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Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) And Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) Object To William Barr's Treatment Last Week; Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Moves To Hold William Barr In Contempt; Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) And Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) On Historical Precedent. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 8, 2019 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


REP. DOUG COLLINS (R-GA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Why this rush without any valid legislative or administrative reason, we can only assume the Democrats that are led by the chairman have resolved to sully the -- Bill Barr's good name and reputation to accomplish two goals.

First, Democrats are angry that the special counsel's report did not produce the material or collusion (ph) they expected to pave their path to impeaching the president. I feel compelled to remind everyone, the report found, despite offers to do so, no one from the Trump campaign knowingly conspired with the Russian government. And you can't help but notice the phrase, "Russian collusion" has vanished from the Democratic talking points, and left a void in the narrative.

Since the special counsel did not make a prosecutorial determination on obstruction, which was his job, the attorney general and the deputy attorney general did so according to their mandates as law enforcement officials, while giving no credence to the Office of Legal Counsel's opinion regarding that of sitting presidents.

As a result, they're angry. They're angry our nation's chief law enforcement officer and his deputy had the audacity to decide the evidence didn't support charges for obstruction and investigation into something the president didn't do.

Second, Democrats are afraid of what the attorney general will find when he completes his ongoing review of FISA abuses of the Justice Department, including how the Russia investigation began. Multiple news reports have suggested, those conclusions could be explosive, could end careers and could even lead to criminal prosecution.

Rather than face that, the Democrats have resolved to neutralize Bill Barr by attacking him and the office and his integrity and his career. This is the first step. What a cynical, mean-spirited, counterproductive, irresponsible step it is.

Meanwhile, our economy is surging, unemployment among several minority groups is a historic low. A recent "Washington Post" poll shows cratering support for impeachment. The Democrats have no plans, no purpose and no viable legislative agenda beyond attacking this administration. The House is more than four months into a Democratic majority. How many bills passed by this committee have been signed into law? Mr. Chairman, I implore you to see reason. I ask that you recognize

the craven and insincere politics that seem to be yielding no dividends for the American people.

We have talked on multiple occasions, and proved at (ph) last week's pharmaceutical markup, that I stand ready to work with you to promote solutions. I will not, though, become a bystander as we assail the attorney general and this committee. Our democracy deserves better.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to quote a fellow member of Congress. "As a member of Congress, I treat assertions of executive privilege very seriously. I believe they should be used only sparingly. In this case, it seems clear the administration was forced into a position by the committee's insistence on pushing forward with contempt.

"Despite the attorney general's good-faith offer, Mr. Chairman, it did not have to be this way. We could have postponed today's vote and accepted the attorney general's offer.

"Instead, by not honoring the Constitution's charge to seek accommodations when possible, the prestige of this committee has been diminished. As a result, that should concern us all."

I quote Elijah Cummings.

In that case, of course, the committee did seek accommodations. In this case, this committee did not. And in -- just a difference of opinion between me and the chairman, there has been no escalation of this except on the side of the majority.

You have to have both sides at the table for accommodations. That's the way this process works. That is what I just laid out, 10 times faster than even Eric Holder.

And when we get into the other issues that have been discarded (ph) here, and it's, again, how we deal with this is going forward with what will be the precedent for the future, and will be the precedent for what we have.

With that, I yield back.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you, Mr. Collins.

Without objection, all other opening statements will be included in the record. I now recognize myself for purposes of offering an amendment in the nature of a substitute. The clerk will report the amendment.

CLERK: Amendment in the nature of a substitute to the committee report for the resolution recommending that the House of Representatives find William P. Barr, attorney general --

NADLER: Without objection, the amendment in the nature of a substitute will be considered as read. And shall be considered as base text for purposes of amendment. I will recognize myself to explain the amendment.

The amendment in the nature of a substitute contains a technical change to page two of the committee report. It simply changes the reference on that page to Judiciary Committee to the Committee on the Judiciary. With this modest change, I urge the committee to support the amendment.

I now recognize the ranking member of the full committee, Mr. Collins, for any comments he may have on the amendment.

COLLINS: On the amendment itself, I thank you, (INAUDIBLE) and I don't have any as far as the amendment (INAUDIBLE).

I will make one comment that was -- that was made in your previous opening statement. The chairman of, now, the Oversight Committee was not sued (ph) in his personal quest (ph), he was served in his official capacity in that committee. And just a clarification for the record there as we go forward through that.

I have no objection to the ANS.

NADLER: Are there any amendments to the amendment in the nature of a substitute?

REP. STEVE CHABOT (R), OHIO: Mr. Chairman?

NADLER: Who seeks recognition?

CHABOT: Mr. Chairman?

NADLER: For what purpose does the gentleman from Ohio seek recognition?

CHABOT: Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

NADLER: Gentleman is recognized.

CHABOT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[10:35:00] Our Democratic colleagues seem to be on a mission. They're determined to destroy Attorney General Barr, or at least discredit him in the eyes of the American people.

The attorney general agreed to appear before this committee last week, and was ready to answer any and all questions about the Mueller report.

However, Mr. Chairman, you and your Democratic colleagues on this committee decided that instead of just answering questions from members of the committee, well, we unprecedentedly were also going to require him to be grilled by a bunch of partisan staff lawyers. Of course, the attorney general wisely said, "No way." And now you're determined to find him in contempt.

In my view, as somebody who has served on this committee for 23 years, I think it's disgraceful. Last week, when the attorney general refused to show up for this committee's kangaroo court, the majority set up an empty chair, a chicken, and pretty much made a mockery of this committee, a committee that was once led by the likes of Daniel Webster.

It's worth noting that the attorney general did appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee the day before he was scheduled to come here, where the unreasonable demand that be he queried by staff attorneys was not made. Senators did the questioning themselves, as is normal. And the same should have been the case here, instead of Chickengate.

And let's be clear. It wasn't a day at the beach in the Senate for the attorney general. The senators themselves were perfectly capable of being rude, abusive and arrogant all by themselves. They didn't need their staff to do it for them.

So why this passion to tear into William Barr? An attorney general, at least up to this point in his career, considered a person of upstanding -- in fact, outstanding character.

Well, first, our Democratic colleagues are apparently really ticked off about the Mueller report, that it found that the whole Russian collusion thing was a big fat zero.

And even though the obstruction of justice allegation wasn't as clear- cut, Special Counsel Mueller found that there was insufficient evidence to pursue a charge against President Trump or against anyone else, for that matter -- excuse me. William Barr did that.

So Democrats are mad about that. But what I think is even more important is that our Democratic colleagues are afraid. They're afraid that unlike former Attorney General Sessions, who had recused himself from anything related to the Mueller investigation, Bill Barr's going to dig into the origins of the bogus Russian collusion allegation itself.

The Clinton campaign funding of the Steele dossier was the actual collusion between the Russians and the political campaign. Is that something that's finally going to be looked into? That was the real political collusion with the Russians.

The FBI's involvement in trying to tip a presidential election in favor of one candidate over another, the whole Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, all of that. The idea that Trump may have been right. That his campaign really was spied on by elements of the Obama administration, despite the fact that this accusation was met with such derision by most of the mainstream press at the time.

The bottom line is, many Democrats on this committee, and in fact many Democrats in both the House and the Senate, apparently believe that finding out the truth in these matters may not be helpful to them in the upcoming election cycle.

And the best way to undermine the results of the investigation -- the true investigation, which is really about to happen -- might just be to destroy the credibility of the guy who's doing the investigation, the attorney general, William Barr.

And let's begin that process, apparently according to the folks on the other side of the aisle -- and the chairman included -- by finding him in contempt. That's the way we can really discredit him. At least, that's the way I see it.

And I yield back.

NADLER: Before I proceed to the next statement, let me just point -- clarify a point of apparent confusion. We are not proposing to hold the attorney general in contempt for not just showing up last week. He didn't show up last week, but that has nothing to do with this motion for contempt.

We are proposing to hold him in contempt for ignoring -- for not satisfying the subpoena for the production of documents, namely, the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence.

Who seeks recognition?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman?

NADLER: The gentleman from -- the gentlelady from Texas -- for what purpose does the gentlelady from Texas seek recognition?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Strike the last word.

NADLER: The gentlelady is recognized.

JACKSON LEE: I'm pausing for a moment because I do think this is a moment in history. And I appreciate my good friends on the other side of the aisle.

[10:40:00] But having received a letter both from -- a copy of the letter to the president of the United States by General Barr, a letter from the Department of Justice, indicating after their purposeful collapse of the negotiations, well-intentioned by the staff and House Judiciary Committee, I can only conclude that the president now seeks to take a wrecking ball to the Constitution of the United States of America.

For the first time in the history of the United States, a president is now exerting executive privilege over every aspect of life that the American people desire to have information.

Whether or not the Affordable Care Act is dissolving the pre-existing condition, whether or not children are being separated from their parents, whether or not the environment is being destroyed. Anything that the Congress wants to do on behalf of the American people, is now being alleged to be under the jurisdiction of privilege.

Then, of course, we have to surmise that this is an absolute lawless behavior by this administration. The general -- attorney general's actions are contemptuous, and insulting to Congress. But we're simply the tools. It is to the American people. To broaden the executive privilege and ignore the constant

accommodations that Chairman Nadler has made, and our staff, in working to work out three simple points: Give us all of the documents, unredacted, Mueller report for the American people to see. Work with us on grand jury materials, not to undermine, if you will, any ongoing investigations. And work with us to list the documents by priority.

That is very simple. To recount facts of yesteryear does not even speak to the fact of the hundreds of investigations that my good friends, when President Trump and the Republican House and Senate existed. They never ceased.

They never ceased going after Secretary Clinton, getting 880,000 documents in a Benghazi hearing that went forever and ever and never found anything.

I happen to believe 700 former prosecutors, who indicated that the Mueller report described several acts that satisfy all elements for an obstruction charge, conduct (ph).

Congresswoman Jackson Lee didn't say this. Chairman Nadler did not say this precise statement as a former federal prosecutor. It's 700 who have indicated that the actions of this president warrant an obstruction charge.

In addition, we have a right to understand the underlying reasons regarding the collusion report. But the very fact that the collusion part of the Mueller report recounts the constant interaction of Trump operatives with Russian adversaries, the American people should be wary and they should ask us why and we should write legislation, as I have introduced.

H.R. 2353, that says, "If you interact with a Russian operative or foreign adversary as a campaign committee or candidate, you must report it to the FBI."

And so this is part of our legislative work. And I would argue the case, that our friends on the other side of the aisle should not be noted in history, of standing at the door of justice in this room and putting up a stop sign that we cannot pursue the truth on behalf of the American people.

We have gone over and over and over again, that there are allegations of obstruction of justice that need to be heard in front of this committee.

I say this. Mr. Mueller, a former Marine, a man of integrity. I will say to him in the open proceeding, "We welcome you to come and explain your position on how disturbed you were that the attorney general characterized your report as an exoneration of this administration."

Secondarily, I want to say to Mr. McGahn, "You are a private citizen. You have every right to present yourself to this body. And also that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Mueller's report would, in the case of any other person, if not having the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting president, would result in felony charges."

There are people incarcerated right now because of lesser charges. I don't want to target the president, Mr. Chairman. I simply want to find the truth for the American people. And that's why we're here today, to vote on this citation for lacking of producing of documents.

I yield back.

[10:45:05] NADLER: Thank you, (INAUDIBLE).

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman?

NADLER: Who seeks recognition?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman?

NADLER: The gentleman from Wisconsin. For what purpose does the gentleman seek recognition?

REP. F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: Move to strike the last word.

NADLER: The gentleman is recognized.

SENSENBRENNER: Mr. Chairman, I think we ought to step back from the political rhetoric and ask exactly what this contempt citation deals with. And I'm going to try to use my time to do that.

First and foremost, and most concerning to every American -- or at least it should be -- is the fact that they want an unredacted report that includes information on grand jury testimony.

The committee, by making this insistence and issuing the subpoena, is telling the attorney general of the United States to commit a crime. Because it's a crime for anybody to disclose grand jury material to anybody else. That includes the attorney general, it includes the prosecutors in the Justice Department, it includes the witnesses who have been subpoenaed and have testified before the grand jury. It means everybody.

And if the grand jury system is to work -- and remember, witnesses can't even bring their attorneys into a grand jury -- then the secrecy is going to have to be maintained.

Now, all of us know that it's really impossible for the people who work on this Capitol Hill to keep a secret. If there is an unredacted version -- completely unredacted version including the grand jury testimony, which is unredacted, it'll be on the front page of every newspaper in the country within 48 hours and talked about incessantly on the cable news shows, whether you watch Fox News or whether you watch MSNBC.

Now, I think it is absolutely shocking that the majority of this committee is going to ask the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to commit a crime. Shocking. There are no exceptions to what is to be disclosed in this unredacted version. That includes the grand jury testimony.

And by citing the attorney general of the United States for contempt of Congress, for saying, "I'm standing up for the law. I am not going to break the law by complying with that part of your subpoena," shows an overreach on the part of the majority.

If we are to be a government of laws and not of men or of people, then we have to obey the law on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. And we are not doing that.

Now, what else has been redacted? There has been redactions relative to ongoing investigations. Now, do we want to let the people that the Justice Department is investigating know all about the ongoing investigations? I don't think the public interest is served by that.

Whether somebody's guilty or not should be determined by the jury in a trial. That's what the American system is, and that's what a lot of the Bill of Rights protects.

You also have a protection against people who were peripherally involved in that. It -- they were just on the edges of this. They were interviewed and nothing came of the interview because they didn't have any evidence on what was being investigated.

But there is a character assassination squad running around this town, that even if you were on the periphery and went and voluntarily talked to the FBI or Mr. Mueller's team, you know, you're going to end up having your good name and your reputation smeared even though you didn't do anything. So this is definitely an overreach.

Those reactions -- the redactions, excuse me -- ended up being justified redactions. And I can understand the reluctance on the part of the attorney general -- or anybody else that watches the way this institution and the people who work here operate, that anything that is supposed to not get out in the public realm, will get out in the public realm with a leak.

And if this place weren't as leaky as a sieve, I would not be opposed to what the chairman is doing because I stood up for oversight during my entire career in this body. But it is leaky as a sieve.

And I think what we're doing here is forcing the attorney general to break the law, to place in jeopardy innocent people, you know, who are not involved in any of the things that Mr. Mueller ended up investigating, and shaming ourselves in the process.

[10:50:12] My time is up.

NADLER: For what purpose does the gentleman from Tennessee seek recognition?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: Strike the last word.

NADLER: The gentleman is recognized. COHEN: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The attorney general has been contemptuous of this committee and of the Congress. He was contemptuous last week, when he didn't come, when he couldn't dictate the terms of the hearing. He's contemptuous this week, when he will not bring forth papers.

The chairman has tried to reach an accommodation with the Justice Department. All cases in the past when (ph) such issues have been raised by grand jury testimony, the attorney general has gone with the majority party -- the chairman -- to the district court, and asked that that information be released to the committee for its purposes.

This attorney general has not done that. If he would have done that and tried to make a reasonable accommodation to join with us in going to Judge Powell, we might not be in this situation. But there's been nothing reasonable from this attorney general.

Mr. Sensenbrenner talks about people on the periphery. We don't know who those people were, but we know that Bill Barr decided who was testimony -- which testimony would be redacted because people were on the periphery, and to protect their reputations.

This is the same person who gave a 3.5-page summary of the Mueller report that did not, according to Special Counsel Mueller, who knew it better than anyone else, reflect the character and the spirit of the report.

And he knew Mr. Mueller objected to it for not being an accurate representation of his work. And yet he did it. And when asked about it by Mr. Crist in committee, he had no idea that Mr. Mueller or anybody in the Mueller special counsel investigation would have objected. That's not true. He lied when Mr. Crist asked him that question. That's beyond contempt. That's a lie.

So we're depending on Mr. Barr's determining who was on the periphery and what their reputations would suffer.

We're talking about the opportunity for Congress to do its proper oversight as described in Article I of the Constitution, which is being trampled upon. The Trump administration refuses to respond to any subpoenas, destroying Article I and Congress' prerogatives.

Now, we had a question. I think it was maybe the ranking member said we should be dong legislation. And how many signatures, how many bills have been signed into law by this committee.

Well, ask Mitch McConnell, who has declared that the Senate is a graveyard for all legislation that comes from the House. We have passed outstanding legislation out of this committee. It's gone to the graveyard.

Where Mitch McConnell, who first killed Supreme Court nominees of the last president of the United States in his one year before, and voids and frustrates the constitutional prerogative of the president to nominate members to the Supreme Court, but now frustrates the other House by not having hearings whatsoever.

Somebody said we're afraid. Yes, we're afraid. We're afraid of the loss of the rule of law. We're afraid of the loss of the power of Congress to be an independent and coequal branch of government. And we face that today if we don't stand up.

And somebody else said that Russia, there are no connections and nothing with Russian collusion. Well, the Mueller report said there was sweeping and systematic efforts by the Russians to influence our election. And they were done so to help Trump.

And the Mueller report showed lots of connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, lots of contacts. And didn't -- but didn't show that he had all of the elements to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that they conspired together. There's a big difference between not having connections and having guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Then, Mr. Trump gets on the telephone with Mr. Putin and has a 90- minute conversation -- or something like that -- where he can see on a phone call, that he smiled at him. And he gets flattered. And never broaches the subject of Russian interference in our next election, or Russian interference whatsoever.

That was one of the prime parts of the Mueller report, that the Russian interfered and that our intelligence officials had confirmed and told us, and that our FBI has told us, and that we know they did it in 2018 and they're going to do it more in 2020.

But our president did not even mention it to Mr. Putin. That is scary. We are afraid of interference in the 2020 elections, and we need to be. And we need to be because we've got a man who, it's been suggested, might be financially dependent on the Russians.

[10:55:03] Why would he be financially dependent on the Russians? Well, we now know he lost over a billion dollars in a decade in the '80s and '90s. He was broke. No bank would loan him a penny. He was broke.

And if it weren't for him being president, he'd be in prison with Michael Cohen today as Individual One. And he obstructed justice as the Mueller report says it's so. We are in danger. We need to respond and we need to act for the people of the United States of America.

I yield back the balance of my time.

NADLER: For what -- for what purpose does the gentleman from Texas seek recognition?

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS: Ask to strike the last word.

NADLER: Gentleman is recognized.

GOHMERT: Thank you.

I'm really here in mourning for a once-great Judiciary Committee. I know my first term, '05 and '06, I saw our current chairman as a champion for privacy rights, for civil rights, for Fourth Amendment rights, Fifth Amendment rights.

And something dramatically has changed over the years. There was concern back then about too much power through the FISA courts, through the Patriot Act. And we shared a number of those concerns.

And now, this committee's majority is on the wrong side of a very important historic time. We've never had the intelligence community, the FBI, people at the top of the DOJ, abusing their power to create a case against a president where there was none. Where assets were actually used to try to set up members of the Trump campaign when there was no case. To try to create a case.

We ought to be all over that. We ought to be demanding answers from the FISA judge or judges who were either, A, content to have fraud committed against their courts, or were complicit. Maybe it was Peter Strzok's buddy that he bragged about in his texts, that was going to be the FISA judge that signed warrants where there was no probable cause of anything.

This was an attempted coup and history is bringing that into focus more and more clearly. And what does this committee do about the abuses, the attempted coup? It comes in and decides, "We're going to go after the attorney general, who's trying to clean up the mess." Christopher Wray sure hasn't.

Instead of asking from the intel community, "Let us see the hundred percent certain proof you have that Hillary Clinton's personal server was hacked by China," no. He covers it up, says we still hadn't seen it. Well, they didn't ask to see it.

There is a disaster that has occurred in our justice system. And this committee has oversight responsibilities and we are abusing those.

This -- this motion for contempt is not being done in good faith. I'm not going to call anybody on this committee the names that my colleague from Tennessee just did, in violation of our rules of decorum.

But the truth is, we know that this committee majority is not acting in good faith. How? Because they're moving for contempt for an attorney general failing to turn over material that this majority -- at least some, maybe it's just the staff but -- some people know that you can't hold someone in contempt. You can vote to do that, but you can't be in contempt for failing to produce things that are illegal for you to produce.

How do we know somebody over there knows that this is wrong? It's because there was an offer. "Look, Attorney General Barr, if you'll join us in going to court and getting a court order so that we can get the grand jury proceedings and evidence, then we will disregard the contempt."

[11:00:03] Well, that's evidence of a state of mind by the majority.