Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, for the hearing "Lessons from the Mueller Report, Part II: Bipartisan Perspectives," the second in a series of hearings the Committee will conduct focused on the alleged crimes and other misconduct laid out in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report:
"Last week, we heard from two former United States Attorneys who exhaustively described President Trump’s repeated efforts to undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. We also heard from President Nixon’s former White House Counsel, who told us that the actions by this Administration were substantially similar to the measures the Nixon Administration took to undermine the Watergate investigation.
"But there is one important difference. Special Counsel Mueller was investigating a different kind of break-in. The target—a political campaign—was similar to that in Watergate. But the burglar was a hostile foreign nation. The crime was carried out through a hacking operation that stole hundreds of thousands of documents, rather than the contents of a single safe. And the hacked documents were used extensively to affect the outcome of the election.
"Today’s hearing will focus on Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of what Russia did to our democracy in 2016—and on what Russia is still trying to do to our democracy today. This is the second in a series of hearings designed to unpack the findings of Special Counsel Mueller’s Report so that we can discuss its implications, craft legislation, and make other recommendations to the House, as necessary.
"We have called this a hearing for "bipartisan perspectives" not only to reflect the makeup of our witness panel, but because there should be broad consensus across the political spectrum that we cannot allow foreign nations to interfere in our democracy. There should also be broad consensus that if a political candidate accepts help from a foreign nation—and even welcomes this attack on our democracy—that candidate has fundamentally betrayed the very institutions that he must swear an oath to protect.
"To be clear, the question before us is not merely whether campaign officials commit a crime when they take a meeting with foreign officials to discuss "dirt" on an opponent, or whether federal law prohibits a candidate from publicly encouraging hacking operations from a foreign adversary. The question before us comes down to what we, as American citizens, are willing to accept from our leaders.
"Nearly two years ago, FBI Director Christopher Wray announced that the FBI was setting up a Foreign Influence Task Force designed to combat "foreign influence operations," including "covert actions by foreign governments to influence U.S. political sentiment." The FBI explained that "[t]he goal of these influence operations... is to spread disinformation, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values." I cannot imagine that a single Member of this Committee would disagree that these operations are poisonous to our democracy and must be disrupted and dismantled to the fullest extent of the law.
"In fact, at our hearing last week, I was struck by a common theme in the remarks of some of our Republican colleagues: they acknowledged we were attacked by a foreign adversary; they acknowledged that our election systems are not secure; and they acknowledged that Congress must respond to these threats without delay. But then they urged us to stop talking about the findings in the Mueller Report.
"Unfortunately, we cannot simply forget that the President’s 2016 election campaign encouraged Russia’s actions, both privately and publicly. Our nation’s intelligence officials have made clear that Russia may do the very same things in the next election—or worse. Other hostile adversaries may try as well.
"Last week, to the alarm of Americans across the political spectrum—and likely to the alarm of the men and women in the law enforcement and intelligence communities who are working to prevent these attacks—President Trump stated in an interview that he would be willing to accept information about a political opponent from a foreign adversary such as Russia or China.
"First, when asked whether political candidates who are approached by foreign governments with this kind of information should call the FBI, President Trump responded, "You don’t call the FBI . . . give me a break." When informed that "the FBI Director says that’s what should happen," he responded, "The FBI Director is wrong."
"The next question was not confusing. President Trump was asked what his campaign would do if a foreign adversary like Russia or China "offers you information on an opponent." He was asked, "Should they accept it or should they call the FBI?" The President responded that "maybe you do both," and went on to state, "I think I’d want to hear it," and "They have information. I think I’d take it."
"In fact, this time around, the situation is even more alarming. President Trump was a private citizen during the 2016 campaign. He now sits at the head of all of our nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. He is provided with our nation’s most sensitive secrets on a daily basis. He has sworn an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
"But even with the benefit of all that guidance, and even with all of the authority and responsibility he has been granted, the President has said he is open to receiving information from a foreign adversary. In fact, by stating publicly that he would accept help from a foreign government, he may well have encouraged more foreign influence operations against our democracy.
"His invitation to foreign actors is so alarming that even one of his most loyal former aides, Hope Hicks, knew that the President’s statement was troubling. Yesterday, during her transcribed interview, Ms. Hicks made clear that she understood the President to be serious when he said that he would accept foreign interference in our elections. She also made clear that even she knew that such foreign assistance should be rejected and reported to the FBI.
"The President’s willingness to again welcome prohibited foreign assistance, now with a full understanding that the law prohibits it, is indeed shocking. The President may be willing to discard the lessons of the Mueller Report, but we are not. With the 2020 election looming, we must act immediately to respond to the ongoing foreign threats we face, as well as the President’s apparent willingness to accept them. I look forward to today’s critical discussion, and to learning every lesson we can so that this very recent history does not repeat itself."