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Special Event

Ashcroft Hearings: Sen. Kyl Questions Attorney General Nominee

Aired January 17, 2001 - 11:07 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we are going to take you back to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the contentious hearing over the nomination for John Ashcroft.

Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: And I frankly think it's a stretch to consider the founders and James Madison out of the mainstream, but don't take it from me.

Senator Feingold, during his questioning, among other things, said this -- and this is a quotation from the transcript: "I listened carefully to every word you," meaning Senator Ashcroft, "said. And I reserve the right to change my mind after the transcript, but I believe I agree with every single word you've just said." Continuing the quotation, "The purposes of the Second Amendment includes self- defense, hunting, sport, and some certainly would say, as would I, the protection of individual rights against a potentially despotic central government. The Second Amendment was clearly intended to counterbalance a distrust of and to protect the right to defend against an oppressive government."

Mr. Chairman, while there is certainly room for us to debate Second Amendment and gun control issues -- and we've had robust debates about that -- I think it goes too far to characterize a position that was held by President Madison, Senator Ashcroft, Senator Feingold and a lot of other scholars on the issues, as outside the mainstream.

And, in fact, I suggest it may say more about Senator Kennedy's locus in the spectrum of American public opinion.

Fifth, Senator Kennedy said that Senator Ashcroft, quote, "opposes virtually all gun control laws." And he had some opportunity yesterday to explain his view that that is not true and to further expand in his answer to Senator Feinstein just a moment ago. He supports the Brady law; voted to require mandatory background checks for all gun purchases at gun shows; to prohibit firearms in a school zone; to prohibit those convicted of domestic violence from possessing a firearm; drafted the juvenile assault weapon ban that passed the Senate 92 to 2; and supports President-elect Bush's policies to aggressively prosecute those who buy guns illegally, sell them illegally or commit crimes with guns.

And finally, Senator Kennedy said that Senator Ashcroft, and I'm quoting here again, quote, "doesn't respect the right to free speech under the First Amendment."

Now, Mr. Chairman, you can differ with Senator Ashcroft on some issues, but I think it's not responsible to charge that he doesn't respect the right to free speech under the First Amendment. I think he's made it very clear that he will enforce the law and that he's been an outspoken defender of the First Amendment for many years.

Senator Ashcroft, I hope that I have correctly characterized your views. Have I done so and is there anything you would like to add?

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Well, first of all, I'm grateful to you for having been so careful in your approach to these matters, and I appreciate the opportunity for the clarification.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Mr. Chairman, I would hope that, after Mr. Kyl's time has been allocated, that I'd have a chance to respond, in terms of fairness.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Under the normal practice, when there is such direct reference by one senator to another senator on the panel, the senator from Massachusetts will be given time to respond. That time will not come out of either Senator Kyl's or Senator Kennedy's time.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to breakaway for a moment from these Ashcroft confirmation hearings.

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