August 05, 2020

Feinstein Remarks at Sally Yates Hearing

            Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today gave the following opening remarks at a committee hearing into Russian interference in the 2016 elections:

            “Today is the second hearing in the chairman’s examination of “Crossfire Hurricane” – that’s the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference and ties to the Trump campaign.

            Inspector General Horowitz confirmed after a 19-month investigation, the FBI had a legitimate basis to investigate whether the Trump campaign was involved in Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. 

            Specifically, in late July 2016, Australian officials informed the FBI that Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos had advance knowledge that Russia was willing to “assist the [Trump] campaign” by anonymously releasing “dirt” on Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” 

            The FBI learned this one week after WikiLeaks had released 20,000 emails that Russia had hacked from the computers of the Democratic National Committee. 

            Given the circumstances, it was essential that the FBI investigate. As today’s witness – former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates – has said, Russia’s attack on our election “required both an investigation and a response.” 

            And as Inspector General Horowitz confirmed, the opening of the investigation had nothing to do with reporting from Christopher Steele (the so-called “Steele Dossier”). 

            That counterintelligence investigation – “Crossfire Hurricane” – eventually became the “Mueller investigation.”  And former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently confirmed to this committee that the Steele Dossier had nothing to do with the Mueller investigation either. 

            Mueller’s investigation detailed “sweeping and systematic” Russian interference in the 2016 election. The special counsel determined that the Russian government “perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome.” 

            The Mueller investigation uncovered more than 120 contacts between the Trump campaign and individuals linked to Russia, revealing that the Trump campaign knew about, welcomed, and “expected it would benefit electorally” from Russia’s interference. 

            The investigation also established that individuals associated with the Trump campaign repeatedly lied to Congress, the special counsel, and the American people to conceal their contacts with Russia.  

            We also disagree with President Trump and his allies’ claims about Michael Flynn – namely, that Obama officials, including Vice President Biden, unfairly targeted Flynn in order to undermine Trump’s presidency.

            The facts are well known and not in dispute, but let me review them: 

  • In late December 2016, President Obama imposed sanctions to punish Russia for its unprecedented attack on our democracy.  
  • That same day, Flynn spoke several times with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.  Transcripts of the calls reveal that Flynn urged Russia not to escalate matters, but to respond to U.S. sanctions in a “reciprocal” or “even-keeled” manner.

            Flynn did not express disapproval for Russia’s interference in the election.  Instead, he sent a clear message that the incoming administration was not interested in holding Russia accountable – a message that undermined U.S. policy. 

            When Flynn was interviewed about his conversations with Kislyak as part of “Crossfire Hurricane,” he did not tell the truth. 

            He was charged by Special Counsel Mueller and pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI.  He stated in court, under oath, that his actions “were wrong” and that he “accept[ed] full responsibility for” them.  

            Despite Flynn’s guilty pleas, this May Attorney General Barr intervened to dismiss the case, over the objection of career prosecutors.

            Flynn was not treated unfairly.  In fact, it appears that he was granted favorable treatment by having the Justice Department seek to dismiss his case even after he admitted guilt and took responsibility for his actions. 

            I believe this sends the wrong message. It signals that it is acceptable to lie to the FBI and it raises legitimate questions about whether an ally of the president received special treatment.

            Given her involvement in the early stages of Mr. Flynn’s case, I hope that our witness today – former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates – can shed additional light on why the Flynn investigation and charges were warranted. 

            Let me just say this. The real question isn’t whether the Logan Act was is violated, the question is whether Flynn was acting on his own without the president elect’s knowledge or permission. If so that was a counterintelligence problem. 

            If, however, the incoming president did know that Flynn was talking to Kislyak, asking Russia not to overreact to U.S. sanctions and suggesting that the incoming administration would not hold Russia accountable, then why was the incoming president not interested in holding Russia accountable for interfering in the 2016 election.

            I hope that we will use the investigation’s findings to harden our defenses, including addressing Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2020 election and the president’s unwillingness to denounce foreign interference.” 

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