05/06/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/06/2019 16:19
Prepared Floor Statement by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Senior Member and Former Chairman, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
On the Mueller Investigation
Monday, May 6, 2019
The taxpayers spent $30 million on the Special Counsel's investigation. Now we know without a doubt that there was no collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia.
For more than two years the Democrats screamed collusion and did so not based on fact but based on rumor, hearsay, and probably wishful thinking. They've done a huge disservice to the American people by taking that approach.
As I've said before, the real collusion was actually with the Democrats.
It was the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee that hired Fusion GPS to do opposition research against candidate Trump.
Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steele, a former British Intelligence Officer, to compile the 'Steele Dossier.'
That document was central to the fake collusion narrative, and it reportedly used Russian government sources for information.
So, the Democrats paid for a document created by a foreign national that relied on Russian government sources.
Not Trump. The Democrats. That's the definition of collusion.
But, Democrat collusion didn't stop there.
Last week, The Hill newspaper reported that a Democrat National Committee contractor contacted the Ukrainian government to get dirt on Trump and Manafort during the presidential election. Specifically, that DNC contractor reportedly 'wanted to collect evidence that Trump, his organization and Manafort were Russian assets, working to hurt the U.S. and working with Putin against the U.S. interests.'
The Democrats were up in arms about the Trump Tower meeting when the Trump campaign was approached about dirt on Hillary Clinton. Here, the DNC proactively pounded the door of a foreign government for dirt. Where's the outrage at that? The Special Counsel ignored all of that in his report.
And he didn't fulfill all of his responsibilities.
The Deputy Attorney General appointed Mueller in May of 2017 to investigate alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. The DAG further ordered that if the Special Counsel believed it was necessary and appropriate, he was authorized to 'prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.'
But that's not what the Special Counsel did on the obstruction question. Instead, the Special Counsel declined to make a 'traditional prosecutorial decision.'
The report said that '[t]he evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.'
As the Attorney General said when he released the report and again in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, the role of a prosecutor is to make a charging decision.
It is not a prosecutor's job to 'exonerate' a subject. It's to charge a crime, or not charge a crime.
But in his report, the Special Counsel explains his decision not to make a decision. He says, among other things, that stating the President had committed a chargeable offense without actually charging him, under the Justice Department's guidance, would be unfair to the President. Because then the President couldn't defend himself properly before a neutral factfinder.
Instead, the Special Counsel laid out 200 or so pages of facts and hand wringing relating to obstruction and then dumped them on the Attorney General's desk.
It reminds me of former FBI Director Comey's declaration in summer 2016 that Secretary Clinton was extremely careless in handling classified information but that no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case against her. Comey made a prosecutorial decision that wasn't his to make. He also released derogatory information about Secretary Clinton and then didn't show all of his work.
The Special Counsel's report is at least equally problematic. The report lays out 200 pages of investigative work product but leaves the charging decision hanging. Nevertheless, the report asserts if the Special Counsel team could have found the President did not commit obstruction, they would have said so.
But again, that's not what prosecutors do. That's a reversal of the innocent until proven guilty standard.
And, if it really was a thorough investigation, it seems the inverse is true as well. That is, after a 'thorough investigation' the Special Counsel did not have enough evidence to conclusively state obstruction actually occurred.
During the Attorney General's May 1 testimony, he noted that if the Special Counsel found facts sufficient to constitute obstruction he would have stated that finding. Curiously, the Special Counsel spilled a lot of ink in his report explaining why he believed the President could be charged as a matter of legal theory. So why didn't he just make a decision? Or at least make a clear recommendation to the Attorney General, and stand behind his own theories?
The Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General asked Mueller whether he would have charged obstruction but for the Department's guidance on charging sitting presidents. And the Special Counsel said no, which means there was no barrier for him to make that charge - if warranted.
In the absence of a decision from the Special Counsel, it was up to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General who appointed Mueller and supervised his work. They reviewed all of the facts and evidence the Special Counsel collected. They evaluated it under Mueller's own legal theories - even though they disagreed with some of them. And after all that, they determined the evidence was not sufficient to charge.
Oddly, the Special Counsel's report is probably most notable for what it doesn't address at all. The Special Counsel's report does not address the genesis of the Russia investigation.
It doesn't address whether the FBI used improper surveillance techniques on the Trump campaign or individuals associated with it.
It doesn't address the credibility of the FBI's sources.
It doesn't address whether the Steele dossier was a Russian disinformation campaign.
Even one of the reporters at the publication that initially dumped the dossier into the public domain wants to know where it came from and what it means.
The Special Counsel's report also doesn't address whether DOJ officials turned a blind eye to potential misconduct. And it doesn't address whether the DOJ misled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when applying for FISAs against the Trump campaign.
So, now we know what reasonable people have long suspected: there was no collusion and no obstruction of the collusion investigation. But we still don't know how this so-called 'collusion' investigation got started in the first place.
In March 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey testified that he briefed President-elect Trump about these allegations in January 2017, even though, according to his public testimony, Director Comey considered them 'salacious and unverified.'
If they were 'salacious' and 'unverified' in early 2017, then what were they months before that when he started the investigation? We know the allegations against Page were 'unverified' when they were used by the FBI and the Justice Department to support a FISA application to spy-yes, spy-on an American citizen. An American citizen who, by the way, has never been charged with anything.
In January 2018, Senator Lindsey Graham and I wrote to the Deputy Attorney General and FBI Director Christopher Wray about the allegations in the Steele dossier, and about its author, and its bankrollers.
In that memo, we described inconsistencies between what Steele swore to a British court about his contacts with the media, and what the Page FISA application represented to the FISA Court about those same contacts.
The FISA application represented that Steele did not communicate with the media about his 'intelligence reports,' but he told the British court that he did.
We noted in our memo that if Mr. Steele had lied to the FBI about his media contacts, that would bear on his credibility. That would be a huge problem because the FISA application and its renewals depended on taking Steele at his word. Remember, at that time the Steele dossier was still 'salacious and unverified.' So it mattered a whole lot whether the FBI and the DOJ could trust Steele and his dossier.
In our referral, Senator Graham and I also noted that Mr. Steele's contacts with the media likely affected 'the reliability of his information-gathering efforts' in compiling the dossier.
By the time the DOJ and FBI filed the FISA application, and even before the FBI officially opened the investigation, the Steele dossier was probably the worst kept secret in Washington. The same can be said for the government's efforts to look for ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The media, lawyers, lobbyists, campaign organizations, private 'research' firms, FBI officials, Department of Justice and Department of State officials, and foreign intelligence agencies-all of these folks reportedly had access to the dossier information or the dossier itself.
An attorney for Clinton and the DNC even passed on some aspects of this information directly to the FBI general counsel before the FISA was issued. Basically this piece of paper was in some form or other all over town.
And the more the dossier was shopped around the more vulnerable it became to manipulation.
We also know that at least as early as summer 2016, foreign intelligence agencies were reportedly feeding information to the CIA about Trump campaign associates and the FBI was using a source to seek information from individuals associated with the Trump campaign.
About that time, Fusion GPS hired Steele on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
We need to know if leadership in the intelligence community and the FBI were already gathering intelligence on Trump associates when Fusion hired Steele.
We need to know whether the Obama administration was looking so hard for connections that they figured the Steele dossier would justify efforts to continue their surveillance activities.
Further, we need to know if the Russians knew our government was that hungry for info to the point they packed the dossier with disinformation to sow chaos.
And if so, it looks like the Obama administration fell for it, hook, line, and sinker.
It certainly seems like some in leadership may have ignored clear warning signs.
DOJ official Bruce Ohr spoke with top FBI leadership about Steele's work the day the investigation opened. And after the FBI terminated Steele as a source, Ohr continued to feed Steele's work to the Bureau. At various times, Mr. Ohr made clear to the FBI that the information from Steele could not be taken at face value because it was hearsay. He noted that Steele had an anti-Trump agenda and the whole operation was bankrolled by Clinton and the DNC.
Of course, the Clinton campaign wasn't keen on the world knowing that it was footing the bill for the dossier. Its lawyers even lied to the media about this fact for more than a year. And that's not me saying that. A New York Times reporter said that.
So, by the time the FISA application was filed, and every time it was renewed, FBI and DOJ leaders were very much aware of the political bias and purpose of the 'unverified' information that supposedly supported it. So much so that, according to reported text messages between former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and his staff, the FBI worked to create a 'robust explanation' for 'any possible bias' of the source 'in the package' supporting the FISA application. And it also seems from those text messages that the FBI was getting pushback from at least one individual at the Justice Department about seeking the FISA.
In the end, the FISA application was presented to the court, with no mention of Clinton or the DNC, no mention of the source's political bias, and mere speculation by the FBI that its primary source was not peddling his information far and wide. Then the FISA was granted and renewed three times.
Let me say that again, the FISA was granted and renewed three times.
The FBI surveilled an American citizen for many months, based on salacious and unverified information gathered by a former foreign intelligence officer desperate to keep the President out of office. That former intelligence officer used Russian sources, including Russian government sources, at the behest and with the funding of a rival political party and campaign.
Democrats and the mainstream media have been screaming at the top of their lungs about salacious and unverified allegations that this President stole an election by working with the Russians. But it is a sobering and verified fact that Democrats actually paid for dirt from Russians to damage their political opponents.
So, after the taxpayers spent $30 million working through this swirling cesspool of allegations, when the Attorney General says he has concerns about certain aspects of this investigation, I agree with him.
I don't know whether laws were broken, or protocols were breached, or rules were violated. But I've been doing oversight of the federal government, including the DOJ and the FBI, for decades. And I think there's certainly enough there to be asking questions.
For example, did the Obama administration improperly use the U.S. intelligence community to attempt to neutralize and denigrate a political opponent? Did the Obama administration fail to properly assert oversight of the DOJ and FBI FISA process?
These questions must be answered.
It's fundamentally American to care not just about what laws the government enforces, but also how the government enforces them. If the greatest enemy we see is the person on the other side of the political spectrum, then the foreign powers that seek to divide and weaken our Republic are going to succeed.
Now, I've been trying to get to the bottom of all sides of these issues for years, and I've urged my Democrat colleagues to join me. I'm encouraged that the Attorney General is taking a look and I'm encouraged that the independent DOJ Inspector General has been looking at these issues too.
I have no idea what they are going to find. I know that Mueller turned a blind eye to what they are investigating, though. The American people need answers. All the answers.
It's not just this administration that has been dragged through the mud with wild collusion and obstruction theories. The American people have had to listen to those falsehoods for years.
Many in the media have been breathlessly flooding the airwaves with speculation and 'what-ifs' about the bogus Trump collusion narrative. Now that the report is out, some media figures are still struggling to come to terms with Mueller's findings and decisions.
It's as if they're unhappy with the results. Or perhaps they're embarrassed that the world is learning that we've been sold a bunch of snake oil for the past two years. And now the jig is up.
I hope the mainstream media will pursue the origins of the Russian collusion investigation with the same vigor as they they've been pushing the collusion narrative for the last two years. It would go a long way to restoring their damaged credibility.
So, I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure the People get the answers.
I yield the floor.