IN WAKE OF TRUMP CAMPAIGN INDICTMENTS & RUSSIA INVESTIGATION GUILTY PLEA, CONYERS URGES GOODLATTE TO MOVE IN MORE BIPARTISAN MANNER, PROTECT SPECIAL COUNSEL FROM PARTISAN ATTACKS
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) today sent a letter to Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), calling for him to widen the scope of the investigation he launched last week with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy into decisions made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2016, to include the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, foreign interference in American elections, and related issues.
The letter comes after Special Counsel Mueller reached a plea agreement with George Papadopoulos for making false statements to the FBI regarding Russian efforts to meet and coordinate directly with the Trump campaign, and issued a twelve count indictment against Paul Manafort and Richard Gates for false statements, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and conspiring against the United States.
In his letter to Chairman Goodlatte, Conyers wrote, “The circumstances call for extraordinary bipartisan cooperation. Working together is the only way to reassure the American public of the credibility and fairness of our political, legal, and electoral processes…Based on our years of bipartisan, first-hand experience working directly with Mr. Mueller, we are uniquely positioned to ensure he is given the space and independence he needs to complete his important work on behalf of the American people.”
The House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It also has jurisdiction over the Foreign Agents Registration Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Full text of today’s letter is available here and below.
October 30, 2017
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
2138 Rayburn Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Goodlatte:
It now appears we are at a turning point concerning the investigation of Russian interference in our elections. Today, Special Counsel Mueller released a twelve-count indictment against Paul Manafort and Richard Gates for—among other alleged crimes—false statements, money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent, and conspiring against the United States. The activity described in the indictment extends for more than a decade, including the period that Mr. Manafort served as Chairman of the Trump campaign. The Special Counsel also released a plea agreement with George Papadopoulos, in which Mr. Papadopoulos admits to making false statements to the FBI regarding efforts by the Russian government to meet and coordinate directly with the Trump campaign.
In response to the quickening pace of the investigation, President Trump and his allies have initiated a series of actions seeking to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation and divert attention from the actual and ongoing threat of Russian interference in our elections. This morning, for example, President Trump tweeted (erroneously) that the indictment describes activity that occurred “years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign.” He complained, “Why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” On Friday, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Wall Street Journal called on Mr. Mueller to resign without citing a single legal standard or reference. A similar sentiment was expressed by other Republican House Members, including Majority Leader McCarthy, over the weekend.
As you know, last Wednesday, our own Committee, along with the Oversight and Government Reform and Intelligence committees, simultaneously announced investigations into two matters that have already been reviewed—a 2010 government approval concerning transfer of management of certain U.S. uranium mines, and the Justice Department’s handling of its investigation into Secretary Hillary Clinton’s emails. Against this backdrop, I would hope that the House Judiciary Committee investigation, given its timing and context, could avoid some of the partisan taint that has enveloped some other committees. I would therefore request that we take the following steps to ensure that our investigation is seen by the American public as both fair and credible. At a minimum, our Committee should:
- Expand the investigation’s scope to include the circumstances surrounding the President’s determination to fire FBI Director James Comey and examine whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s involvement in the firing violated the terms of his recusal.
- Review what steps the Justice Department and other relevant agencies have taken and should take to limit the risk of Russia and other adversary nations interfering in future elections, including hacking state election machinery and software.
- Consider what steps can be taken to help ensure the independence of the Special Counsel and his office, and to protect his investigation from partisan political pressure.
- The process for conducting the investigation should be open and transparent. This would include, for example, having public hearings, rather than private interviews. I see no reason why Director Comey should not be called to testify before our Committee in open session.
- The process should be bipartisan and cooperative, with allowance for Minority witnesses and adequate and timely consultation regarding scheduling and any other investigatory activities.
In this regard, I would ask that we, along with relevant senior Members of our Committee, meet at your earliest possible convenience to discuss these matters.
The circumstances call for extraordinary bipartisan cooperation. Working together is the only way to reassure the American public of the credibility and fairness of our political, legal, and electoral processes. This work would include, of course, the concern that President Trump may seek to use his pardon authority to insulate himself, as well as members of his family, his Administration, and his campaign from legal culpability.
The House Judiciary Committee—given its jurisdiction and our Members’ knowledge, experience, and range of perspectives—can play a valuable role in safeguarding the rule of law and placing principle above politics. Based on our years of bipartisan, first-hand experience working directly with Mr. Mueller, we are uniquely positioned to ensure he is given the space and independence he needs to complete his important work on behalf of the American people.
Thank you for your attention to this most serious and time sensitive matter.
John Conyers, Jr.
House Committee on the Judiciary