President Trump’s nominee to oversee major regulatory organs at the Department of Justice wasn’t prepared on Tuesday to defend one of his first executive orders on federal rulemaking – the “two-for-one” decree requiring two old regulations to be repealed before a new one is implemented.
Rachel Brand, Trump’s pick to be Associate Attorney General, told Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that she wasn’t sure if the Jan. 30 order complies with federal law.
“Any regulatory action taken by any agency of the government has to comply with the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, which require reasoned decision-making,” Brand said at her confirmation hearing, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“As to the inter-play between the APA and the executive order, those decisions would fall in the first instance to the regulatory agencies themselves,” she continued, “but I would have to study it further.”
The Associate Attorney General is number three, in the Justice Department chain-of-command. The position’s responsibilities include oversight of civil, environmental and antitrust cases.
Feinstein had asked Brand for her views on the order, in light of Brand’s work for a major business lobby and the existence of “over one hundred” Dodd-Frank rules that have yet to be finalized – roughly one-third of regulations mandated by the financial reform bill, the senator said.
In 2011 and 2012, Brand served as a regulatory trial lawyer for the Chamber of Commerce – the largest corporate lobbying group in the country. Before that, she has taken lobbying gigs from other corporate clients and had served in George W. Bush’s Department of Justice.
Trump’s “two-for-one” order is already facing at least one major legal challenge from non-profits and a labor union. Public Citizen, the National Resources Defense Council and the Communications Workers of America launched a challenge of the decree last month, citing the same law that Brand noted during Tuesday’s hearing – the Administrative Procedure Act.
Also facing scrutiny on Tuesday was Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s nominee to be Deputy Attorney General, and the current U.S. Attorney for Maryland.
Democrats mostly peppered Rosenstein with questions about the ongoing investigation into allegations of Russian interference in last year’s election. Many called for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reappear before the committee, to clarify the nature of his pre-election contacts with Russian officials.
During his January confirmation hearing, Sessions told Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that he hadn’t had any communications with, when asked only about how he would approach an inquiry, as a former Trump campaign surrogate.
The Washington Post subsequently revealed Sessions met with the Russian ambassador twice, including one meeting at his Senate office. Sessions claimed the communications were appropriate, given that he had been a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
At one point on Tuesday, committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) bemoaned Franken’s initial line of inquiry, saying it consisted of a “gotcha question.” The dispute led to a testy exchange over more potential testimony by Sessions.
“He should come back and explain himself, Mr. Chairman,” Franken asserted.