VIDEO: Udall Urges Congressional Action to Protect Investigation into Russian Meddling in the 2016 Election
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall spoke on the Senate floor about the ongoing reports that President Trump is considering firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and urged lawmakers in both parties to back legislation to protect Mueller and allow the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election to proceed unobstructed by Trump or his partisan allies. This is especially urgent, as the CIA has warned that Russia will again attempt to interfere in the election this November.
Udall, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, authored an amendment in July to prevent the unlawful firing of Mueller. The amendment was included on a unanimous voice vote in the fiscal year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies funding bill. Udall’s amendment to the Senate Committee’s report directs the leadership of the U.S. Department of Justice to adhere to the rule of law and fully comply with the department’s special counsel regulations, which clearly state that the attorney general cannot fire Mueller without cause.
“Russia’s cyberattacks, and other potential operations during the 2016 election represented a direct strike at our democracy. I cannot think of a time when our national interest has been so threatened -- and the president of the United States has ignored the threat,” Udall said in his speech. “Not only has this president turned a blind eye to Russia’s interference, but he has done nothing to prevent future attacks. He ignores the threat even though the CIA director says Russia will try to interfere in our elections again. Instead, he has done everything he can to curry favor with Vladimir Putin.”
“Why is the president going to such lengths to fight this investigation? We do not know. But we do know that a foreign power – Russia -- interfered in the last election. And do know the president and his team have had significant business links to Russian financial interests,” Udall continued. “Now is the time for every member of Congress to put the country ahead of politics. Special Counsel Mueller must be able to do his job to follow the facts wherever they may lead and to draw his conclusions. Congress must pass legislation to protect the Special Counsel from being arbitrarily fired -- not serve as the president’s lieutenants in an unprecedented assault on the rule of law.”
The full text of Udall’s floor remarks is below.
Mr. President, I came to the floor to today to talk a little bit about rule of law, and President Trump's approach to what has happened as far as the Mueller investigation. The rule of law has protected our nation’s democracy, institutions, and citizens for over 200 years. It means that no one person is above the law, not one. Not even the President.
But President Trump does not seem to respect the rule of law. He acts as if the law does not apply to him. He believes that he can steer the wheels of justice in whichever direction he wants -- to shield himself from lawful investigation.
This president is willing to risk national security -- to defy the judgment of the FBI director and his team -- and release classified material for his own political purposes. Think about that. The President of the United States just declassified a Top Secret document, and he did it with the clear intent to undermine the investigation into Russian interference in our election. His actions should end any doubt about his willingness to obstruct justice.
After he declassified the Nunes memo, President Trump said, “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves. It’s a disgrace what’s happened in our country.”
This is one of the rare times I’ve agreed with President Trump. It is a disgrace what’s happened in our country, but not for the reasons the president gives. Russia’s cyberattacks, and other potential operations during the 2016 election represented a direct strike at our democracy. I cannot think of a time when our national interest has been so threatened -- and the president of the United States has ignored the threat. Not only has this president turned a blind eye to Russia’s interference, but he has done nothing to prevent future attacks. He ignores the threat even though the CIA director says Russia will try to interfere in our elections again. Instead, he has done everything he can to curry favor with Vladimir Putin.
He should be ashamed of himself. Unfortunately, he has demonstrated time and time again that he is incapable of shame. But he is not alone. Many members of his party should be ashamed for enabling the president to undermine the Special Counsel investigation, for enabling his defamation of career public servants, and for remaining silent in the face of a growing crisis.
The president has made it clear he does not like Special Counsel Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s independence and commitment to the rule of law, and he’s had an eye on getting rid of them for quite a while.
We learned he considered firing them last June, and we have known for many months -- from the president’s own admission -- that he fired FBI Director James Comey to stop the Russia investigation.
These men have dedicated their lives to serving our country. Mr. Mueller served as a federal prosecutor and DOJ lawyer for much of his career and was appointed as FBI Director in 2001 by President Bush.
Mr. Rosenstein is also career federal prosecutor and was appointed as a U.S. Attorney by President George W. Bush.
The president has said many times that “there was no collusion.” If that’s true, why does the president go to such great lengths to undermine the investigation?
The president’s intentions are transparent and dangerous. He fails to accept that Mr. Mueller and Mr. Rosenstein swore an oath to the Constitution. Because they will not pledge their loyalty to him, he is bound and determined to stop the investigation into his potential wrongdoing.
But, the Republican leader has delayed bringing forward bipartisan legislation to protect Mr. Mueller from arbitrary dismissal.
In light of recent events, Congress must act. The Special Counsel needs protection to do his job. He shouldn't have interference from the president and his partisan supporters.
In the Senate Appropriations bill for the Department of Justice, I included language directing DOJ to abide by its current regulations for the Special Counsel, but it is clear we must do more.
During the Watergate investigation, Eugene McCarthy said, “This is the time for all good [people] not to go to the aid of their party, but to come to the aid of their country.”
It is time for all members of Congress to come to the aid of our country, and ensure that Mr. Mueller and his team are able to gather the facts and draw their conclusions – without obstruction.
It is astonishing that President Trump still calls the Russia investigation a “witch hunt.” Our government’s 17 law enforcement and national security agencies all reached the conclusion that Russia actively and concertedly interfered with our presidential election through hacking national party computers, leaking information, and spreading disinformation over media and social media outlets.
The president’s continued refusal to address this threat is unconscionable and betrays our national interest. Mr. Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference is justified by the evidence, and it is imperative.
We also have abundant evidence that the president tried to interfere with the Department of Justice and FBI investigation. The president’s firing of FBI James Comey -- because of “the Russia thing” -- is what landed him a special counsel in the first place. Why did the president want a pledge of personal loyalty from Mr. Comey? And Mr. Rosenstein? Why did he ask Mr. Comey to drop the investigation of Mr. Flynn?
Why is the President so angry at Attorney General Sessions for recusing himself from the investigation? And why did the President need the Attorney General to not recuse to “protect” him?
The evidence of interference with an ongoing investigation is enough reason to investigate. We all remember that President Nixon’s chief transgression was the cover up.
And, despite a constant refrain of denials from the president and his campaign that they didn't have any connections with Russia, there were MANY connections.
- Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his December 22, 2016, conversation with Russian ambassador about relieving U.S. sanctions imposed for Russia’s interference.
-Campaign foreign advisor George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with people connected to the Russian government.
- Former campaign manager Paul Manafort is charged in a federal indictment with acting as a foreign agent for the pro-Russian Ukraine government.
-The president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Mr. Manafort all met with Russian operatives to gather dirt on Hilary Clinton.
- And then the president personally dictated a press statement misrepresenting the nature of the meeting.
These are just a few of the many connections.
Mr. President, I’d like to place into the record a November 13, 2017, article from The Washington Post. It chronicles many of the meetings between Trump campaign officials and Russians during the campaign. If there is no objection.
But neither the compelling evidence justifying investigation – nor Mr. Mueller’s credentials – have stopped the president and his friends in Congress from attacking both.
Representative Nunes nominally recused himself from the Trump collusion investigation in the House Intelligence Committee. But he and his colleagues on the committee have now released a memo based on incomplete and misleading information – with the president’s full backing. This is despite a warning from the FBI against release, and the Speaker will do nothing to rein in him or his committee members.
The president’s attacks on the independence of our nation’s premier law enforcement agency mirror his attacks on our other foundational institutions. He has maligned the judiciary and the press. He attacks and disrespects our foundational principles – separation of powers, freedoms of speech and religion, and equality under the law.
This is in addition to the President’s regular assault on the truth. The Washington Post counted at least 2,000 times where this president departed from the truth in his first year in office.
The White House and its allies in Congress must stop their unsupported attacks on Mr. Mueller and his team. They must let them do their job -- and find the facts. We must ensure the independence of prosecutors – so we can ensure investigations and outcomes are fair and impartial.
Why is the president going to such lengths to fight this investigation? We do not know. But we do know that a foreign power – Russia -- interfered in the last election. And do know the president and his team have had significant business links to Russian financial interests.
And the president’s family business continues today — but does so while concealing his tax returns and keeping their business partners secret. On top of that, the Trump administration has become much more accommodating of Russian interests.
Are these things connected in some way? We need to know. And that’s why the Special Counsel’s investigation is so important.
Now is the time for every member of Congress to put the country ahead of politics. Special Counsel Mueller must be able to do his job to follow the facts wherever they may lead and to draw his conclusions.
Congress must pass legislation to protect the Special Counsel from being arbitrarily fired -- not serve as the president’s lieutenants in an unprecedented assault on the rule of law.
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