Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Statement of Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler for the Hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation”





Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Welcome to the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rosenstein. 

For the better part of a year, my colleagues and I have implored this Committee to conduct real oversight of the Department of Justice. 

On January 24, 2017, we wrote to Chairman Goodlatte insisting that “the Committee hold hearings on President Trump’s conflicts of interest, at home and abroad.”  Citing to experts across the political spectrum, we showed that “[t]he Administration’s attempts to address its ongoing conflicts of interest are, so far, wholly inadequate.”  Six weeks later, Attorney General Sessions was forced to recuse himself from the Russia investigation—but we have not held a single hearing on the question of conflicts of interest.

On March 8, we wrote again to the Chairman, encouraging him to call hearings on “Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election.”  Again, no such hearings were ever held.

In fact, this Committee—which during the Obama Administration held half a dozen hearings around Operation Fast & Furious, received testimony from FBI Director James Comey three times in 13 months, and detailed staff and resources to a Benghazi investigation that cost the public almost $8 million—this Committee, from Inauguration Day until four weeks ago, was largely silent in terms of oversight.

We haven’t lifted a finger on election security.  Attorney General Sessions told us on November 14 that he has done nothingto secure the next election from threats at home and abroad. 

We have not once discussed the President’s abuse of the pardon power.  While the hurricane bore down on Houston, President Trump sidelined the Office of the Pardon Attorney to pardon a serial human rights abuser who bragged about running a concentration camp in Arizona. 

And we have not held a single hearing on allegations of obstruction of justice at the White House—not for lack of evidence, but because, in the Chairman’s words, “there is a special counsel in place examining the issue,” and “several other congressional committees are looking into the matter,” and the Committee “does not have the time” to conduct this critical oversight.  I ask my colleagues to keep those excuses in mind.

Now, with the year coming to a close, with the leadership of the Department of Justice finally before us, what do my Republican colleagues want to discuss?  Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Let me repeat that:  With all of these unresolved issues left on our docket, a week before we adjourn for the calendar year, the Majority’s highest oversight priority is Hillary Clinton’s emails and a few related text messages.

As we saw in our recent hearings with the Department of Justice and the FBI, my Republican colleagues seem singularly focused on their call for a second special counsel—and, failing that, on the need to investigate the investigators ourselves.

The White House has now joined the call by House Republicans for a new special counsel to investigate the FBI.  The President’s private lawyers have done the same.  I understand the instinct to want to change the subject after the Flynn and Manafort indictments—but this request is grossly misguided, for a number of reasons.

First, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the special counsel regulations work.  

Some criminal investigations pose a conflict of interest to the Department of Justice.  The Russia investigation is such a case—because of the Attorney General’s ongoing recusal and because Department leadership assisted in the removal of Director Comey, among other reasons.  In cases like these, the Attorney General may use a special counsel to manage the investigation outside of the ordinary chain of command. 

But the key here is the criminal investigation.  That’s what special counsel does.  The Department cannot simply assign a special counsel to look at things that bother the White House.  There has to be enough evidence to have predicated a criminal investigation in the first place.  Then, and only then, if the facts warrant, can a special counsel be assigned to the case.

So far, there has been no credible factual or legal claim that anybody at the Department of Justice violated any law by deciding not to bring charges against Hillary Clinton or by attempting to meet with Fusion GPS.  In other words, there is no investigation to which the Department could even assign a new special counsel. 

Second, the list of grievances raised by the Majority for review by a new special counsel also seems wildly off the mark.

For example, there is nothing unlawful about Director Comey’s sitting down to draft an early statement about the Clinton investigation—nor would it have been unethical to outline his conclusions before the investigation was over, if the clear weight of the evidence pointed in one direction.

Nor is there anything wrong with FBI agents expressing their private political views via private text message, as Peter Strzok and Lisa Page appear to have done in the 375 text messages we received last night.  In fact, Department regulations expressly permit that sort of communication.

I have reviewed those text messages, and I am left with two thoughts. 

First, Peter Strzok did not say anything about Donald Trump that the majority of Americans weren’t also thinking at the same time.  And second, in a testament to his integrity and situational awareness, when the Office of the Inspector General made Mr. Mueller aware of these exchanges, he immediately removed Mr. Strzok from his team.

To the extent that we are now engaged in oversight of political bias at the FBI, this Committee should examine evidence of a coordinated effort by some agents involved in the Clinton investigation to change the course of the campaign in favor of President Trump by leaking sensitive information to the public, and by threatening to leak additional information about new emails after the investigation was closed.

On Monday, Ranking Member Cummings and I sent a letter to the Department asking for additional materials related to these leaks, as well as to claims that these efforts may have been coordinated with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and other senior figures in the Trump campaign.

Third, the President’s call for an investigation of the investigation is, at best, wildly dangerous to our democratic institutions.

On the one hand, the President’s old “lock her up” cheer seems quaint after a couple of guilty pleas by Trump associates.

On the other, as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey—no fan of Hillary Clinton—has said: the President’s continued threats to prosecute his political opponents is “something we don’t do here.”  If the President were to carry out his threat, “it would be like a banana republic.”

Finally, and most important, this investigation into the investigation cannot credibly be a priority for this Committee at this time.

I understand the instinct to want to give cover to the President.  I am fearful that the Majority’s effort to turn the tables on the Special Counsel will get louder and more frantic as the walls close in around the President.  But this Committee has a job to do.

President Trump has engaged in a persistent and dangerous effort to discredit both the free press and the Department of Justice.  These are the agencies and institutions under our jurisdiction.  Every minute that that our Majority wastes on covering for President Trump is a minute lost on finding a solution for the Dreamers, or curbing a vicious spike in hate crimes, or preventing dangerous individuals from purchasing firearms, or stopping the President from further damaging the constitutional order.

I hope my colleagues will use today’s hearing as an opportunity to find their way back to the true work of the House Judiciary Committee.  I thank the Chairman, and yield back the balance of my time.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

NADLER PRAISES BIPARTISAN BILL TO PROTECT RELIGIOUSLY AFFILIATED INSTITUTIONS



Washington, D.C.—This evening, the House passed H.R. 1730, the “Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act,”  by a vote of 402-2.  This bill would extend protections under current federal law for “religious real property.”  Currently, Section 247 of the Federal Criminal Code prohibits both the damaging of religious property because of the property’s religious character and the intentional obstruction — by force or threats of force — of anyone’s exercise of religious beliefs. 

H.R. 1730 would clarify that threats of force against religious property are included in this prohibition.  Additionally, the measure would provide that the damaging or obstructing of such property that results in damages exceeding $5,000 constitutes a felony punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.  Finally, the bill would clarify that real property covered by the statute includes property leased by a non-profit, religiously-affiliated organization.

The importance of this legislation is underscored by the recent upsurge in bomb threats, hate crimes, and vandalism committed against communities of faith.  For instance, more than 150 bomb threats were made against Jewish Community Centers in the first quarter of this year alone.  And, there has been an alarming surge in the number of threats, vandalism, and arson committed against mosques over the past year.

In response to House passage of this bill, Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) stated,

“Recently, our country has been experiencing a surge in hate crimes – including those committed against communities of faith. In 2016, the hate crimes statistics released by the FBI indicate that anti-Semitic hate crimes increased 20% from the prior year. 

“Our country was founded on the principles of religious liberty, and while we may disagree with the religious practices of others, it is never acceptable to use physical obstruction, force, or threats of force to deny others the right to worship. 

“I believe it is not only appropriate but necessary for Congress to strengthen our laws against these types of acts so that no American has to choose between their faith and their safety. And I am pleased that this important bill, which was adopted by the Judiciary Committee, has now been passed by the House of Representatives.”
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Monday, December 11, 2017

NADLER AND CUMMINGS TO JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: “YOUR FAILURE TO TREAT US AS AN EQUAL PARTICIPANT IN THIS INVESTIGATION IS UNACCEPTABLE”


Washington, D.C.—Today, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter, below, to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein expressing concerns about the Department of Justice’s failure to provide documents to Democrats as part of the joint investigation initiated by Chairmen Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy into last year’s review by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“We write concerning the Justice Department’s longstanding commitment to equal treatment of the Minority and Majority in Congress with respect to document production in connection with committee investigations.  We are disappointed that the Department has not honored this tradition with respect to the joint investigation initiated by Chairman Goodlatte and Chairman Gowdy on October 24, 2017. 

“As you know, on November 3, 2017, Chairman Goodlatte and Chairman Gowdy wrote to you to request certain documents related to the FBI’s handling of its investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.   On December 6, 2017, Chairman Goodlatte wrote an additional letter to the Department referencing this investigation and requesting information involving a reported FISA warrant involving Carter Page and relating to Russian interference in the 2016 election.  In between, the Department of Justice appears to have engaged in extensive correspondence with our Majorities, produced 1,100 pages of documents to our committees, and promised to provide 1.2 million additional records to the committees by January 15, 2018
.   

“Unfortunately, we did not learn of your interactions with the Majority until after Chairman Goodlatte mentioned his efforts at last week’s Judiciary Committee hearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray.  Your failure to treat us as an equal participant in this investigation, to simultaneously provide us with copies of that correspondence, or to produce these documents to our offices directly, is unacceptable and inconsistent with House rules,” the Members wrote.

The Ranking Members requested copies of all correspondence with the Majority related to the investigation, as well as any Republican requests for documents related to the investigation. The Ranking Members also requested copies of all documents and communications related to allegations that FBI Agents in the New York office may have leaked information regarding the investigation prior to the November, 2016 presidential election.
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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Day 49.7. Theresa Grafenstine -Did the Awans Do the DHS Hack On MicroPACT


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Day 49.5. Manafort and Awan Surveillance


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Day 49.4. Judge Contreras Recuses - FISA Warrant For PP


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NADLER STATEMENT ON WIKILEAKS DOCUMENTS AND THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN


Today, CNN reports that candidate Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump, Jr., and others inside the Trump Organization received an email in September 2016 offering a decryption key and website address for hacked documents—weeks before WikiLeaks began publishing the contents of those documents online.  Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) of the House Judiciary Committee issued the following statement in response:

“This email is yet another sign that senior Trump campaign officials—including Donald Trump, Jr., and perhaps the President himself—may have accepted assistance and valuable information from the Russian government and its partners.  It is, of course, a crime to participate in a conspiracy to influence an election through the illegal misuse of various computer systems.  It is also a crime for a foreign national to give anything of value to a campaign for federal office.  At the very least, this email shows us that the Trump Campaign understood enough about these stolen documents to have immediately reported a crime to the FBI.  They did not, and now Donald Jr. refuses to answer questions about his extensive back-and-forth with WikiLeaks.

“It is unconscionable that that House Judiciary Republicans want to relitigate long-debunked Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories instead of this direct threat to our election system. This is part of a coordinated effort—spearheaded by the White House—to undermine and discredit individuals and institutions, such as Special Counsel Mueller and the FBI, which are investigating the President and his associates. I once again call on Chairman Goodlatte to begin the committee’s oversight work in this space without delay.”

House Judiciary Democrats have sent more than 20 letters to the Committee and GOP Leadership, and more than 40 letters to the White House and Department of Justice seeking oversight of Trump Administration misconduct, without any meaningful response. It is high time the House Judiciary Republicans join us in investigating obstruction of justice and related charges.

CNN offers correction, rewrite for Wikileaks-Trump story


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