Holder Hears Some Senate Support for Civilian Trials
By Andrew Ramonas | April 14, 2022 3:30 pm

A Senate Judiciary Committee Republican and several panel Democrats on Wednesday urged Attorney General Eric Holder not to bow to pressure from conservatives who don’t support trying any terrorism suspects in civilian courts.

Sen. Lindsay Graham and Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday (photo by Ryan J. Reilly).

At a Justice Department oversight hearing Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that he supports using civilian courts for some terrorism trials. But Graham — a key player in negotiations with the Obama administration on terrorism issues — agreed with his Republican colleagues that self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators shouldn’t be tried in a Manhattan federal court.

The White House is considering whether to reverse Holder’s announced plan to try KSM and his alleged accomplices in the New York civilian court. Graham told the Attorney General that he should be “flexible, pragmatic, aggressive” in handling terrorism suspects.

“Hang firm, stand strong, be fair, be aggressive, be pragmatic but do not lose sight that we’re at war,” Graham said.

Most Republicans have slammed the Attorney General’s handling of terrorism issues, including the decision to try the alleged Christmas Day airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in federal court instead of before a military commission.

Sens. Christopher “Kit” Bond (R-Mo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), along with the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, have called for Holder’s resignation. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the Judiciary panel’s ranking Republican, said Holder’s actions have “shaken my confidence.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Democrats pushed back at the criticism. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the dialogue over Holder’s handling of terrorism issues is “really very unhealthy.”

“I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of the attacks are just to diminish you,” Feinstein told Holder. “I don’t think that you should buy into them at all. I think you should remain strong.”

Holder said the administration had not yet reached a final decision on whether KSM and his alleged accomplices will be tried in a civilian court or in a military commission, emphasizing that the DOJ will use “every tool available to fight terrorism.”

“As I’ve said from the outset, this is a close call,” Holder said. “It should be clear to everyone by now that there are many legal, national security and practical factors to be considered here. As a consequence, there are many perspectives on what the most appropriate and effective forum is.”


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