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US “Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats Call for Public Hearings on Russian Collusion and Obstruction of Justice

In a letter to Chairman Grassley, Senators demand public witness testimony from Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and others

Thursday, February 8, 2018

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led a letter signed by Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in support of Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) request for immediate public hearings related to potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

“Committee members have long been led to believe that they would have the chance to question witnesses directly – to follow up on the many questions raised by the staff interviews and to ensure that witnesses testify publicly and under oath,” the Senators wrote. “Any effort to end the Committee’s inquiry before Committee members have been able to ask a single question – and before a single witness has been questioned in public or under oath – would be a disservice to the Judiciary Committee’s long history of serving as a forum to ferret out the truth and inform the American people.”

The Senators identified Donald Trump, Jr. and Jared Kushner as two key witnesses whose public testimony is critical to the completion of any meaningful investigation. Although Trump, Jr. appeared voluntarily for a private staff interview last year, he refused to produce documents relating to the June 9, 2016 meeting he organized with Russian agents while serving on the Trump campaign and his coordinated response with the Trump Administration once that meeting became public. Kushner, who also attended the June 9 meeting, has declined to appear before the Committee in any capacity and has also failed to produce key documents.

“We respectfully request that the Senate Judiciary Committee immediately schedule public hearings with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and the other key witnesses in our ongoing investigation and, as needed, issue subpoenas to compel their appearances to ensure that these individuals fully account for their actions in public and under oath,” the Senators wrote. “This is an essential step toward getting us the answers that we need to fulfill our important oversight responsibilities.”

In addition to Blumenthal, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

The full text of the letter is available here https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/02.07.18%20-%20Grassley%20Letter%20Public%20Hearings.pdf and copied below.
 
Dear Chairman Grassley:

Senator Feinstein has previously asked for public hearings as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, potential Trump campaign collusion, and any related obstruction of justice.  We support her requests.  Previously, you have also expressed your intent to hold public hearings related to potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Now that you have decided to end private interviews of the participants in the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between the campaign and a Russian delegation, the time for these public hearings has come.

We commend the promise you made at the last executive business meeting to begin publicly releasing transcripts of the interviews that have been conducted thus far by Committee staff. However, simply releasing these transcripts is not enough.

Committee members have long been led to believe that they would have the chance to question witnesses directly – to follow up on the many questions raised by the staff interviews and to ensure that witnesses testify publicly and under oath. Any effort to end the Committee’s inquiry before Committee members have been able to ask a single question – and before a single witness has been questioned in public or under oath – would be a disservice to the Judiciary Committee’s long history of serving as a forum to ferret out the truth and inform the American people.

These public hearings must involve the testimony of Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, along with a renewed bipartisan effort to obtain the documents that have been requested but not yet produced.  While Donald Trump Jr. appeared voluntarily for a staff-level interview, he refused – before and after that interview – to produce drafts of his July 2017 statements about the June 9 meeting and communications about those drafts.  He also failed to produce his direct communications with Wikileaks until after the interview, also depriving the Committee of the opportunity to question him about those materials. 

It is also our understanding that Mr. Kushner has produced some, but not all, of the documents requested of him and – notably – that he has refused to provide any documents related to the sections of his security clearance forms that would reveal foreign travel and contacts.  Mr. Kushner has also declined to schedule even a staff-level interview with the Committee.

Mr. Kushner was a key participant in the June 9 meeting, and his testimony is essential to achieve a full understanding of that meeting and of many other episodes central to our investigation. You have repeatedly pledged to require Mr. Kushner to submit to questions by the Committee. Now that you have discontinued private staff interviews with participants in the June 9 meeting – interviews that were also never intended as a complete substitute for Member-level questioning – the only way to follow through on your commitment is to demand Mr. Kushner participate in a public hearing.

Mr. Kushner’s recent decision to refuse a private interview with our Committee does not diminish the need to compel his public testimony and that of other crucial witnesses. If anything, it makes his public testimony all the more essential. The fact that Mr. Kushner spoke to other Congressional committees also does not free him from his obligation to testify before us. Those committees have different areas of jurisdiction and focus; their efforts in no way eliminate our right and responsibility to do our job.

We respectfully request that the Senate Judiciary Committee immediately schedule public hearings with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and the other key witnesses in our ongoing investigation and, as needed, issue subpoenas to compel their appearances to ensure that these individuals fully account for their actions in public and under oath. This is an essential step toward getting us the answers that we need to fulfill our important oversight responsibilities. We thank you again for your attention to this issue and your career-long commitment to oversight and transparency, and we look forward to working with you to complete the Committee’s investigation.https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/senate-judiciary-committee-democrats-call-for-public-hearings-on-russian-collusion-and-obstruction-of-justice (Emphasis our own.)