Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) delivered the following remarks on the committee issuing subpoenas related to Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI investigation into Russian election interference and ties to the Trump campaign.
Video of the remarks is available here.
“I think it’s important to note that the committee has never heard from Mr. Mueller and his team.
Yesterday, you questioned Mr. Rosenstein about whether there was any ‘there’ there to justify investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. I wrote you a letter signed by every Democrat on this committee on May 8, 2019 that says:
[‘We are writing as members of the Judiciary Committee to follow up on our request] that the committee hold a hearing with Special Counsel Mueller regarding his report on Russian electoral interference and obstruction of justice.
‘The Mueller report is a seminal document that caps the Special Counsel's nearly two year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. [However,] as comprehensive as the report is, it's clear there are many outstanding questions that remain unanswered. Having Special Counsel Mueller before the committee is necessary to get those questions answered.
‘The attached document identifies at least 60 unanswered questions related to both Russian interference and obstruction of justice. We believe Robert Mueller would be best-suited to answer these and other questions.’
I would like to put this in the record, Mr. Chairman. We asked for this over a year ago and there was no answer to our plea.”
Senator Feinstein continued: “I want to address the chair’s authorization for subpoenas. Our committee rules provide that a subpoena can be issued by the chair ‘with the agreement of the ranking member or a vote of the committee.’ In this case, neither was done.
The chair’s motion is in a sense an end-run around committee rules. It does not require either the ranking member’s agreement or a vote on a specific subpoena. Instead, it would give the chair sole authority to issue hundreds of subpoenas. This removes the minority from any role in the issuance of a subpoena.
This leads me to believe that this is a move to grant the majority total control over investigations and prevent the minority from gaining information in crucial areas. This would allow the majority to present a one-sided, selective account of the facts. And we oppose that.
With this motion, the chair is granted unbridled authority to issue subpoenas for literally any document or witness related to ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ – the early stages of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. It also allow subpoenas for 53 officials named in the motion, the vast majority of whom served under President Obama.
Using a single motion to authorize subpoenas for 53 people and possibly hundreds more documents and witnesses is unprecedented in the committee.
I asked my staff to search committee records to find just one comparable example. They could not find a single instance where this committee has authorized subpoenas for 53 people in a single vote.
In addition, the committee has not been provided with explanations for why any of these people have been listed.
For example, why is [former] Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on this list? Or Steve Ricchetti – Joe Biden’s [former] chief of staff who is currently a senior advisor on Biden’s presidential campaign – why is he on this list?
John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair is also on this list, even though he has already testified twice before the House Intelligence Committee and the transcripts of his testimony are publicly available. And we have been given no explanation as to why Samantha Power – former ambassador to the United Nations warrants a subpoena from this committee.
Put simply, this motion – and I’m sorry to say this but I believe it – grants the chair unbridled authority to go after Obama-era officials. I cannot support this kind of dragnet authority to conduct politically-motivated investigations. And I urge my colleagues on both sides to consider carefully whether we want to set this as a precedent going forward.
In my time on this committee, which is well over 20 years, we have always been careful about the use of subpoena authority. We have required specific explanations of what information is being sought, why we need it, and whether compulsory process against any specific individual is truly warranted.
In fact, our rules are designed to ensure that the committee issues subpoenas following bipartisan consultation and cooperation – and we have historically done so. Our last subpoena was three years ago in 2017, when Chair Grassley and I agreed to subpoena Paul Manafort.
In 2007 the committee authorized several subpoenas by voice vote to White House and Justice Department officials involved in the U.S. attorney firing scandal. With the ranking member’s consent and following a bipartisan vote, we also authorized subpoenas concerning the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.
And Chairman Leahy’s 2008 authorization of [subpoenas to the attorney general for the Office of] Legal Counsel’s ‘torture memos’ followed years of bipartisan efforts to obtain those materials.
I must say the chair’s motion is a significant departure from this tradition of bipartisan cooperation, and I am really surprised. And once the door is opened to proceeding in this manner – to allowing the chairman sweeping, unilateral authority to subpoena political opponents – that door remains open, regardless of which party has majority power.
I take great exception to the chair’s subpoena authorization, and will oppose it.”