May 16, 2018

Grassley: Minority Leader Misinformed on Committee's Trump Tower Meeting Inquiry

Prepared Senate Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On the Minority Leader’s Comments about the Judiciary Committee’s Trump Tower Meeting Inquiry
May 16, 2018
 
I come to the floor to respond to the false statements made by the Minority Leader this morning. He criticized the Judiciary Committee’s release this morning of about 2,500 pages of information about that infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr.
 
First, he mischaracterized the release as solely a Republican move.
 
That is absolutely false.
 
This release was done with the support of the Ranking Minority Member. On January 25, 2018, at the Committee meeting where I announced my desire to release the transcripts, she publicly supported the decision.
 
She said, “I’m delighted.”
 
She said she had, “no disagreement.”
 
She said, “I am very grateful for your decision to proceed.”
 
Second, he accused me of “deciding not to interview” two participants in the meeting.
 
That is absolutely false.
 
I would like to have interviewed both Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner.
 
An interview with Mr. Manafort was scheduled the day before he was raided by the FBI last summer. We, meaning Senator Feinstein and this senator, had subpoenaed Mr. Manafort for a Committee hearing set for July 26, 2017. Mr. Manafort instead offered to appear voluntarily for a staff interview the day before the hearing, and the Ranking Member asked me to withdraw the subpoena. Then the FBI raided his home and Mr. Manafort indicated he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights and decline to answer the Committee’s questions.
 
However, we did review the transcript of his earlier interview with the Intelligence Committee.
The Ranking Member refused to participate in a voluntary interview when we had the chance. She said Democrats on the Committee objected that the scope would be focused on the Trump Tower meeting. For all I know, the Minority Leader’s office objected too, but political leadership should not be dictating bipartisan committee oversight.
 
Mr. Kushner refused to participate in a voluntary interview after the Ranking Member unilaterally and prematurely released another witness transcript. There was no consultation with me at all. That’s the opposite of how I handled this morning’s transcript release.
 
Mr. Kushner’s attorney demanded promises of confidentiality that we could not provide. Transparency is too important to keep all of this information under wraps. We could keep it all secret for many more months while we fight over trying to force people to testify against their will. But, we decided to put out the voluntary testimony now, for the sake of transparency. And, the Ranking Member supported that decision.
 
Third, the Minority leader claimed that the release of this information was motivated by Republican’s desire to “let the President and his lawyers interfere with the Mueller probe and get a peek at any potential evidence.”
 
That is absolutely false.
 
Again, the Democrats on the committee did not object to the release and the Ranking Member affirmatively supported it. She and her staff were fully consulted and worked cooperatively with us in preparing the release. So, the claim that there was some secret plan to help one side or the other in the Mueller probe is absurd. My only motivation was the same as the Ranking Member’s: transparency for the American people on this controversy.
 
Fourth, the Minority Leader claimed that “Republicans are rushing to declare their investigation complete.”
 
That is absolutely false.
 
The Minority Leader should not try to put words in my mouth. I didn’t say that. Anyone who knows me knows that oversight is never done. It’s a core constitutional duty. Now, as to the Trump Tower meeting, Congress has learned as much as we are likely to learn, unless some new information comes to light.
 
That may happen. Other committees, the press, and the Special Counsel are all over it as well. There is no lack of scrutiny. But there is a lack of transparency. And these 2,500 pages or so do more to give the public a picture of what happened than anything anyone else has done.
 
I’d just ask my friend, the Minority Leader: What have you done to answer the questions our constituents may have had about that Trump Tower meeting? What good faith efforts have you undertaken to give the American people transparency about the investigations relating to both presidential contenders in 2016?  Have you done anything to support or assist Republicans to get to the bottom of questions that concern them and their constituents back home?
 
The answer is: Nothing. Absolutely nothing but speculation and frenzy.
 
It’s nothing but pure political frustration for losing the presidential election in 2016. It also fundamentally misunderstands the role of congressional oversight and investigation.
 
We don’t prosecute crimes.
 
We can’t indict suspected criminals.
 
Our job is to act as a check on the executive branch.
 
Do you know who has not come to sit for long, transcribed interviews before the Judiciary Committee staff? Current or former DOJ or FBI officials.
 
Not a single one.
 
That’s our job, to oversee the Justice Department and the FBI. But, Judiciary Committee Democrats have not been supportive or interested in questioning those officials.
 
The Minority Leader seems to believe it’s our job to waste taxpayer dollars, retreading the special counsel’s investigation or duplicating the Intelligence Committee’s work so he can bludgeon his political opponents.
 
Well, that’s not my job. I’m going to focus on our Constitutional duty to act as a check on the Executive Branch. I’m going to keep digging and keep fighting for answers from the Justice Department and from the FBI.
 
We’ll be having a hearing on the controversies in 2016 that undermined American’s faith in the objectivity of these vital institutions.
 
I have great faith in the Inspector General appointed by President Obama and the nonpartisan office he leads. As soon as the Inspector General’s report is out, we will learn a lot more about what happened before and during the election from an independent and objective source. And, we will follow-up.
 
The Minority Leader was right about one thing, when he said: “There is much left to investigate. Many witnesses still to be heard.” So, no: this is not over.
 

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