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Congresswoman Karen Bass

Representing the 37th District of California

Rep. Bass & House Judiciary Dems: This Committee Must Do Its Job

June 21, 2017
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Today, sixteen Democratic members of the House Committee on the Judiciary sent a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to request that he schedule hearings immediately “to examine events that now extend well beyond any investigation into Russian influence—including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, allegations of obstruction of justice, and the inconsistent application of the Attorney General’s recusal from these and related matters.”

Today’s letter, led by Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), addressed each of Chairman Goodlatte and the Majority’s usual explanations for not conducting oversight of the Department of Justice.  “With our Committee on the sidelines, the situation [at the Department] grows more perilous by the day,” the Members wrote.

The letter makes reference to a CRS report that documents nearly a century of precedent where congressional investigations have overlapped with ongoing investigations at the Department of Justice.

On March 10th, every Democrat on the Committee called on Chairman Goodlatte to “get moving on Trump oversight” by holding formal committee hearings on Russia’s interference with the election and related matters. 

On May 11th, Democrats on the House Committee on the Judiciary sent a letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte, urging him to conduct immediate hearings into the firing of James Comey. 

On May 16th, all 33 Democratic Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on the Judiciary, sent a detailed letter to their respective Republican Chairmen outlining their demand for an immediate investigation into the actions of President Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and top White House aides.

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.

The CRS report referenced in today’s letter is available here.

Full text of today’s letter is available here and below. 

June 21, 2017

 

Chairman Bob Goodlatte

House Committee on the Judiciary

2138 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

Chairman Goodlatte:

            The House Committee on the Judiciary has a responsibility to step in and do its job.  We therefore write once again to request that you schedule hearings to examine events that now extend well beyond any investigation into Russian influence—including the firing of FBI Director James Comey, allegations of obstruction of justice, and the inconsistent application of the Attorney General’s recusal from these and related matters. 

            With our Committee on the sidelines, the situation grows more perilous by the day.  Last month, President Trump took to Twitter to threaten Mr. Comey, cautioning that he “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”[1]  Two weeks ago, the President floated the notion of firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller before his investigation even gets off the ground—over the loud objections of Democrats and Republicans alike.[2]  Last week, the President took aim at Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”[3]  In anticipation of the President’s next attack, the public is now openly speculating about the line of succession at the Department of Justice.[4]

            In our Committee meetings, you have expressed reluctance to investigate these matters because “the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are also conducting investigations.”[5]  It falls to us—and not to the intelligence committees—to examine questions about obstruction of justice, the dismissal of the FBI Director, and any attempt to influence or pressure the leadership of the Department of Justice.  Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, agrees with us on this point,[6] and our Senate counterparts are already working with Special Counsel Mueller to lay out the next steps of their investigation.[7] 

            At other times, you have expressed unwillingness to debate these questions because “investigations into these matters are ongoing.”[8]  We appreciate the sensitivity of the work of the Special Counsel, but nothing about an ongoing investigation prevents us from acting responsibly and conducting our own oversight.  The Congressional Research Service has compiled nearly a century of precedent—from the Palmer Raids of 1920 to our own investigation of Operation Fast & Furious in 2011—where congressional investigations have overlapped with ongoing investigations at the Department of Justice.[9]  Similarly, the investigation into Secretary Clinton’s use of a private email server did not prevent you from asking either the Attorney General[10] or the FBI Director[11] about the case—long before the investigation itself had concluded.

            In recent months, you have assured us that “the Committee has already taken action” to address these issues.[12]  For example, you have “asked the Justice Department’s Inspector General to examine the allegations of mishandling of classified information” and “requested a briefing from the Department of Justice regarding Russia’s alleged interference.”[13]  You promised to send, “along with any willing members of this Committee, a letter requesting that the Attorney General proceed with investigations into any criminal conduct involving these matters.”[14]  To our knowledge, no such letter was ever sent.  In any event, none of these actions satisfy our obligation to oversee and protect the integrity of the Department of Justice. 

            At the beginning of this Congress—under your leadership and pursuant to your amendment to our oversight plan—the Committee made a commitment to conduct oversight into allegations of misconduct by executive branch officials.[15] 

            We ask you to respect that commitment, and schedule hearings with the leadership of the Department of Justice and the FBI without delay.