Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senate Judiciary Committee
“Oversight of the Department of Justice”
General Sessions, welcome. Thank you for being here for this oversight
is just one of the critical functions and constitutional responsibilities for
the legislative branch. It’s an opportunity for Congress to investigate
and question the policies and actions of the executive branch. It’s an
opportunity for the executive branch to take responsibility for
them. And it’s an opportunity for Congress to defend its
constitutional powers and to check any abuses by an over-reaching executive
have complained that you weren’t up here earlier. I thought you should
have your team in place before appearing before us. Certainly, Attorney
General Holder and Attorney General Lynch did have their respective teams well
in place by the time they appeared here. The other side has been blocking
executive nominations for the past ten months, significantly delaying DOJ’s
ability to get management in place and things in order.
Department of Justice is an incredibly important part of our executive
branch. DOJ is charged with enforcing the law and ensuring the public
safety against foreign and domestic threats. Our citizens look to the
Department of Justice to provide federal leadership in preventing and
controlling crime. We rely on the Department to seek just punishment for
those guilty of unlawful behavior and to ensure the fair and impartial
administration of justice for all Americans.
currently faces many difficult issues. First, our country is challenged
with the ever-growing threat of foreign and home-grown terrorism. We’ve
seen terrorist incidents evolving around the world, especially impacting our
friends in Europe.
the U.K. alone, there have been at least a half dozen major terrorist incidents
in the past 9 months, including a subway bombing in London, injuring 30 people;
a van plowing down pedestrians on London Bridge, injuring 48 and killing 8
people; the Manchester concert bombing in which 22 people were killed; and the
attack on British Parliament in London, killing 4, including Kurt Cochran of
at home, we had the San Bernadino shooting, where terrorists killed 14 and
injured 22; the Orlando nightclub shooting, where 49 were killed and 53
wounded; a terrorist stabbed 10 people at a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota;
several bombs planted in New Jersey and New York, and blew up in Manhattan,
injured 31; a terrorist injured 13 after driving into and trying to stab
students and teachers at Ohio State University.
attacks show the threats are real and we must protect our country by lawful
means. Congress has tried to do so by providing lawful authorities such
as Section 702 of the FISA Amendment Act.
passed the legislation and President Bush signed it into law in 2008.
After more debate and President Obama’s support, Congress reauthorized
the law in 2012 unchanged. The law is again up for reauthorization.
702 is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. It’s up to Congress to
reauthorize this important national security tool, while preserving privacy and
civil liberties and increasing transparency for the American public. I am
interested in hearing your thoughts on this important legislation.
September, the FBI released its annual crime data. For the second year in
a row, violent crime increased across the United States. Homicides
increased by 8.6%. Cities like Baltimore, Chicago, and Kansas City,
Missouri have seen massive increases in their homicide rates. Baltimore
is on pace to top the number of homicides in New York City, with a population
of almost 8 million less people. Staggering.
this country continues to be mired in a national epidemic of overdose deaths
and abuse of opioid drugs. Over 47,000 Americans died from drug overdoses
in 2014, which was an all-time high. Incredibly, that number rose to
50,000 in 2015; and then in 2016 it jumped even higher to 64,000 people.
was all during the Obama administration, but I want to know what the Department
of Justice is doing to reduce violent crime to help ensure that the citizens
around this country feel safe in their communities.
also want to find out what DOJ is doing to combat the opioid crisis. As
you know, I care deeply about this issue. The abuse of prescription pain
killers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl are destroying lives
and communities across Iowa. I know that other parts of the country have
been hit even harder.
co-sponsored the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or “CARA,” which I
helped pass through this Committee and was signed into law in 2016. CARA
addresses the opioid crisis in a comprehensive way, by authorizing almost $900
million over five years for prevention, education, treatment, recovery, and law
this past weekend reports suggested that Congress gave a pass to big drug
companies making prescription opioids by enacting the “Ensuring Patient Access
and Effective Drug Enforcement Act” in 2016. DOJ and DEA signed off on
this bill. Now former DEA employees are railing against the law and
pointing fingers at lawmakers. If DEA had problems with this bill, they
should have warned Congress. They didn’t. The Obama Administration
actually provided language for the bill and signed it into law. I'm planning to
have an oversight hearing that will include your department to see what if
anything needs changing.
October 1, this country suffered through the deadliest mass shooting in modern
American history. Stephen Paddock killed 58 people in Las Vegas. He
sprayed bullets from a hotel room on a crowd gathered for a country music
festival in Las Vegas. During last week’s recess, ATF briefed Judiciary staff
on “bump stocks.” We’ll be looking more at that issue.
September, the President announced a wind-down of Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals program, known as DACA, with a six-month delay for current recipients.
office received preliminary data showing 2,021 individuals who had their DACA
status terminated for criminal and gang related activity. We want to know
who these criminals are, what kinds of crimes they’re committing and what gangs
you announced earlier this year DOJ’s recommitment to criminal immigration
enforcement. 50 more immigration judges were supposed to be added to the
bench this year, and 75 more in 2018. We need to know what steps DOJ has taken
and what still needs to be done to reduce immigration court backlogs.
is another issue that I want to address that came up in the news just
yesterday. In June 2015 and again last week, I wrote to the Justice
Department about Russia's acquisition of Uranium One which was approved during
the Obama administration. That transaction resulted in the Russians
owning 20 percent of America’s uranium mining capacity.
turns out that during the transaction, the Justice Department had an ongoing
criminal investigation for bribery, extortion, and money laundering into
officials for the Russian company making that purchase. Russians involved
in the conspiracy were reportedly coordinating with high level officials, close
to Vladimir Putin.
all of this was going on, the Clinton Foundation reportedly received millions
of dollars from interested parties in the transaction. Then-Secretary
Clinton’s State Department was one of the agencies that gave a thumbs up to the
take-over. Somehow, despite all this, the Obama administration approved
my letter, I asked the agencies involved in approving the transaction if they
were aware of the criminal probe and the intelligence operation examining
Russian activity. This committee has an obligation to get to the bottom
of this issue.
Committee is also waiting for responses to 10 oversight letters sent to the DOJ
on matters from which the Attorney General is not recused. There are more
letters that haven’t been answered. The letters date back to January
2016. I expect these letters will be answered.
also want to ask you about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
It was an important moment for the Department of Justice and for this
country. The American people have a right to know why he was fired,
especially in the midst of so many high-profile issues, including the
investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.
you Attorney General Sessions for your participation in this important hearing,
and for your continued service to the country.