Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley on Evanina: I Won’t Release My Hold until the Justice Department Upholds Promise of Equal Access

Mar 28, 2019
Statement of Senator Charles E. Grassley
Before the United States Senate
William Evanina Hold and Congressional Oversight
March 28, 2019
 
 

 
Mr. President,
 
In the last week or so, I’ve heard questions about my intent to object to the nomination of William Evanina. These are the same questions I heard last year when I initially placed my hold on Mr. Evanina.
 
This statement will be the fourth time since June 4, 2018, that I’ve publicly expressed my reasons for the hold on the Senate floor. Seems to me no one has been listening to what I’ve been saying.
 
As I’ve said repeatedly, the Judiciary Committee has experienced difficulty in obtaining relevant documents and briefings from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein personally assured me that the Senate Judiciary Committee would receive equal access to information provided to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence with regard to negotiations about pending subpoenas from that Committee related to 2016 election controversies. 
 
I haven’t received equal access as promised.
 
On August 7, 2018, I wrote to the Justice Department and pointed out that the House Intelligence Committee received documents related to Bruce Ohr on May 8, 2018, that we didn’t receive. Without objection, I’d like to insert that letter into the record.
 
The Department flat out denied that those records had been provided to the House Intelligence Committee. After my staff confronted the Department, we eventually received some of the documents. There’s no reason for the stonewalling and lack of cooperation.  None at all. 
 
An agreement is an agreement and the Department needs to comply.  Plain and simple.
 
In that August 2018 letter, I asked for additional documents based on my equal access agreement with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. To date, the Department hasn’t provided a response.
 
I later learned that the Justice Department has taken the position that Director Coats has prohibited them from sharing the requested records with the Committee.
 
Then, in addition to the outstanding records request, in May 2018, the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department provided a briefing in connection with a pending House Intel subpoena to which no Senate Judiciary Committee member was invited. 
 
The Judiciary Committee’s attempts to schedule an equivalent briefing have been ignored.
 
The lack of cooperation has forced my hand. 
 
Congressional oversight is a constitutional requirement. It seems with every administration, Republican or Democrat, I’m forced to remind them of that constitutional responsibility. And that responsibility cuts both ways.
 
The executive branch can’t hide documents from one congressional committee, especially one which clearly has oversight jurisdiction over the matter, and provide the very same documents to another.
 
In this case, my colleagues on the Senate Intelligence Committee have received these documents. I don’t blame them at all.  I say to them, full speed ahead with whatever you need to do.
 
However, that doesn’t mean this Senator will stand down. Quite the opposite.  I will fight until I get what’s been promised to me and the Judiciary Committee.
 
I think it’s worthy to note that the authorizing resolution that created the Senate Intel Committee made clear that other committees still have authority to review intelligence documents.
 
For example, Senate Resolution 400 explicitly reserves for other standing committees, such as the Judiciary Committee, independent authority to “study and review any intelligence activity to the extent that such activity directly affects a matter otherwise within the jurisdiction of such committee” and “to obtain full and prompt access to the product of the intelligence activities of any department or agency” within that jurisdiction. 
 
The information I seek is connected to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. That court is within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee.
 
Now, to be fair, the Justice Department has provided access to FISA applications and some of the relevant background materials on more than one occasion. One must give credit where credit is due. However, if they’ve provided the Judiciary Committee access to that information, what’s holding them back from showing us the rest? The secrecy doesn’t make much sense. And it’s secrecy that often prevents accountability.
 
 agreement with me and the Judiciary Committee.
 
I’m not questioning Mr. Evanina’s credentials. Director Coats and others have spoken highly of him. The fact of the matter is, if they really do believe in his credentials then they should produce the requested documents.
 
I yield the floor. 
 
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