'd also like to talk for a moment about some crucial policy achievements we've secured. First, under the leadership of Attorney General William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rosen, and before them, Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, the Department has taken significant steps to improve the regulatory process, making it more lawful, more accountable, and more transparent.
We started by stating unequivocally that guidance documents are just that, guidance, and do not have the force of law. The Department of Justice no longer writes letters or issues guidance documents that purport to create rights or obligations, binding non-persons or entities outside the Executive Branch.
Next, under the Brand Memo, issued by then Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Department made clear that it will not use its enforcement authority to effectively convert agency guidance documents into binding rules. And department litigators may not use non-compliance with guidance documents as a basis for proving violations of law in affirmative civil enforcement actions.
The principles underlying these actions serve as a basis for government-wide reform, as reflected in Executive Orders 13891 and 13892. And I'm happy to report that they are no longer just memos. They are now Department of Justice regulations, ensuring that the principles of lawful regulation, regulation that accords with the Administrative Procedures Act, are carried forward.
Because inside into agency thinking should not be limited to the well-connected or only to those who can afford Washington lawyers, all new regulations also require the posting of every guidance document on the Department's public guidance portal. If a guidance document is not posted on the portal, the Department will not be able to claim judicial deference to interpretations contained in that document. What does this mean for the American people? A more lawful regulatory process, an agency that abides by its rules, and a process where the public has input into the regulations that govern them.
In a similar effort toward more honest, transparent government practices, the Department has ended the practice of payouts to third party groups as part of government settlements. As Attorney General Sessions said at the time, when the federal government settles a case against a corporate wrongdoer, any settlement funds should go first to the victims and then to the American people.
Third party organizations who are neither victims nor parties to the lawsuit are not entitled to compensation as a result of government action. This is a basic principle of responsible government litigation.
In another step for good government, we've worked to shed light on the serious legal deficiencies of unlawful nationwide injunctions. It's been the legal position of the Department across administrations to oppose such an injunction. But their increasing number, issued by district courts coast to coast, has reached a crescendo over the last few years.
The separation of powers and balance they engender is real. In September 2018, the Attorney General issued a memorandum with litigation guidelines for handling these cases when plaintiffs seek this broad relief. There are signs that these efforts are finally having results, with some appellate courts limiting their scope. But it is unlikely this issue will be fully resolved until it finally percolates up to the Supreme Court for resolution.
The Department has also taken important steps to protect religious liberty. In 2017, Attorney General Sessions acted pursuant to an executive order by President Trump to issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law in order to guide agencies in complying with that law.
The guidance interprets existing protections for religious liberty, identifying 20 high-level principles that administrative agencies and executive departments can put to practical use to ensure the religious freedoms of Americans are lawfully protected.
I've been pleased to serve as the co-vice chair of the Religious Liberty Task Force, which assists in coordinating the Department's implementation of the Attorney General's religious liberty memo. The Supreme Court has been very clear, first in the Trinity Lutheran case and more recently in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, that the free exercise clause protects religious observers against unequal treatment and against laws that impose special disabilities on the basis of religious status.
To put it succinctly, while governments may limit funding for religious use, they may not limit funding to religious people. We have worked to make sure that the government's policies reflect that basic principle.
Early this year, the Department and eight other agencies proposed rules that would ensure equal treatment for faith-based organizations that participate in federal programs. Once final, the rules will significantly enhance the ability of faith-based organizations to participate in government programs without sacrificing their religious identity or mission.
OLP also worked closely with the Office of Justice Programs and other department components to issue guidance this past July to make clear that recipients of Department of Justice grant funding would not be discriminated against on the basis of their faith. The guidance is an important affirmation of the Department's commitment to ensure that individuals and organizations driven by faith to serve the community are not subject to unequal treatment by virtue of their religious identity.
In tandem with this guidance, the Office of Justice Programs launched a new web portal to receive reports of possible violations of grantees' and beneficiaries' civil liberties. And we've been leading the charge in the fight to combat anti-Semitism.
After the troubling rise in crimes against Jewish communities and synagogues, Attorney General Barr personally visited Brooklyn to meet with leaders of the Jewish community there and issued a directive to all U.S. attorneys to initiate or reinvigorate contacts with the Jewish community in their respective districts in order to reassure them of the Department's commitment to protecting Jewish citizens.
During the Spring of 2020, U.S. attorneys across the country met with Jewish clergy, local nonprofits, and branches of national Jewish organization. Since January 2017, the Department has charged more than 80 defendants for anti-Semitic hate crimes and related conduct and has obtained convictions of more than 65 defendants for the same. Through this and other work, the Department is protecting Americans from discrimination and ensuring that they enjoy their religious freedoms that federal law guarantees to them.
With regard to cyber issues, the Department's Cyber Digital Task Force has produced some excellent and important work. The initial Task Force report issued in July 2018 addressed many crucial aspects of the Department's response to malicious cyber-enabled threats. One central focus was the response to the threat posed by foreign operations that seek to divide our society or undermine our democratic institutions.
The report also sets out important steps the Department has taken and will take to protect the integrity of our elections by working with other executive departments to identify and share threats and vulnerabilities with local election officials, political organizations, and other potential targets in order to help them detect and thwart attacks.
Earlier this month, the Cyber Digital Task Force released a white paper on cryptocurrency. OLP was privileged to coordinate the drafting and development of this ambitious framework, which sets out how cryptocurrency technology is used and how criminals misuse it to harm users, exchanges, and investors, as well as to facilitate a broad range of crimes from child exploitation to terrorism. The framework identified the partners and resources we use to combat growing criminal and national security threats involving cryptocurrency, and it identified ways to address those threats.
Finally, there's no more important role for law enforcement than protecting our most vulnerable members of society. That's why the Department has made it a priority to protect children from online exploitation, to seek justice for victims of human trafficking, and to combat elder fraud and abuse.
Attorney General Barr issued a directive to all federal prosecutors to continue to use their strongest efforts to identify and prosecute individuals involved in sex trafficking, including, importantly, those who fuel the demand for trafficking and ensure that victims receive restitution for the harms that they suffer.
Recently, we also published proposed regulations providing a clear and comprehensive statement of sex offenders' registration obligations under the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act. These regulations will better protect the public by enhancing the enforcement of registration and notification across the country and ensuring that information about sex offenders in the community is available to law enforcement.
And with regard to elder justice, the Department recently conducted the single largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history, with over 400 defendants charged for causing more than one billion dollars in losses. It also launched the National Nursing Home Initiative, designed to investigate and prosecute nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.
So as you can see, there's been a lot of good work and good news to report over the past three and a half years, and I've been able just to touch on some of it. But I really appreciate the opportunity to share it with you today. And with that, let me pause, and I'm happy to take questions.
Dean Reuter: Terrific. Well, thank you, Beth Williams, put a lot on the table there. If you joined us late, we're, of course, speaking with Beth Williams. She's the Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice.
We're going to open the floor to questions. I have a couple myself, but let's open the floor and the queue can begin lining up. But I have 100 or so questions I could ask myself. First of all, congratulations. That really is a remarkable list of accomplishments. I don't think there's anything you mentioned that I wasn't aware of, but to hear it in a recited form like that really is impressive. I mean, just judges alone is something.
But I'm going to ask you if -- I'm particularly interested in whether or not do you think the changes or the developments, the accomplishments are so pervasive as to have a cumulative effect and what your sense of that is and whether these stick beyond this administration. The judges, of course, would, a couple hundred judges with lifelong tenure, but the policies on guidance, on third party payments, on nationwide injunctions, I'm not sure you mentioned consent decrees, but the priority placed on religious liberties, and anti-Semitism and in cyber and elder things.
Do you expect -- would you anticipate those to carry forward for the next four years in a Trump administration or in a different administration?
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Well, I think the Department really hopes so. You know, I think if there are four more years of a Trump administration, I'd say we'd certainly carry forward. And in another administration, the thing about so many of these policies is that they're very firmly grounded in the law that Congress has passed, right, or in the Constitution.
And so when you talk about the reforms that we've done in the regulatory sphere, they're grounded in the principles that are in the Administrative Procedure Act. They're grounded in good government principles which is that these regulations should be transparent to people, that you shouldn't just have bureaucrats who are able to write a letter and then suddenly that's the law that's binding people, right.
That's not the way that the regulatory framework was envisioned by Congress to run. And so I'm -- I think that the hope is that they do carry forward because they are very tied to the laws that Congress passed.
Dean Reuter: Yeah. That's a great point. I have to make one editorial comment, and that is that having read the Federalist Papers, there's a strong point made in the Federalist Papers about the laws becoming so numerous that they're impossible to comprehend or track and therefore comply with and how that is a detriment to the rule of law. And when I saw some of the responses to the Department of Justice's policy on guidance that, for example, agencies are required to accumulate their guidance and put it in one spot.
And the response from some agencies was that's a Herculean task. And my thought went immediately to the regulated community who has to know the same guidance that the agencies can't seem to find and put in one place or object to putting in one place. But the people in the regulated community, of course, were trying to respond to dozens of agencies, not just one agency.
So you mentioned cyber. You mentioned some other things. And in a pre-call we had, you were mentioning drone safety and looking at the road forward. I want to see if you can tell us what's in the works on drone safety.
I want to remind callers, if you have a question, push the star button and then the pound button. We've got one caller question but maybe get your thoughts on that part of the road forward if we could.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Sure, happy to. But I just wanted to comment first on what you just said, Dean. I think you are a 1000 percent right. I mean, look, DOJ is not a huge regulatory agency. We're a law enforcement agency. But the idea that you're just a citizen out there or a small business and there's no way for you to know what direction, what guidance documents are that maybe shed light on the regulations that impact you, that's a real problem. You shouldn't have to hire an expensive Washington lawyer in order to understand the laws and the regulations that are governing you.
And so I think one of the good things is that with a lot of these reforms, it's required the agencies to take a hard look at what is out there. What guidance documents are out there? Are they all still up to date? Do we still agree with all of them? And let's put them in one place and make things better for people. So I think that's been a really good thing across the board.
But your question with regard to drones, that's another big area that my office works on. And there's really two aspects to it. There's both the affirmative use of unmanned aircraft systems or drones by law enforcement. And then there's the defensive use, right, defending against a national security or criminal threat by drones. And so one of the things that we’ve been giving a lot of thought to is how do you use this technology to make things safer for people while still protecting privacy and civil liberties. And so we’ve done a series of policies both for affirmative drone use and for counter drones to really lay out a framework so that as we move forward -- you know, we’re at the very beginning of this technology, we’re doing it in a responsible way that takes into account safety and civil liberties concerns.
But, look, there’s a lot of really positive opportunities for law enforcement to use this in order to better protect the public and to better protect the safety of officers. As the drone use progresses, you can imagine marshals, you know, instead of hunting down people in the woods, they can use drones to look over head to see if there’s an escaped fugitive. For BOP, they can ensure that drones aren’t coming in to drop in contraband, which has been a real issue. So there’s a lot of both uses and countersues for this, and so we’ve been trying to lay a framework so as the use of them expands, it’d done so responsibly.
Dean Reuter: Very good. Let’s turn to our first question of the day from the audience.
Sara Matar: Yes, my name is Sara Matar. I’m a Senior Legislative Aide for Congressman Lee Zeldin. I’m a 3rd year in law school, and I’ll be interning at OLP, so I was really looking forward to this call. I have a bit of a broader question, but first, I just wanted to credit Assistant Attorney General Williams on an article I’d read in the National Review regarding “The Myth of the Unqualified Trump Judge.” And I hope that whether the administration changes or not that we can trump some of those myths regarding what a qualified judge really is.
But my broader question is if there were another four years, what do you see as the bigger priorities for the Office of Legal Policy?
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Yeah, that’s a great question. Sara, it’s so nice to hear your voice and we’re really looking forward to having you come intern with us. Thanks for the question. You know, I think a lot of the priorities of the Office are obviously set by the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. And so many of them are really driven, in some cases by long term, but also by the requirements a day.
And so, obviously, with criminal justice, we’ve been working to try and make sure that policing is done well and as responsibly as possible. So that’s been a big area that, obviously, we want to make sure continues to improve going forward.
I think there’s more we can do in the regulatory reform sphere. And then one other thing that has been in the news a lot has obviously been Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. You know, I think a big question there and a big question that Congress is really struggling with right now, which is is Section 230 serving the purpose that it was drafted to serve. It was meant to incentivize good behavior and to allow private companies to be able to act as good Samaritans, really, in order to take down violent or hurtful images of children, or images of child abuse and thinking like that. And some companies have been excellent Samaritans, really good Samaritans. But, you know, we want to -- I think Congress would want to make sure that it’s continuing to serve that role to allow companies to be able to monitor their sites and to be able to remove some of those abuse images.
It’s one thing that I talk about a lot because we’ve just seen the number of images just increase exponentially, and it’s going to require the partnership of -- it’s not just a law enforcement issue. It’s a real issue across society, including private companies, including parents and others. And so I think that’s a big issue that I know Congress is looking at, and I know that the administration is looking at too.
But thanks a lot for the question.
Sara Matar: Thank you.
Dean Reuter: Just one question in the queue, then our lines are wide open. Caller, if you’d give us your name and your question, please.
Eric: Thank you, Vice President Reuter. This is Eric [inaudible 24:26] of the Minnesota Lawyer’s Chapter. I want to thank General Williams for a very fine presentation but wanted to tee of a question that was started by Dean and touched on a little bit by General Williams: mainly that transparency is certainly part of the solution for regulatory reform and the Brand memo is very helpful and the requirement to publish guidance on the portal – enormously useful. But I’m just wondering what the next stage might be for addressing the volume of regulations that are coming from the federal government, transparency knowing -- being able to find them is certainly, one piece of it. The sheer weights and number I think is a much trickier problem. And I was wondering what General Williams might foresee as possible solutions in that regard.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Yeah, that’s a great question. Thanks, Eric. So, look, I think the President started with EO 13771, which was a one-in, two-out rule. And I think that has done a lot of good because I think it forces the agencies to really think about what regulations are necessary and are there any that are on the books that are past their time, or unnecessary, or not appropriate anymore? And are there better ways to regulate that can be done?
So from both a sheer number but also from a cost perspective, requiring the agencies to be cost neutral with new regulations, those were two big steps that the President took. And those were, obviously, across all agencies, not just the Department of Justice. I think that was a step in the right direction. But you're right. It’s hard to go through hundreds of years of regulations in just four years. I’m sure there’s more review and more work that could be done there.
Eric: Thank you kindly, General.
Dean Reuter: I was involved in a book project on the administrative state and observed that it’s taken well over a hundred years to build up to this point. So four years: clearly not enough to put the genie back in the bottle as it were. But congratulations on the improvements made.
You mentioned -- I do have lots of other questions. Oh, looks like we do have an audience question, so I want to keep the audience engaged here, so let’s turn back to the audience once again.
David Burge: Yes, this is David Burge. I’m in Atlanta, Georgia. Question on the confirmation process. A number of great judges, including some friends of mine, have been confirmed in the last four years. Obviously, without going into names, have there been any great candidates that have said no solely because of the duress of the confirmation process?
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Well, David, that’s a great question. I can’t get into, obviously, things like that about who may have said yes or no. But I think the point that you raise is a really good one. I think folks see what some of our nominees go through and are like, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve got a really good thing going, and I don't need to put my family through that.” And that’s really unfortunate because that’s not the way that it should be.
I remember one nominee whose mom was just so upset by the whole process afterwards that she had to lay down in her hotel room for two days after. And I just felt so terrible about that because that shouldn’t be how it is. When I was going through the process, my own mom had a hard time with it too just going through the confirmation. And, luckily, mine was relatively easy.
You know, I think if we refocus the question back on qualifications and back on philosophy, really the key questions that the Senate has considered for years and years and years, hopefully all of our nominees won’t have to go through this. It shouldn’t be that people are smearing them on internet websites or things like that. That’s difficult for them and it’s unnecessary for them and their family. These are good people who want to serve their country, and so I would hope that we would be able to bring it back to a moment of civility.
Dean Reuter: This is Dean, again. On the issue of civility, I’m reminded of a speech I watched in which the speaker called for a return to civility in the confirmation process. And I think it was maybe 2013, 2014, but certainly within the past eight or ten years. And these are words that were repeated by the speaker from written text.
And it was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, in a speech to the American Law Institute, recited some facts that when she was put up as a nominee, she had been working for the ACLU for some time, had begun their women’s project, didn’t take a single question on that, wasn’t asked a single question about her involvement with the ACLU, was confirmed 96 to 3 or something like that. The subsequent nominee was confirmed very easily. And then—now I’m using my words—the wheels fell off and things got very contentious. And she called for a return to civility, almost in those exact words.
So it’s interesting to hear comments from her after having served on the Court for so long, bemoan the process.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Yeah.
Dean Reuter: But in conjunctions with drones in particular -- oh, here we go. Another audience question. So I might get to my questions, but I want to engage the audience here.
Kara Rollins: Hi, this is Kara Rollins with the New Civil Liberties Alliance. Thank you for doing this Teleforum today. I had a question about some of the tension that comes up in regards to Executive Order 13891 between -- in the instance of DOJ, which obviously is subject to the order and the independent agencies which are not. Has DOJ done any independent thinking or put any documentation out about how, for example, in a joint enforcement with FCC or FTC they were to draft guidance documents by the agencies that, potentially, the independent agencies not subject to the order would like to introduce those or use them in some enforcement capacity. I think that there might be tension there, and DOJ is one of the few agencies that has consistent interaction and enforcement capacity with the independent agencies. Thank you.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Sure, Kara. That’s a really good question. I can’t speak to things that are really, currently may be under consideration or not. I can only speak to things that have been publicly announced. Look, there’re a lot of good questions that are raised in this area as we’re thinking about how to reform things. And I know the New Civil Liberties Alliance is kind of on the forefront of thinking about some of these issues.
An independent agency is certainly a question about how they regulate and whether the EOs can apply to them. But I don't think I can answer that specifically, but I appreciate the question.
Dean Reuter: I’ll ask another question, Beth, that you might not be able to answer but it goes to national security issues and enforcement, sometimes by independent agencies, sometimes by cabinet-level agencies. I’m pretty familiar with the CFIUS process, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which sort of bird-dogs investment in U.S. companies by foreign actors that might compromise U.S national security. And I’ve seen a couple enforcement actions by independent agencies against the -- global companies -- American companies but they operate on a global basis.
And I think in this increasingly globalized world, there are a lot of enforcement action possibilities that might have national security implications that aren’t really obvious at first blush against telecommunications companies or tech companies or things like that; infrastructure companies. I would love to see some sort of process where independent agencies check that because I’ve talked to folks at independent agencies and they clearly don’t consider it a part of their mandate to consider national security implications of their enforcement actions.
Maybe I shouldn’t ask you a question on that. I’ll just make that comment.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Yeah, but I think that the underlying point that you're making is a really good one. And CFIUS, obviously, serves a really important role. One of the things that’s been very public is that the United States has to secure its supply chain and insure that the infrastructure going forward is safe and secure from a national security perspective. And so work to that end is, I think, important and underway.
Dean Reuter: Well, let me call for the audience again. Let me broaden that question or make it just more general, and that’s how OLP or the Department of Justice coordinates with other agencies and with the White House, and any insights that you can give us there, that would be interesting to me.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: I actually think that that’s one of OLP’s most interesting functions. And so as you can imagine with the Department of Justice, there’re many different components; there’re many different subject matter experts in different components. And often there are questions that really are very cross-component cutting.
So one question may come up and it may affect both the Criminal Division and the National Security Division but also the U.S. Attorneys and the FBI. And so one of the things that the Office of Legal Policy often does is we are a convener. We make sure we get the right people from the different components and bring them together and get their insight, and distill it, and de-conflict it, and hopefully distill it into a really good recommendation for the Deputy Attorney General and the Attorney General. So that’s really interesting because you get to see and talk with and work with the experts across the Department.
And then from an interagency perspective, it’s really just that on a bigger scale. Obviously, we work a lot with the Domestic Policy Council at the White House. We work a lot with the White House Counsel’s Office. And depending on what the policy area is we’re working on, we interact with all sorts of agencies. With UAS, with drones, for example, we work with the FAA; we work with DOD; we work with -- lots of DHS, lots of different partners in the different areas.
Often those are convened in a formal policy process through the White House and sometimes they're just convened through direct contact among the agencies. But that’s, I think, one of the most fascinating parts of this job, which is not only the breadth of subject matters but also getting to really talk to the experts in these matters throughout the administration.
Dean Reuter: Very interesting. I can say that running the 15 practice groups of The Federalist Society, the best part of my job is interacting with the experts. Lots and lots people who know lots more than I do.
Let me make a final call for questions. Our lines are wide open. We’ve got a few minutes left. If you’d like to ask a question, now’s the time. People have been very orderly with their questions coming in one at a time. And we do have another question, so [CROSSTALK 0:37:01] go ahead.
Jay Stevens (sp): Yes, this is Jay Stevens, Naples, Florida. Beth, could you describe the judicial selection nomination process? It has, obviously, been especially successful the past two, three years with regard to the quality of judges appointed as well as the number of judges appointed. And it hasn’t always been such a smooth, successful process. So what it is about the process that you all executed that made it successful? And what were the primary features of that process?
And if I might ask you a second question, since I got you, does OLP have any interaction with regard to setting policies and priorities for U.S. Attorney offices, U.S. Attorney prosecutions? Is there an integrated process there where your office plugs in with the U.S. Attorney prosecution process?
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Sure. Well, first, Jay. Thanks for calling in. It’s really nice to hear your voice. I’ll answer your second question first. So OLP doesn’t set prosecution priorities. We really focus on policy, and questions of prosecution are really left to the prosecutors as a general matter. I will say but when the Attorney General wants to focus on something, we can help put a program together.
So what comes to mind is Project Guardian. The Attorney General has made it a priority to crack down on people who have weapons who are prohibited by law from having weapons. And so one of the things that similar research has showed it has the most violent crimes can be reduced when you focus on the people who are producing the most crime. That seems like a really common sense thing but it’s true. A small number of people are the ones, in general, who are producing a disproportionate amount of the violent crime. So through both Project Safe Neighborhood and Project Guardian, there’s been a very, I think, intentional focus to try to reduce violent crime. And so we can work at that level but any prosecution initiatives or priorities are really left to the U.S. attorneys and the Criminal Division and the other prosecutors.
But to your first question, which is the judicial nominations process, I think that I’ve been so glad that so many great judges have been confirmed. I think so much of it is due, really, to Leader McConnell and to Chairman Grassley and to Chairman Graham, who have very much prioritized the judicial nominations process and recognized the importance of making sure that constitutionalist judges are on the bench because they will be for a generation. And so I think in large part it’s due to them.
I think that there’s also an acknowledgment that this has got to be -- the President said from the beginning, “This is an administration priority.” And so we tried to compile the very best people to work really hard all the time to make sure that we were helping to select, and vet, and confirm really strong, well-qualified judges. And the pace has been intense. Get preparing for hearings for six or seven judges every two weeks, which is what we were doing for a while. It’s a very intense pace and obviously assisting them, those nominees, with all of their questionnaires and other papers. It’s a big process, but I think we had an excellent team and people who were committed to it. So I think we did a good job in these three years.
Jay Stevens: Thank you.
Dean Reuter: I’ll make a final, final call for questions. Push the star button, then the pound button on your telephone. I think we’ve had our final question of the day. But let me give you an opportunity to express a final thought or wrap up. You get the last word.
Hon. Beth A. Williams: Well, Dean, I just want to thank you, again. I find these Capital Conversations so interesting. And as I said, I often listen to them in my car on the way in as a podcast. So I really just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity. It’s been a real privilege to have been part of this process and being able to serve the country during this term. I’m really grateful, and I’m very grateful to all of the folks who’ve made it possible, both in our office and in the Department and outside of our office. So thanks to all of you for the great questions, and thanks for hosting this Teleforum.
Dean Reuter: Well, thanks for your service and thanks for participating in this Teleforum. I thank you on my own behalf but also on behalf of The Federalist Society. I also want to thank the audience for dialing in and for your thoughtful questions. A reminder to our audience to check our website, monitor your emails for our next upcoming Teleforum conference call, which I happen to know is at 2:30 today. So pay special attention to that. But until that next call, we are adjourned. Thank you very much everyone.
Dean Reuter: Thank you for listening to this episode of Teleforum, a podcast of The Federalist Society’s practice groups. For more information about The Federalist Society, the practice groups, and to become a Federalist Society member, please visit our website at fedsoc.org.