July 20, 2021

Grassley on an Unresponsive Justice Department

Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
On an Unresponsive Justice Department
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
 
Today, I want to speak to an issue that I’ve raised during the course of multiple Republican and Democratic administrations.
 
That issue is responding to legitimate and valid congressional oversight requests.
 
In my time as a public servant, I’ve seen my fair share of unresponsive government – sometimes downright obstructive government.
 
I’ve seen it rear its ugly head from decade to decade.
 
There’s nothing more eroding of public faith than an unresponsive executive branch that believes it only answers to the president and not the United States Congress and, perhaps most importantly, We the People.
 
Based on my interactions with the Biden administration’s Justice Department and its component agencies, specifically the FBI, the current officials in charge of those agencies are, at best, unresponsive public servants.
 
That goes all the way to the top, to President Biden. Because the buck stops there.
 
As I say to many nominees, either you run the Department or the Department runs you.
 
Right now, it looks like the Justice Department is running Attorney General Garland.
 
And that’s a shame.
 
I voted to confirm the Attorney General. I had high hopes he would follow through on his public statements of ridding the Department of political infection.
 
Instead, I fear he’s taking the Justice Department to new politically-charged heights.
 
To date, I haven’t received a full and complete response to a single oversight request from the Biden Justice Department.
 
As one example, on February 3 of this year and March 9 of this year, Senator Johnson and I asked the Department about Nicholas McQuaid.
 
Mr. McQuaid is the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, of which Mr. Polite will be taking his place upon confirmation.
 
McQuaid was employed by a law firm until January 20, 2021, and worked with Christopher Clark, who Hunter Biden reportedly hired to work on his federal criminal case.
 
This arrangement poses a clear potential conflict.
 
A core function of congressional oversight is to ensure that governmental departments and agencies are free of conflicts of interest.
 
That’s especially so with the Justice Department and FBI. If conflicts infect them, those investigations and prosecutions – the very purpose of the Department’s existence – could be undermined.
 
So, I’ve requested a recusal memo for McQuaid. I’ve also requested to know, as a threshold issue, whether one even exists.
 
Attorney General Garland won’t answer.
 
Can you believe that? Here, we’ve got a federal criminal case that implicates the President’s son and the Attorney General won’t even answer Congress as to whether or not an employee of his Department – who has an apparent conflict – is recused from the matter.
 
It certainly looks like the Garland Justice Department is doing all that it can to protect the president’s son.
 
Let me remind the Attorney General that I was the one that led a transcribed interview with President Trump’s son.
 
For all the grief Trump and his family got from Democrats, at least they showed up and answered the questions.
 
Early on in the Attorney General’s tenure, I instructed my oversight staff to work diligently and in good faith with their counterparts at the Justice Department.
 
My staff have done the phone calls. They’ve had the meetings. They’ve sent the emails. Many of which go unanswered. They’ve done it in good faith.
 
At my level, I’ve made every effort to get the Attorney General on the phone to discuss my oversight requests.
 
It took him two months to get on the phone with me for a one on one call.
 
I found out just the other week that Attorney General Garland’s staff never told him of my request to speak with him.
 
This omission is a dereliction of duty by Department staff to keep something like that from the Attorney General.
 
Like I said, either you run the Department or the Department runs you.
 
This type of unresponsive conduct has consequences. Those consequences might not be immediate.
 
But, eventually, as I’ve seen over the years, ultimately the consequences arrive.
 
The more their government tries to hide from them, the more the American people lose faith in governmental institutions.
 
With such bad government conduct, I don’t blame the people for losing that faith.
 
The fault is with government, not the American people.
 
After all, we work for them. They don’t work for us. It’s sad to say, but many in Washington, D.C., don’t understand that fundamental precept of our constitutional republic.
 
My fellow Senators, this type of conduct from the Biden administration and Justice Department is unacceptable.
 
And it will have long-term consequences for the integrity of our governmental institutions.
 
In light of the Department’s consistent failure to respond to my oversight requests, I will object to ant unanimous consent request that Kenneth Polite be confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division.
 

I do so not on the basis of his credentials. I do so as a message to the Attorney General that he needs to improve.