Senator Ted Cruz surfaced as a possible nominee for US attorney general Tuesday night, following a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump in Manhattan. A Cruz spokeswoman did not confirm nor explicitly deny the reports, telling Bloomberg, “Cruz is focused on serving Texans in the Senate. He was there today to offer help in promoting the conservative policies that were campaigned on and that he’s long fought for.”
It’s those exact policies that should raise significant alarm about his potential nomination as attorney general. Throughout his failed presidential campaign, Cruz promised to focus law-enforcement efforts on abortion groups, Muslims, and other perceived political enemies and out-groups.
As he crisscrossed the country, Cruz would often begin his stump speech by outlining his first day as president. After promising first to rip up all of President Obama’s executive orders, Cruz would pledge that “The second thing I intend to do on the first day in office is instruct the US Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and these horrible videos.”
Taken at his word, it is fair to conclude that Cruz would do the same thing as head of the Department of Justice. He is referring to the videos produced by the Center for Medical Progress, a radical anti-choice group, which purported to show Planned Parenthood officials making deals to sell fetal tissue for profit. The videos were deceptively edited and widely discredited. It’s legal and commonplace for entities to sell human tissue for research purposes, and it only becomes illegal if they turn a profit—which Planned Parenthood didn’t do. The unedited version of the tapes repeatedly captured Planned Parenthood officials saying they did not intend to make any extra money from the sales.
But evidently Cruz would begin an investigation anyhow. Even the presence of a federal investigation would sap Planned Parenthood’s resources at a time when Congress is likely to defund the group. Moreover, it would put the Department of Justice in the dangerous territory of launching investigations with clear political motives.
Attorney General Cruz would also be a fundamentally dangerous development for the American Muslim community. Within hours of the attacks in Brussels earlier this year, then-candidate Cruz released a statement proclaiming that “We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
As the top law-enforcement officer in the land, with the FBI under his jurisdiction, Cruz would have the ability to make this happen.
At the time, civil-liberties groups were highly alarmed. “Profiling people based on their religion or race is blatantly unconstitutional and violates the guarantee of religious protection and religious freedom,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national-security project. “One way to look at it is to replace the word ‘Muslim’ with ‘Jewish,’ ‘Christian,’ ‘African American,’ or ‘Latino.’ What’s wrong in one context is wrong in others.”
Any potential Trump nominee for attorney general must also be evaluated on his or her willingness to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton, or otherwise prosecute the former secretary of state, given Trump’s unprecedented promise to jail his opponent in the presidential race once he won. (The Trump campaign has refused several times since the election to rule this out.)
Cruz hasn’t made any direct promises to prosecute Clinton, though he did repeatedly suggest on the campaign trail that it might be necessary. He said several times that the Democratic debates might have to be held “at Leavenworth,” a large federal prison. After he selected Carly Fiorina as his running mate, Cruz said in April, “I can just picture Hillary thinking about Carly: tossing and turning, and tossing and turning, in her jail cell.” He also said that he hoped Hillary Clinton didn’t end up in the White House, because “I’ve got slightly different government housing in mind for her.”
Even if Cruz was joking in these cases, it was a serious breach of political norms, and it would take on drastic new meaning if he becomes attorney general. So would his promises to “secure” undefined Muslim areas and focus federal law enforcement on abortion groups based on flimsy evidence.
Elections have consequences, and a conservative legal thinker as attorney general is a given at this point. Cruz is certainly that, as his career as solicitor general of Texas shows. He was a rigid proponent of the death penalty, and he successfully convinced the Supreme Court that Texas had the right to execute a Mexican national. He also argued, unsuccessfully, that states should be able to execute child rapists. Cruz also successfully argued that the 10 Commandments could be placed outside the state capitol, and played a key role in the Heller case that expanded gun rights nationwide.
But Cruz’s rhetoric while running for president is a different matter, and would certainly spark an explosive confirmation battle.