Grassley Lifts Hold on Evanina Nomination
May 04, 2020
Statement for the Record by Senator Charles E. Grassley
Before the United States Senate
On the Nomiation fo Willaim Evanina to be Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center
May 4, 2020
Mr. President, since June of 2018, I have objected to the nomination of William R. Evanina to be Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center (PN192). Today, due to the recent actions by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Attorney General to finally respond to my very longstanding oversight requests, I withdraw my objection to Mr. Evanina’s nomination.
When I noticed my intention to object to this nominee in June of 2018, I made it very clear to the public and to the administration my reasons for doing so. I did not question Mr. Evanina’s credentials in any way, and I put my statement of those reasons in the Record. I have done that consistently, not only since the rules of the Senate first required every Member to do that but even before that rule was put in place.
At the time, I experienced difficulties obtaining relevant documents and briefings from the Justice Department and ODNI related to the 2016 election controversies. On several occasions, then-Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Rod Rosenstein personally assured me that the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which I was Chairman, would receive equal access to information provided to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) with regard to any concessions in its negotiations regarding pending subpoenas from that Committee. However, I, and the Judiciary Committee, never received equal access from DAG Rosenstein.
For example, on August 7, 2018, I wrote to the Justice Department and pointed out that the House Intelligence Committee had received documents related to Bruce Ohr that the Judiciary Committee had not received. The Department initially denied those records had been provided to the House Intelligence Committee. After my staff confronted the Department, we eventually received some Bruce Ohr documents. In that same 2018 letter, I also asked for other documents based on my equal access agreement with DAG Rosenstein.
I then learned that the Justice Department took the position that then-ODNI Director Dan Coats prohibited the Department from sharing the requested records with the Committee. Needless to say, it was your typical bureaucratic blame-game.
Then, some personnel changes took place. I voiced my concerns to Acting Director Grenell and Attorney General Barr. Recently, thanks to their commitment to transparency, I have received access to the types of documents that I asked for almost two years ago in June 2018. Moreover, both Acting Director Grenell and Attorney General Barr have gone multiple steps further by declassifying much of the information that I had sought access to. Credit should be given when it is due and Acting Director Grenell and Attorney General Barr deserve that credit here today.
If their predecessors had simply respected legitimate congressional oversight and their agreements with me and the Judiciary Committee from the beginning, Mr. Evanina would have been confirmed long ago.
Now, I also want to remind everyone, especially future administrations, that the Senate Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction extends to the Intelligence Community. In the authorizing resolution that created the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate explicitly reserved for other standing committees, such as the Senate Judiciary Committee, independent authority to “study and review any intelligence activity” and “to obtain full and prompt access to the product of the intelligence activities of any department or agency” when such activity “directly affects a matter otherwise within the jurisdiction of such committee” (S. Res. 400). The Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over all federal courts, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). As I understand it, the records at issue here fall into that category.
Let this also be a reminder that when it comes to congressional oversight, I will use all the tools at my disposal to get to the truth of the matter and get access to the records that I believe are necessary to advance my investigations. The Executive Branch must recognize that it has an ongoing obligation to respond to Congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner. As I’ve said many times before, transparency brings accountability and congressional oversight helps to bring about the sunlight necessary for that to happen.