Opening statements at US House Judiciary Committee Hearing clearly lay out Trump v ‘Sane People’ nature of political discourse

THE ISSUE

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee are insisting that the FBI and Department of Justice hand over documents relating to the Mueller  probe into Russian meddling in US elections, knowing full well it can’t be done because it would mean essentially handing over evidence to Trump who is himself being investigated.  Yet despite knowing this, they still they choose to make it look as though they are hiding something so it can be used as a pretext for the President to end the investigation.

THE MEDIA

Clip by PBS News in YouTube on June 28, 2018

“…have we conducted any oversight at all on election security; on the family separation crisis; on the Administration’s failure to protect Dreamers; on the Justice Department’s radical decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act; on the Supreme Court’s recent decisions to undermine voting rights and workers’ rights; on the President’s ongoing conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause; or on the myriad other pressing issues within our Committee’s jurisdiction?

No, as with so many issues, this Committee has stayed silent.”

“But on Hillary Clinton’s emails? Sound the alarms.

THE COMMENT

All the headlines from this committee hearing came from the aggressive grilling of Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Direct Christopher Wray by Republican congressmen Trey Gowdy and Jim Jordan, and it’s true, the exchanges were far more compelling viewing than anything going on in the World Cup at the same time (and I normally like soccer).

For me the most illuminating exchange came in the opening remarks.  Sure, it wouldn’t make the ‘news cycle’ because that is what all the shouting from Gowdy and Jordan was for, but it was in the opening statements by the ranking members of the two main US parties [House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte and Congressman Jerrold Nadler] that the real differences between the two parties’ attitudes towards the Mueller investigation can be seen.

Just as a reminder, I’m not a 100% loyal Democrat supporter and I certainly wouldn’t automatically agree with everything said by their so-called leadership, but the contrast between the two statements lays bare the sheer mental gymnastics, assuming there are any mental faculties being used at all, required to accept the Republican party line.

Both statements are in the YouTube clip but I have also cpoy/pasted them below.  JLP

#IANWAE

GOODLATTE STATEMENT:

The Church Committee was established on a bipartisan basis and chaired by Democratic Senator Frank Church in 1975 to review CIA, FBI, and NSA surveillance abuses, including the improper surveillance of an American icon, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other prominent individuals. The Committee also conducted a review of the insidious monitoring of political activities of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. The Church Committee’s findings resulted in passage three years later of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA attempts to balance the need for secrecy in conducting surveillance against foreign agents with the protection of Americans’ time-honored civil liberties.

This history shows we have already found ourselves, once before, in a situation where the FBI and other intelligence agencies violated their oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. In monitoring citizens’ political activity, the agencies exercised their responsibilities in a manner unworthy of U.S. officials. The abuses of that bygone era, and really of any era, often happen because of power – power to influence political currents, power to collect sensitive information, and power to wield surveillance tools in improper ways to achieve improper purposes. That power can and has been abused in the past, by individuals at the highest and lowest levels of our government.

Fortunately, the power of our intelligence agencies is overwhelmingly used to protect us from those wishing to do our country harm. That is the conundrum. We need our intelligence agencies to have the necessary tools and techniques to safeguard our nation, and we have to be constantly vigilant to ensure these tools are not manipulated by unscrupulous actors.

The recent Inspector General’s report revealed bias in the top echelons of the FBI during a hotly-contested presidential election. It revealed that FBI agents, lawyers, and analysts held profound biases against then-candidate Donald Trump and in favor of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. While those on the other side of the aisle continue to exclaim that these biases are only personal political predilections that had no effect on the operation of one of the biggest investigations in our nation’s history, I wonder whether these same Members would say the same if text messages had turned up to the tune of “Hillary is a disaster,” or “We’ll stop” her, or cursing her with all manner of expletives, or smugly stating that particular parts of the country “smell of Hillary supporters.”

These types of comments were originating from people who were the fact-finders in the investigation. These profoundly inappropriate comments were coming from the individuals who were making decisions on whether to provide immunity to people who had already lied to investigators, and whether subjects of an investigation could sit in on interviews with other subjects of the same investigation. These were individuals who were plainly in positions of great power with the opportunity to place greater, lesser, or even no emphasis on certain facts or interpretations of law. These actions led to complete legal exoneration of everyone involved in sending Top Secret emails over personal servers and unsecured emails- and setting up a server for the explicit purpose of doing this. These actions even led to exposing at least one classified email to a foreign party that risked serious damage to our national security. Amazingly, considering their overwhelming biases, these people were also the very same people who were assigned to investigate the man that they hated: then-candidate Donald Trump.

My reference to the Church Committee is apropos because it not only reviewed abuses by individuals, including the FBI Director himself, but focused in on surveillance abuses. Here, we now face the same allegations, yet in manner that goes to the heart of our democracy. It is right out of a novel with salacious, unverified dossiers, reports of informants that appear more like spies for the U.S. government, and application of the aforementioned surveillance powers to collect on a U.S. person once associated with President Trump’s political campaign. But it’s not a novel; it is real life and we are here today to understand a little bit more about why we now must review how our intelligence and law enforcement agencies engaged in activity that appears not only wrong, but potentially illegal.

All of which brings me to this body’s Constitutional oversight mandate and responsibilities. Our responsibility to the American people is to conduct robust oversight of agencies within this Committee’s jurisdiction, to ensure that taxpayer-funded agencies operate lawfully. Our oversight, though, is only as good as the information we are provided. This Committee’s oversight has been hampered by both the FBI and DOJ’s lack of consistent and vigorous production of the documents we need to hold the agencies accountable. While this production has significantly improved recently, it has felt like pulling teeth much of the time to obtain and review relevant documents. Moreover, we just recently learned that some documents the Inspector General received to conduct his investigation of the 2016 election have been interpreted by the Department of Justice to fall outside the first subpoena I ever issued as Chairman of this Committee. Shockingly, emails and communications of DOJ officials have not been produced at all. Therefore, we have not received any emails between prosecutors working the Clinton case.

Said differently, we are not receiving and have not received potentially enlightening communications between prosecutors themselves, between prosecutors and DOJ management including former Attorney General Lynch, or even communications between DOJ officials and those with the Obama White House. This is unacceptable, particularly when we had long before issuing the subpoena requested all documents provided to the Inspector General other than certain ones pertaining to grand jury material.

The Department of Justice and the FBI are not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. The President and Congress are. Our Constitutional oversight necessitates that institutions like the FBI and DOJ yield to Congress’ constitutional mandate. This is non-negotiable because we must assure the American people that the agencies under our jurisdiction operate fairly, treating all equally under the law.

This hearing emphasizes the importance of transparency in helping to regain both the perception and reality of impartiality of our law enforcement system. Damage to the FBI and DOJ’s reputations is not something any of us desire. But now that both agencies have been on the front pages for so long, we must all work to ensure that those stories are able to focus once again on the great men and women performing admirable and often heroic jobs to protect our country.

We expect to hear today how the FBI and DOJ will hold people accountable and prevent this from happening again. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from both Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Director Wray.

NADLER STATEMENT : 

“Mr. Chairman, the events that have led up to this hearing are totally unacceptable.

“On Monday of this week, you notified us of this hearing without the seven-day notice required by the rules.

“On Tuesday, you started our Committee markup more than an hour late, without notice to the Minority. Then you allowed Mr. Jordan to offer an amendment to a resolution of inquiry that was patently non-germane—and then you stood out of view of the cameras, in the hallway just off the hearing room, while the Majority voted to overturn the ruling of their own Chair that the amendment was not germane.

“On Wednesday, you dropped all Committee business to interview Peter Strzok, who had already volunteered to come in for an interview before you threatened him with a subpoena.

“Today, we meet so that the Majority can criticize the Deputy Attorney General to his face, largely about documents that you know he cannot produce. We will take a break so that we can go to the floor and vote on a so-called “resolution of insistence” based on the Jordan amendment from earlier this week—a measure that is without precedent, without the force of law, and clearly a pretext for a move against Mr. Rosenstein that the Majority already has planned.

“And what is the great emergency that justifies this last-minute hearing? Why has the Majority abandoned the rules and traditions that govern civility in the House? The tired story of Hillary Clinton’s emails, of course, plus a few conspiracy theories about the Special Counsel.

“When President Trump and his Administration were actively separating families at the border—ripping children out of the arms of their parents, and causing untold suffering to thousands of families—that did not merit an emergency hearing.

“And now that thousands of children are still separated from their parents, with no clear plan from this Administration for reuniting these families, where is the emergency hearing on that issue?

“We know that Russia, after successfully interfering with the 2016 elections, is actively working to disrupt the upcoming elections as well. The former National Security Advisor testified that our intelligence agencies have received no instructions from the White House to protect the integrity of our election system. Have we scheduled an emergency hearing on that issue?

“For that matter, have we conducted any oversight at all on election security; on the family separation crisis; on the Administration’s failure to protect Dreamers; on the Justice Department’s radical decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act; on the Supreme Court’s recent decisions to undermine voting rights and workers’ rights; on the President’s ongoing conflicts of interest and violations of the Emoluments Clause; or on the myriad other pressing issues within our Committee’s jurisdiction? No, as with so many issues, this Committee has stayed silent.

“But on Hillary Clinton’s emails? Sound the alarms.

“Despite an Inspector General’s report that, in more than 500 exhaustive pages, demonstrates conclusively that the outcome of the Clinton investigation was not affected by any improper bias, political or otherwise, we are wasting precious Committee time to chase Hillary Clinton.

“The Republicans seems desperate to prove that there was some sort of pro-Clinton and anti-Trump conspiracy within the FBI when, in fact, the overwhelming evidence shows exactly the opposite. Virtually every action criticized in the Inspector General’s report—Director Comey’s July announcement, his disparate treatment of the Clinton and Trump investigations, and his October decision to announce the discovery of additional emails—ultimately harmed the candidacy of Secretary Clinton, and inured to the benefit of Donald Trump.

“But I guess we shouldn’t let facts stand in the way of a good manufactured emergency.

“According to the Republican memo for today’s hearing, today is also an opportunity for Members to consider “the Justice Department’s compliance with the committee’s March 22 subpoena,” a subpoena that was not issued in compliance with House Rules and, therefore, cannot be enforced.

“Even if it were a properly issued subpoena, the fight over document production seems to have boiled down to certain documents that the Republicans know the Department of Justice cannot turn over—much of it evidence related to an ongoing criminal investigation, the scoping documents outlining specific lines of inquiry in an ongoing criminal investigation, and the identities of confidential human sources still working undercover in the field.

“And that, of course, is the whole point. As part of their coordinated and determined effort to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation, Republicans are requesting documents they know they cannot have.

“If they somehow find themselves in possession of sensitive documents that go to the core of the Special Counsel’s investigation, and if past practice holds, those documents will end up in the possession of the subject of the investigation—namely, President Trump.

“And if the Majority is rightly denied, they will do their best to undermine the credibility of the Department of Justice, the credibility of the Deputy Attorney General—and, by extension, the credibility of the Special Counsel.

“They will likely try to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt. Some have even threatened him with impeachment. They may argue that he must be removed his oversight role over the Special Counsel’s investigation.

“This is an investigation, I might remind my Republican colleagues, that has already yielded five guilty pleas, and that has led to the indictment of 20 people so far. The President and some of his closest advisors are under investigation for having participated in a criminal conspiracy with a foreign power against the United States.

“That is an emergency.

“The President practically confessed to Lester Holt on television that he obstructed the investigation into that conspiracy when he said that he fired former FBI Director Comey because of “this Russia stuff, with Trump and Russia.”

“That is an emergency.

“But is that the subject of today’s emergency hearing? No. Or of any emergency hearing? No it is not.

“I know that this has been a hard week for the Majority. I know that it must be tempting to change the subject and rally the base with cries of “lock her up!”

“But we do not have the luxury of hiding or voting present at this critical juncture in our democracy.

“We cannot hide from our responsibilities. We cannot hide from our obligation to conduct oversight of a corrupt Administration. We cannot hide from our constitutional duty to protect our elections from foreign interference, or to stand up for the rules, and for our democratic institutions, and for the rule of law.

“I ask my colleagues to consider this question as we proceed: when the Special Counsel’s work is complete, when the enormity of what he finds has been laid bare, how will the American people judge your actions today?

“I yield back the balance of my time.”