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Ranking Member Nadler Opening Statement for Hearing on “Oversight of FBI and DOJ Actions Surrounding the 2016 Election: Testimony by FBI Deputy Director Peter Strzok”

Washington, DC, July 12, 2018

Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following opening remarks during a Judiciary Committee hearing on “Oversight of FBI and DOJ Actions Surrounding the 2016 Election: Testimony by FBI Deputy Director Peter Strzok.”

“Mr. Chairman, at the outset of this Congress, when my Democratic colleagues and I asked you to hold hearings about the Russian government’s campaign to undermine our last election, you offered a variety of excuses:

“We could not look into President Trump’s overt attempts to obstruct the early stages of the Russia investigation because, you said, “[t]here are other committees that have jurisdiction over parts of this.”

“You were also reluctant to interfere with the Special Counsel:  “Until Mr. Mueller’s investigation is complete, it is redundant for the House of Representatives to engage in fact-gathering on many of the same issues.” 

“You also insisted that the House Judiciary Committee would never intrude on an active criminal investigation—claiming, perhaps erroneously, that the Majority never questioned the FBI about the Clinton investigation while that investigation was still ongoing.

“Mr. Chairman, this joint investigation is now so far afield from your original statements that it can be difficult to discern what we are investigating at all. You initially described this inquiry as an “investigation regarding charging decisions in the investigation surrounding Secretary Clinton’s email server in 2016.”

“Just a few days ago, over the course of an 11-hour interview, Republicans asked Mr. Strzok more than 200 questions about the Special Counsel’s investigation, more than 30 questions about Mr. Strzok’s personal interactions with the Special Counsel, and 25 questions about the FBI’s use of confidential human sources to determine whom at the Trump campaign might have been compromised by a foreign government.

“Are we no longer going to wait until Special Counsel Mueller concludes his work, Mr. Chairman? Or perhaps the rules of this joint investigation, such as they are, operate differently now that we are approaching the midterm elections and Special Counsel Mueller is closing in on the President’s close associates.

“In the Majority’s view, it seems, our job is to ask questions about the internal workings of the Special Counsel’s investigation, and to demand documents that lay out his strategy—but not to make any attempt to understand how the Russian government influenced our last election, or any effort to protect our next election from an attack by a foreign adversary.

“In the Majority’s view, it is more important to quiz Mr. Strzok about the FBI’s use of confidential human sources—in some wild attempt to prove President Trump’s baseless claim that a “spy” was planted inside his campaign—than it is to learn about the impact of exposing the identity of these sources while they are still working undercover.  My Republicans colleagues appear to have revealed at least one such source already.

“In the Majority’s view, the text messages exchanged between Mr. Strzok and Lisa Page are a higher priority for us than President Trump’s request that James Comey end the investigation into Michael Flynn, or his decision to fire Director Comey “because of that Russia thing with Trump and Russia,” or his repeated attempts to fire Special Counsel Mueller directly.

“In the Majority’s view, we do not have time to conduct oversight on almost any national security issue—but we have hours on end to discuss Mr. Strzok’s extramarital affair. Which brings me to my next point:  I have come to expect that President Trump will tweet abhorrent things about decent people, but I demand better behavior from my colleagues.

“Mr. Strzok volunteered to be here today, just as he volunteered to appear two weeks ago for an 11-hour interview.  You don’t have to like him, but you have to treat him—and any witness before this Committee—with respect. Questions like “do you love Lisa Page” and “who did you vote for in the last election”—questions that Republicans posed in his interview—are not relevant to any aspect of our official business.

“I would say the same of the Majority’s treatment of Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein on June 29—which was, at best, uncivil—and of the Committee’s treatment of Lisa Page—which has been unfair to say the least.

“Mr. Chairman, I agree with you that Ms. Page must eventually comply with a duly issued subpoena.  But it is beneath your office to suggest, as you did this week, that her decision not to appear for a deposition means “she has something to hide.”  It is beneath our Committee to call her “pathetic,” as Mr. DeSantis did.  It has nothing to do with “the Swamp,” as Mr. Jordan suggested.

“Can we not be decent to our witnesses, Mr. Chairman?  Must Republicans descend to the President’s level, even in his defense?

“I know that the Majority wants a public fight with Mr. Strzok today.  I expect that you will ask him questions about the Special Counsel’s investigation that you know the FBI will not permit him to answer—as you did more than 200 times in our last meeting with Mr. Strzok—so that his decision not to answer can be played out on cable news again and again.

“And I expect that Mr. Strzok walked into this room knowing that Republicans may soon call for him to be held in contempt for following the longstanding policy of the Department of Justice.  FBI agents like Mr. Strzok should not comment on, or even acknowledge the existence of, an ongoing criminal investigation. 

“A single decision to deviate from that protocol can cause lasting damage to our republic—as anyone who has read the Inspector General’s report, and his conclusions about Mr. Comey, must acknowledge. When we reach that impasse, Mr. Chairman, I hope you will think back to the statements you made about interference with the Special Counsel earlier this Congress, and consider the consequences of our words and actions here today.

“The Majority keeps telling us, over and over again, that there was bias in the Clinton investigation, bias in the Russia investigation, and that bias must never again affect an investigation at the Department of Justice.

“The rules that prevent Mr. Strzok from answering today are designed to accomplish precisely that, Mr. Chairman—to prevent Congress and the public from injecting bias and politics into the Special Counsel’s investigation, or any other investigation. 

“When the Special Counsel’s job is done, I invite you to join me in examining his findings.  Until then, Mr. Chairman, please treat our guests with common courtesy, and leave the Special Counsel alone.  I yield back.”


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