Mar 9, 2017 Issues: Trump, Homeland Security, Foreign Affairs/Israel

Washington, D.C. – Late yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Republicans filed a Committee report to the House, officially blocking Democrats’ efforts to demand transparency from the Trump administration about the President’s wide ranging conflicts and ties to Russia.  A copy of the Republicans’ full report is here and a copy of the Democrats’ dissenting views is here. House Rule XIII, Clause 7 provides that “If such a resolution [of inquiry] is not reported to the House within 14 legislative days after its introduction, a motion to discharge a committee from its consideration shall be privileged [on the House Floor].”  The Nadler Resolution (H. Res. 111) was introduced on February 9, 2017.  By filing their report on March 8, 2017—before 14 legislative days had passed—Judiciary Republicans have prevented further action on the bill.

The newly released report and dissenting views follow last week’s vote to adversely report out of Committee the Resolution of Inquiry introduced by Congressman Jerrold Nadler and voted on in Committee February 28th, 2017.  Nadler’s resolution of inquiry directed the Department of Justice to provide the House of Representatives with any and all information relevant to an inquiry into President Trump and his associates’ conflicts of interest, ethical violations—including the Emoluments Clause—and connections and contacts with Russia.  This was the first resolution of inquiry introduced by Democrats since Trump was inaugurated, and the party-line vote was the first time Members of Congress were required to vote concerning an investigation of Donald Trump's conflicts of interest and his Administration’s connections with the Russian government. 

During the Committee’s consideration of this matter, Committee Republicans also voted against two amendments.  The first, offered by Rep. Deutch (D-FL), would have enabled the Committee to examine communications between the White House and the FBI about the investigation into the President's connections to Vladimir Putin.  The second, offered by Rep. Jeffries (D-NY), focused on whether Attorney General Sessions should recuse himself from the Russia investigation.  Notably, the Majority criticized this second amendment as "based on nothing more than a supposition" just hours before the Attorney General announced his recusal from any matter involving the 2016 campaign.

Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) issued the following statement upon the release of the Report:

“This resolution was a simple request for information from the Department of Justice.  Republicans voted to continue stonewalling our efforts to investigate President Trump’s conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and ties to Russian officials.  The report filed by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee puts them on the record as preventing this information from being shared with Congress, thereby abdicating their duty to provide oversight of the Executive Branch.  As we learn more and more information on a daily basis about Donald Trump, his campaign, transition team, and administration, we hope that our dissenting views will serve as a record of the Majority's refusal to uncover the truth or examine the facts.

“We note with interest that on the same day that the Republicans on the Committee sent a letter to the FBI requesting information on President Trump’s reckless accusations of wiretapping by former President Obama, they filed this report--which officially terminates our efforts to obtain critical information from the Justice Department through this resolution.  We also note that, although Chairman Goodlatte and Rep. Issa (R-CA) pledged to send a bipartisan letter to the Department concerning the information we requested last week, those letters have not yet been shared with us or transmitted to the Attorney General.

“When given the opportunity to ask the Department of Justice for information about the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia and the President’s refusal to address his conflicts of interest, the Majority has looked the other way.  These matters have the potential to do real and lasting harm to our democracy.”

In their dissenting views, the Committee Democrats forcefully responded to the Republican’s argument that the “resolution is unnecessary, premature, and not the best way for the Committee or the House to conduct oversight over the issues covered by the resolution”:

“On November 30, 2016, every Democratic Member of the House Judiciary Committee wrote to Chairman Goodlatte to request hearings on “the federal conflict-of-interest and ethics provisions that may apply to the President of the United States.”   We took note of President Trump’s repeated insistence that the President cannot have a conflict of interest—and enclosed a long list of federal ethics and conflict-of-interest statutes that, in fact, apply to the President.   To date, we have received no reply to this letter.

"In January 24, 2017, every Democratic Member of the House Judiciary Committee again wrote to the Chairman, insisting that “the Committee hold hearings on President Trump’s conflicts of interest, at home and abroad, in possible violation of federal law.”   Citing to the analysis of legal experts across the political spectrum, we showed that “[t]he Administration’s attempts to address its ongoing conflict of interests are, so far, wholly inadequate.”   To date, we have received no reply to this letter either. 

"On February 15, 2017, at a markup of the Committee’s annual oversight plan, Chairman Goodlatte announced that he had “requested, for the benefit of the full committee, a briefing by the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the matter involving Mr. Flynn in the White House, both what took place and how that that was leaked.”   To date, no such briefing has been scheduled.

"At that same February 15 meeting, the Committee considered several amendments to the Committee’s annual oversight plan.  One amendment offered by Chairman Goodlatte, as subsequently amended by Rep. David Cicilline, stated the Committee’s intention to conduct oversight into allegations of misconduct by executive branch officials and to continue oversight into allegations of foreign interference with federal elections.   We took this initial step as a positive sign.  The Majority then proceeded to reject amendments that would have focused the Committee’s attention on a number of urgent matters—including enforcement of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, allegations of contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, and the specific conclusion of the intelligence community that the Russian government engaged in a massive effort to influence the presidential election in favor of President Trump.”  (Democratic Dissenting Views, pp. 19-20).