WASHINGTON — President Biden’s nominees to fill out the Justice Department’s leadership ranks pledged at their confirmation hearing on Tuesday to tackle domestic extremism, racial inequality and other thorny issues within the bounds of the law, seeking to restore order to a department battered by political attacks during the Trump administration.
Lisa Monaco, a Justice Department veteran and national security expert nominated to be deputy attorney general, and Vanita Gupta, a civil rights lawyer known for her criminal justice overhaul work tapped as the department’s No. 3, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that they were committed to ensuring that the department meted out equal justice under the law.
They also praised the 115,000 employees of the Justice Department for carrying out their work fairly and impartially — comments that stood in contrast to accusations by former President Donald J. Trump and former Attorney General William P. Barr that career employees could not be trusted to uphold the rule of law.
Ms. Monaco, 53, who if confirmed would oversee the department’s day-to-day operations, the nation’s federal prosecutors and the F.B.I., said in her opening testimony that as “an independent investigator and prosecutor,” it was important that the department “act free from any political or partisan influence.”
drawn closer to Mr. Trump’s inner circle; defendants have said they acted at his behest; and the attack has prompted fears that Mr. Trump has fueled domestic extremism even as he maintains his grip on the Republican Party.
And civil libertarians have raised questions about how the F.BI. will investigate extremists for activities protected by the First Amendment.
Ms. Monaco also said in response to questions from Republicans that she would ensure that the special counsel examining the origins of the Russia investigation, John H. Durham, receive all resources necessary to complete his work.
Republicans on the committee reserved their sharpest questions for Ms. Gupta, who was a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s immigration policies, judicial appointments and civil rights work.
backing of dozens of police organizations and high-profile conservative groups, including Koch Industries, for her bipartisan efforts to enact criminal justice overhauls.
Ms. Gupta was also questioned about past comments about implicit bias; she said everyone, including herself, has biases that must be managed to ensure more fairness in the workplace and other institutional settings. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, asked her whom she was biased against.
Declining to name a specific group, Ms. Gupta said: “I know that I hold stereotypes that I have to manage. I’m a product of my culture.”
“I believe that all of us are able to manage implicit bias, but only if we can acknowledge our own, and I am not above anyone else in that matter,” she said.
When asked about statements she made on Twitter that were sharply critical of Republicans, Ms. Gupta said she regretted them.