Elizabeth Warren grills Kathy Kraninger, President Trump's nominee for director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on her role in the family separation policy for migrant families at her confirmation on Thursday.
"You see the videos of some of these children being returned to their parents after long separations. They're dazed. They're unsmiling. They're dirty. It's like the life has been sucked out of them. These are innocent children who may be scarred forever by this policy. It is fundamentally immoral and you -- you were a part of it, Ms. Kraninger. It is a moral stain that will follow you for the rest of your life," Warren told her.
"And if the Senate votes to give a big promotion to you after this, then it is a stain on the Senators who do so," the Senator added.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
So one thing consumers need in a CFPB director is someone who's willing to stand up to powerful people on behalf of those who don't have power, and that's why I want to focus on the Trump administration's child separation policy. Since March of 2017, you've been the head of the general government programs at the Office of Management and Budget. Is that right, Ms. Kraninger?
KATHY KRANINGER, NOMINEE FOR DIRECTOR OF CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU: That's correct.
WARREN: It's an important job. The General Government Programs Division at OMB is in charge of overseeing both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Is that right?
KRANINGER: Yes, Senator.
WARREN: And according to the disclosures you submitted to this committee, you, quote, "serve as OMB's principal policy official for issues related to the departments and agencies you oversee." Is that right?
KRANINGER: Yes, Senator.
WARREN: Yes. So the Justice Department and Homeland Security are the two agencies most responsible for taking children away from their parents at the border, and you oversee policy issues at both agencies. But for a month now, you have refused to respond to Ranking Member Brown's and my request for information -- for documents relating to your role in child separations. And when we met in my office last week, you refused over and over to give me a straight answer about your role.
So today, you've given a very lawyerly and limited answer; you're dodging. The answers have also been contradictory. You've said you have no role in setting the policy, but you also can't describe the advice you gave on the policy, which means it raises a question. Which is it: you had no role, or you had a role, and you can't describe it?
So I'm going to ask you again under oath: were you involved in any way in developing or implementing the policies that led this administration to take thousands of children away from their parents at the border?
KRANINGER: Senator, I had no role in setting the policy, as we discussed. I was unaware...
WARREN: Please answer my question; it was developing or implementing.
KRANINGER: I had no role in developing it. In terms of its announcement by the attorney general, and so I was not aware of that.
WARREN: So you did help the attorney general announce it, but otherwise, did you help develop or implement this policy?
KRANINGER: Subsequent to the attorney general's announcement, there were meetings within the administration on the general topic of the implementation, and again, the Office of Management and Budget does actively participate in those meetings.
WARREN: So is that a yes? You were involved? That's a yes?
KRANINGER: Senator, again, I -- I don't want to characterize the advice, as I know that you...
WARREN: Well, Ms. Kraninger, I'm asking you a pretty straightforward yes or no question, and I will remind you, you are under oath, and lying to Congress is a crime. I'll also remind you that many of the documents I've requested about your role in this policy could eventually become public under the Freedom of Information Act.
So let me ask again this specific question. Were you involved in developing or implementing the policies that led to children being taken away from their parents at the border?
KRANINGER: Senator, it's difficult to separate the advice...
WARREN: I'll take that as a yes, then.
KRANINGER: ...and so as I said, I -- I will not characterize the advice that was provided on -- on the analysis or otherwise.
WARREN: I'm not asking you to characterize. I asked you a simple yes or no question.
According to reports, in some cases the Trump Administration isn't sure which children belong to which parents. As of Monday, the administration had not identified the parents of 71 separated children, which means right now they can't be reunited. DHS is the agency that took parents away from their young children. Did you work with DHS to create a plan for eventually reuniting these children with their parents?
KRANINGER: Senator, again I -- I can't characterize my advice, but as we also discussed, since I was nominated for this position I have not been involved.
WARREN: I asked just did you -- did you work with them on a plan? I didn't ask what the plan was, what advice you gave. Did you work with them on a plan to reunite these children who were taken away from their parents?
KRANINGER: I understand the question, Senator, but it -- it becomes a slippery slope, in terms of characterizing the advice that was provided, or the analysis, or the questions that were raised. Again, I don't want to characterize any of that.
WARREN: No, it's not a slippery slope. You don't want to characterize it because you don't want to admit that you had something to do with this. You know, this was a policy that was designed to traumatize children and families, as a way of scaring them away from the border. Even if they were seeking asylum, even if they were fleeing death threats, gang violence, rape, domestic abuse -- White House Chief of Staff Kelly said that the whole point of this was quote "to be a tough deterrent."
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that being separated from their parents for weeks or months can cause these children irreparable, life-long, physical and psychological harm.
Do you think that purposefully inflicting that on innocent children is immoral?
CRAPO: And please make your answer brief.
KRANINGER: Senator, I think there are many heartbreaking stories that -- that appear in the news every day, from the conversation we had about American families, hard-working who are affected by ...
WARREN: It's a simple yes or no question. Do you believe that it is immoral to set up a plan whose deliberate intent is to inflict harm on children?
KRANINGER: Senator, it's not appropriate for me to provide my personal opinion, and -- and internal deliberations and discussions on that matter.
WARREN: Almost every member of this committee, Democrat and Republican, has denounced this policy. Even President Trump, when he signed the executive order ending child separations, said, and I'll quote, "I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated."
But you can't have an opinion on this?
You know, I went to the border last month. I met a mother who was torn away from her seven year old little boy in the middle of the night. She could not stop crying, all she could say over, and over, and over is, I never even had a chance to say goodbye. She had not seen her little boy for weeks. She had no idea where he was.
You see the videos of some of these children being returned to their parents after long separations. They're dazed. They're unsmiling. They're dirty. It's like the life has been sucked out of them. These are innocent children who may be scarred forever by this policy. It is fundamentally immoral and you -- you were a part of it, Ms. Kraninger. It is a moral stain that will follow you for the rest of your life.
And if the Senate votes to give a big promotion to you after this, then it is a stain on the Senators who do so.