Rep. Nadler: House Judiciary Must Live Up to Responsibility and Rigorously Oversee the White House and Executive Branch

Jul 26, 2017 Issues: Trump, Civil Liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, delivered the following statement during a committee markup of a resolution of inquiry sponsored by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) to acquire any information from the Department of Justice pertaining to Attorney General Sessions’ involvement in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey in violation of his recusal and related matters. 

“We were assured that the Committee would be conducting significant oversight over the Department of Justice, as well as Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, and the possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia. But, here we are five months later, with what is potentially one of the greatest scandals in American history unfolding in front of our eyes, and this Committee has so far remained silent,” said Congressman Nadler. “The FBI and the Justice Department are at the heart of the jurisdiction of this Committee.  The firing of Mr. Comey, the recusal of Attorney General Sessions, the threats by the President aimed at Attorney General Sessions and Special Counsel Mueller, the possible obstructions of justice in all this, are all in the oversight jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.  Mr. Mueller’s investigation of possible crimes does not, as the Chairman said at an earlier hearing, relieve us of our oversight responsibilities over the Justice Department, the FBI, and our justice system in general.  The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are investigating matters within their purview, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has begun its own investigation of the Russia matter.  We are alone in our inaction, and there is no excuse for burying our heads in the sand at this critical moment.”

The full text Congressman Nadler's statement, as prepared, follows below:

"Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of this Resolution of Inquiry.  Back in February, I introduced the first Resolution of Inquiry related to Russia’s relationship with the Trump Campaign and the Trump Administration.  At the time, the Chairman told us that it was “unnecessary, premature, and not the best way for this committee, or the House, to conduct oversight over the issues covered by the resolution.”

"We were assured that the Committee would be conducting significant oversight over the Department of Justice, as well as Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, and the possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia.  But, here we are five months later, with what is potentially one of the greatest scandals in American history unfolding in front of our eyes, and this Committee has so far remained silent.

"When Democrats first started raising questions about Russia, we were told by the White House, by the Department of Justice, and by Republican Members of Congress that there was nothing to this story.  We were just conspiracy theorists disappointed with the outcome of the election.

"But each day, we learn more information that only confirms our earlier suspicions, and that raises yet more questions, while this Committee refuses to act.  Just recently, Donald Trump, Jr. published an email exchange showing that he actively solicited assistance to the Trump campaign from a foreign government.  And yet, this Committee has been silent.

"During his confirmation hearings then-Senator Sessions flatly denied having any contact with Russian officials.  Then we learned that he had at least two meetings, and possibly a third, with the Russian Ambassador.  Then he told us that those meetings were simply in his capacity as a Senator, and he certainly never discussed anything related to the Trump campaign.  Now we know that this was false too.  And yet, in the face of this ever-changing story from the Attorney General of the United States, this Committee has been silent.

"Despite having recused himself from the Russia investigation, we learned that Attorney General Sessions was involved in the decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey—a decision that the President himself said was because of “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia.”  And yet, this Committee has been silent.

"Being in the Majority is about setting priorities for the Committee.  Unfortunately, last week, the Majority showed us where their priorities lie.  On Friday, every Republican member of this Committee wrote to Attorney General Sessions to demand responses—not to any issue before us today—but to a number of letters they sent during the last Administration.

"How does our Majority choose to use its limited resources?

        -On questions about a low-level fraud investigation submitted to the acting Associate Attorney General in 2014.

        -On a letter about cross-border data flows submitted to the former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in 2015.

        -And on a long list of short letters sent last Congress that appear to revolve around different, minor aspects of the Clinton email investigation.  

"But our oversight responsibilities did not end on January 20th of this year.  Perhaps Republicans long for a simpler time, when there was a different Administration, when our biggest concern seemed to be Lois Lerner's emails, and when the prospects for stripping health care from millions of Americans to finance tax cuts for the rich were but a distant dream.  

"It is deeply disappointing that the Majority chooses to ignore world events, direct threats to the integrity of the Department of Justice, and the four letters that Democrats on this Committee have now sent to the Chairman calling for hearings on these matters.

"Rather than re-litigate the past, we should pay attention to what is happening today.  Right now, the President is attacking and undermining the entire senior leadership of the Department of Justice, not to mention Special Counsel Mueller.  This could be an attempt to lay the foundation for his own “Saturday night massacre” and to try to stop the Russia investigation from advancing.  That makes it absolutely critical that we understand exactly how the Comey firing was handled, and who was involved.  This Resolution of Inquiry would help us do that.

"The FBI and the Justice Department are at the heart of the jurisdiction of this Committee.  The firing of Mr. Comey, the recusal of Attorney General Sessions, the threats by the President aimed at Attorney General Sessions and Special Counsel Mueller, the possible obstructions of justice in all this, are all in the oversight jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.  Mr. Mueller’s investigation of possible crimes does not, as the Chairman said at an earlier hearing, relieve us of our oversight responsibilities over the Justice Department, the FBI, and our justice system in general.  The House and Senate Intelligence Committees are investigating matters within their purview, and the Senate Judiciary Committee has begun its own investigation of the Russia matter.  We are alone in our inaction, and there is no excuse for burying our heads in the sand at this critical moment.

"I urge the Committee to take our oversight responsibility seriously, and to focus on the important issues at hand.  I urge that we report this resolution favorably, and I yield back the balance of my time."

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