Senator James Lankford (R-OK) on Wednesday served as Ranking Member in a hearing for the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to consider Dr. Colleen Shogan to be the Archivist of the United States, Vijay Shanker to be an Associate Judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Laura Crane, Leslie Meek, and Veronica Sanchez to be Associate Judges on the District of Columbia Superior Court.
Lankford questioned Shogan about the Archivist’s actions to label our Founding Documents available online through the Archives as “offensive,” the Archivist’s stance on refusing to unilaterally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and the ongoing role the National Archives have played in the investigation of President Trump and his Florida home.
Shogan acknowledged Lankford’s concern and said he is correct that when a search is done in the online archives catalog there is language making users aware they may inadvertently come across content that could be “difficult to view.”
“I want more teachers and students to use the National Archives,” Shogan said. “As you know, kids are excellent searchers today. They’re better searchers than we are. So when they look for those relevant documents, they could easily jump to something else inadvertently. So that’s why that relevant language is there.”
Lankford previously sent a letter to David Ferriero, Archivist for the United States to express his frustration with the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) use of a “Harmful Language Alert” on all searchable government documents on its website. This includes the US Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. The letter demands that the alert be removed from the website immediately and presses for answers on NARA’s ideologically-motivated task force report. Lankford sent a letter to the current Archivist Ferriero to press him to continue to respect the rule of law and not unilaterally ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution. Lankford and his colleagues asked the Archivist to stand strong against, “ridiculous calls to ignore clear guidance from both the court and the Department of Justice and to unilaterally certify the ERA.”
Lankford also continues to block nominees to the DC Courts until he receives a response to his letter to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Chief of the DC Metropolitan Police Department Robert Contee, and US Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding what legal action is being taken following a truly gut-wrenching and gruesome report of five babies whose lives were taken through late-term abortion in Washington, DC.
On the Archivist’s role in the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment
Lankford: Thank you for your very clear statements both to our staff in writing and to Senator Portman that the issue with the ERA is settled by the federal courts or by Congress, not by the Archivist…We want to make that very clear because obviously there were Members of Congress that have a disagreement on that. The previous Archivist disagreed and said, ‘No This is not the role of the Archivist to unilaterally make that decision.’ You’ve obviously agreed with that publicly, and I appreciate your engagement on that.
On warning labels used on the National Archives website for our Founding documents
Lankford: …[The Archives website] warns Americans or anyone reading our documents that there’s potentially harmful content. That this content could be offensive to individuals, whether it’s the United States Constitution or whether it’s autopsy photos from World War II. It doesn’t matter. It’s on everything, is that warning piece on that banner on it. My question to you in our conversation was, I don’t want it to be misunderstood in any way that the National Archives could consider the United States Constitution a potentially offensive document, which clearly it’s a Founding document. It’s not offensive. There are bits of our history that all of us as Americans look back on and are embarrassed who we were as Americans and decisions we have made. We don’t always get it right over our history, but we are working to make a more perfect union. But all of our history is our history. The important thing to me is there’s never a label on a single document and we reconsider labelling some of our documents ‘offensive,’ when they’re just our history on this…
On the Archives’ role in the raid on President Trump’s Florida home.
Lankford: …In an unusual situation, it wasn’t just the FBI carrying out the raid, but it was a request of the National Archives to be able to engage with these records to then trigger something with the FBI. Typically this would be a voluntary conversation. It’s my understanding that you’ve had dialogue with our staff to say all of your preferences of any disagreements in this document, this should be a voluntary conversation, rather than a legal conversation or a raid. A raid of a former president’s house is unprecedented, and it puts the entire process on full display to be able to say: how does this happen? Why does this happen? Everyone gets questions on it.