Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker offers statement at congressional hearing

Only hours earlier, it was unclear whether the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee would even take place.
9:01 | 02/08/19

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Transcript for Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker offers statement at congressional hearing
Thank you mr. chairman and ranking member columns for the opportunity to testify. Before the committee today. I'm looking forward to discussing view some B accomplishments and primaries of the Department of Justice. For a start I would also like to acknowledge the passing and chairman dangle. And loses a statesman and leader and news said missed medium. First of all let me say that it's an honor to represent the 1151000. Men and women of the department justice. The department is blessed with extremely talented. Highly principled public servants were dedicated to upholding our great constitution. And the laws of the United States. I saw that up close during my five and a half years as United States attorney for the southern district while. Are all let's put criminals behind bars we kept the people I would say. I personally prosecuted several important criminal cases and work with the men and women of the ATF. DEA FB IUS Marshal service our state local and federal partners it was a privilege. 2017 returned to the department and serve for thirteen months she as chief of staff to former attorney general. Jeff Sessions a man for whom I have great respect. He let the department integrity. With dedication to the rule law and with a commitment to carrying out the policies of the president of the United States. I'm deeply honored the president selected me to continue this work at the department. The senate will soon consider president's nomination for our next attorney general and let me just say this no one is more qualified. And build more. I am working to ensure that he would dirty strong. Confident and effective department of justice and I believe that he will. For the last three months I've had the privilege of serving as acting attorney general and I am impressed every single day by the dedication. And hard work of our agents or attorneys and or sports death. Over this time I visited a number of our offices and met with federal prosecutors from across the country. For example in December revolver project safe neighborhoods conference. Where employees from nearly every US attorney's office and hundreds of our state and local partners celebrated or our successes. And reductions in violent crime. Our our work is paying off. I firmly believe that your constituents are safe. Because of the work that we have gone over the past two years. Under this administration. Crime is down and police morale is up. In fiscal year 2017. The Justice Department source who. The largest number of violent crime defendants since we started to track this category back when bill Barr was attorney general the last. And then in fiscal year when he team we broke that record again by a margin of nearly 15%. We also torched more defendants with gun crimes than ever before. In fact we broke that record by a margin of 17%. The department is also being bought stocks improve the background check system and prosecuted those who lied to get a god. Our work is having an impact 27 team after two years of increases under the previous administration. Violent crime and homicide rates went down nationwide. We do not have official membership for when he eighteen. But one estimate projected that the murder rate 129 biggest cities would drop by seven point 6%. Those are you'll lives beings today. Much of the crime in this country. Is related to drug abuse and drug craft. Under this administration prescriptions for the seven most frequently abused prescription drugs are down more than 21%. To the lowest level in at least the deputy. At the same time. The DEA has lowered the legal limits on production of the active ingredients in these prescription open yours by 47%. Since 2016. And there is no doubt in the law enforcement community that the vast majority of the illegal drugs in this country or coming through work so don't work. There's also no doubt the criminals and cartels seat to its way weaknesses in our southern border. We're their own profits in purposes including by subjecting women and children. Dangerous and unspeakable conditions in an attempt to smuggle them into the United States. And of course the dangers of our porous southern border become all more apparent every time an illegal alien cause harm or death to an innocent American. Across this country such as what happened to an outstanding young woman from my home state Sarah route. For this reason a for others we continue our efforts to restore the rule of law at the border and in our immigration system. In fiscal year 28 team we charge more defendants will be legal entry and it any other year in American history. In fact we charged 85%. More defendants would illegally entering America that we did the previous year. At the same time we increase the number of felony illegal reentry prosecutions by more than 38%. Whatever our views on immigration policy we should all be opposed to illegal immigration and we ship support these efforts. The department is also. Taking decisive action against human trafficking both domestically. And internationally. Human trappers like other criminal enterprises take advantage of our southern porous border. To smuggle women and children the United States to exploit them. We are bringing prosecutions to dismantle transnational trafficking networks. That were victims across our borders and traffic them for profits. Last year the Department of Justice security record of 500 in 26. Human trafficking conviction a 5% increase. From the previous year. The department is also doing its part to aggressively prosecute hate crimes under this administration. We indicted fifty hate crime defendants and obtain 38. Crime convictions in fiscal years when he eighteen. In November the department provide an election monitoring polling places around the country. Civil rights division deployed personnel with 35 districts in nineteen states to monitor for compliance with federal voting rights laws. Our public integrity section prosecutor circus subject matter experts. For federal prosecutors and investigators nationwide. Wide working with the FBI and strategic information. And operations. Over my time as acting attorney general. I kept on everything in my power to continue regular order at the Department of Justice. The department has continued to make it more important decisions. Based on the facts and the law of each individual case in accordance with established department practices. An independent of any. Outside interference. At no time has the White House asked work nor have I provide any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation. Or any other investigation. Since becoming acting attorney general item from the Department of Justice with fidelity to law and to the constitution. During my time as leader of the department of Justice Department has complied with the special counsel regulations and there's been no change in how the department's work. With the special counsel's office. Over the past day the department and the committee have exchanged letters answering the respective rocketed of the legislative. And executive branches. I'm pleased that we are able to reach an agreement that allows me to appear here volunteer. I'm pleased also. That we agreed to each branch would seek to accommodate each other and that if we have differences will try to work them out in good faith. Before reporting to subpoena is. Other former hopeful formal legal process. I will answer the committee's questions as best I can. But I will continue to be long standing executive for its practice of not disclosing information. That may be subject to executive privilege such as the contents of conversations. With the president. As the Supreme Court has recognized. This executive privilege is fundamental. The operation of government and inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the constitution. I have spent nearly one there were of my professional career at the department of justice and I personally committed to his success. And integrity. I hope that today's hearing will be constructive and hope was partner together. To address the priorities. Of the American people. The men and women of this department are proud of our accomplishments but we know that congress can help us to achieve even more. Nor has our agents are prosecutors have shown you again and again. A user who works support. Thank you once again the opportunity to testify today and for your attention to the matters facing the department of just.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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