Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Grassley on Investigation Transparency: Let's be Consistent

Apr 08, 2019
Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
United States Senate
Double Standards in Trump and Clinton Investigations
April 8, 2019
 
Mr. President,
 
After years of hearing Democrats falsely proclaim that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, Special Counsel Mueller found no collusion existed.
 
The fact that there was no collusion is a very positive development for not just the administration but the entire country. However, it does seem that the real collusion occurred with the Democrats. It was the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee that hired Fusion GPS to do opposition research against candidate Trump.
 
Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, a former British Intelligence Officer, to compile the “Steele Dossier” that reportedly used Russian government sources for information.
 
You see, it was the Clinton campaign and DNC that funded the document that largely created the collusion narrative. A narrative that’s been deemed false. And that’s the irony here. The Democrats paid for a document created by a foreign national with reported Russian government sources. Not Trump. The Democrats.
 
But, apparently it’s not over yet. Or so the Democrats will tell you. Their next step is to subpoena the entire Mueller report.
 
Well, I agree that Congress and the public should see that information and it sounds like the President agrees, too. The Attorney General has already said on multiple occasions that he’s going to release as much information as he can, as soon as he can. And it looks like Congress and likely the public will get the Mueller report in April sometime.
 
But, Democrats have requested more than just the report. They’ve asked the Justice Department to also produce the Mueller report’s underlying evidence, including all intelligence-related information.
 
I agree with the need to see as much information as possible. In fact, I’ve cosponsored a bill that would do just that. But, the Democrats’ fury over Mueller’s findings and their inconsistent positions makes me think all of this is more about politics than principle. After all, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee opposed the public release of this type of information in the 1990s.
 
To guard against that political gamesmanship, there’s only one legitimate way to do this: let’s see all the documents. And by “all” I mean we should see every single piece of evidence—including evidence connected to how the Russia investigation started. That should be an easy ask. You know why? I’ve already requested that information.
 
For example, I’ve requested documents related to Steele, his dossier, and campaign-related FISA applications. These documents relate to actions taken by James Comey, Peter Strzok, and Bruce Ohr, and are critical to Congress fully understanding the creation of the Russia investigation. If Congress is going to review the Mueller report and all underlying information, it should be able to review information relating to how the Russia investigation started.
 
So, will the Democrats join my request?
 
Furthermore, to be consistent, we shouldn’t stop at the Russia investigation. The Democrats want all the Mueller information but are turning a blind eye to other investigations where Congress, and the public, have yet to see it all. Again, that leads me to believe their request for Mueller-related documents is a political ploy.
 
Take, for example, the Clinton investigation. Will Democrats ask the Justice Department for all the underlying information relating to the Hillary Clinton investigation?
 
As I’ve written about publicly before, the Justice Department Inspector General produced to Congress a highly classified document relating to the Clinton investigation. That document makes clear the Justice Department and FBI still ought to produce information to Congress and answer more questions.
 
For example, the unclassified version of the Inspector General’s report provides important context about the classified report:
 
“The FBI had considered obtaining permission from the Department to review certain classified materials that may have included information potentially relevant to the Midyear investigation. Although the Midyear team drafted a memorandum to the Deputy Attorney General in late May 2016 stating that review of the highly classified materials was necessary to complete the investigation and requesting permission to access them, the FBI never sent this request to the Department.”
 
So, the Inspector General found four important things according to the unclassified report:
 
  1. The FBI apparently had highly classified information potentially relevant to the Clinton investigation in its possession.
  2. The FBI drafted a memo to get access to the information.
  3. That memo said review of the information was necessary to complete the investigation.
  4. That memo was never sent.
 
Years later, when the Inspector General interviewed the FBI agents, they said they didn’t seek access to the information because they didn’t think it would materially impact the conclusion. How could they conclude that if they never got access to the information?
 
In May of 2016 the memo was “necessary to complete the investigation” and then years later it wasn’t. That’s materially inconsistent and makes no sense.
 
Moreover, look at the month the memo was drafted: May 2016. That’s the same month Comey began writing his statement exonerating Hillary Clinton, which was months before the FBI interviewed her. Did Comey’s actions have a trickle-down effect on his subordinates, causing them to kill the memo and pull their punches? We ought to find out.
 
To my colleagues, it sounds like the FBI left a potential mountain of evidence unreviewed. How can you complete an investigation without reviewing all the evidence relevant to the investigation? The American people have every right to question how this investigation was handled and they deserve answers.
 
Assuming President Trump has read the classified Inspector General report, he would understand the importance of the Justice Department responding to my inquiries about it. I’ve written to the Justice Department and other agencies seeking those answers. Will the Democrats join my request?
 
Here’s another example: Uranium One. I’ve been pushing for years for more answers about this transaction that allowed the Russian government to acquire U.S. uranium assets. I’ve received classified and unclassified briefings about it from multiple agencies. And I’ve identified some FBI intelligence reports that may shed more light on the transaction.
 
Just the other week, my staff were told that the Attorney General has refused to provide access to those documents. Well, if the Democrats demand intelligence-related information from the Justice Department regarding the Mueller report, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do the same for Uranium One. And if the Justice Department provides that information about the Mueller report, well, there’s no reason why they should withhold the Uranium One material.
 
If the Democrats want to be consistent, they’ll have to treat the Clinton, Uranium One, and Russia-related investigations the same. Anything less than that reeks of political gamesmanship and sets a clear double standard.
 
And that double standard also extends to the position the Democrats have taken with respect to obstruction. We know that Mueller did not conclude that the President committed a crime and neither did the Attorney General. Still, Democrats want to make the case that Trump obstructed justice, even though the Justice Department said otherwise.
 
With no evidence, the Democrats have accused the Attorney General of bias. But Mr. Barr evaluated this matter in close consultation with the Deputy Attorney General—the person who appointed Mueller in the first place.
 
The Democrats are looking for absolutely anything they can to make a case, when there is no case. But they, and the Obama Justice Department, didn’t bat an eye when Clinton’s associates deleted records subject to congressional subpoena and preservation orders.
 
In March of 2015, Secretary Clinton’s attorneys had a conference call with Paul Combetta, the man who helped manage Clinton’s non-government server. After that call, he deleted Clinton’s emails with BleachBit, a software program designed to prevent forensic recovery. I’ve seen no evidence that anyone has even speculated that the President ever did that or instructed anyone to go that far.
 
What also troubles me about one aspect of the Clinton investigation is that the FBI agreed to limit the scope of review to her time as Secretary of State. That eliminated potentially highly relevant emails before and after her tenure that could have shed light on why she operated the non-government server. It also eliminated emails around the time of that conference call that could have shown what exactly was intended in deleting those emails.
 
Why’d the DOJ and FBI pull their punches? Mueller sure didn’t pull his. He extended his scope of investigation well-beyond allegations of collusion which turned out to be false.
 
And lastly, the FBI agreed to destroy records and laptops of Clinton’s associates after reviewing them. That’s an astonishing agreement in light of the fact those records could have been relevant to ongoing congressional inquiries that the FBI knew about.
 
Where were the Democrats when all of that happened? Where was their outrage at the potential obstruction of justice and obstruction of congressional oversight?
 
Seems to me that if the Democrats want to be consistent they’ll have to address what was done – and what was totally ignored – in the Clinton investigation.
 
Let’s also not forget about the prosecutorial double standard. Secretary Clinton and her associates mishandled highly classified information. The law makes grossly negligent mishandling of classified information a criminal offense. Comey did not recommend prosecution because it was not historically done under that law unless intent was present.
 
So, not only did he and the Justice Department read “intent” into the statute, they made a judgment call based upon how many times someone had been charged under the law.
 
Well, the same thing could be said of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lying to Congress. Each have had minimal prosecutions.
 
Between 1966 and 2015, the Justice Department only brought seven criminal FARA cases. One resulted in a conviction and two pled guilty. The rest pled to other charges or they were dismissed. All of that changed with Mueller. Unlike Comey, Mueller didn’t seem to think historical precedent was all that important.
 
Some have said that Mueller has made FARA a law to pay attention to. The same with 18 U.S.C. 1001, which covers lying to federal agents and Congress. Recently, the Justice Department has said it’s transitioning “from treating FARA as an administrative obligation and regulatory obligation to one that is increasingly an enforcement priority.”
 
That’s a good shift. I’ve engaged in FARA oversight since April 2015. I also held a FARA oversight hearing in July 2017 and introduced the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act to shore up the law. I want to see FARA properly enforced. And I’m glad the Justice Department suddenly seems to care whether someone lied to Congress.
 
But I want to see equal enforcement. Not just with FARA, but with all laws. I’ve said it before, the law must be applied equally without regard to power, party, or privilege. That approach prevents inconsistent application and avoids double standards.
 
So, when the Democrats ask for material relating to the Russia investigation – I say fine – let’s do this. However, that means they ought to be consistent with other investigations. And the Justice Department has to be as well. Anything less is a double standard. And I’ll tell you right now, the Democrat’s obsession with bringing Trump down is nothing but a double standard if they’re going to ignore other investigations of national importance.
 
If you want to be taken seriously in this country, you have to be consistent.
 
My attitude and approach is straightforward and nonpartisan. Let’s see it all. Clinton, Uranium One, Russia. All of it. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
 
To my colleagues in the Democrat party, are you afraid to be consistent? Are you afraid of what might be found? Let’s work to make sure the American people have as much information as possible about all of these investigations. After all, they’re paying for the work. Don’t forget that.
 
I yield the floor.
 
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