01.24.18

Whitehouse, Blumenthal Call on Grassley to Share Transcripts with Mueller

Washington, DC – Today, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) to share with Special Counsel Robert Mueller transcripts of the Committee’s interviews with individuals pertinent to its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump and his administration.  Of particular significance is the transcript of Committee staff’s interview with Donald Trump, Jr. regarding the June 2016 meeting between top Trump campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government, which Trump Jr. accepted after a promise of “dirt” on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.  The Committee’s interviews are highly relevant to the Special Counsel’s investigation, the Senators write.

“It is our understanding that the Committee has not shared transcripts of these interviews with the Special Counsel’s Office, despite the investigative relevance of their contents to that Office,” write Whitehouse and Blumenthal.  “It is our understanding that the Committee has agreed in principle, with the Minority’s support, to permit the [Special Counsel] to review those transcripts after reasonable accommodations for witnesses to review them and to correct errata.  Given that the transcripts in question are now all final, we request that you make them available immediately to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his staff.”

As the Senators point out, releasing the transcripts is consistent with the Majority’s stated intention to keep the Justice Department abreast of critical information that may relate to a criminal investigation.  Mueller has already secured at least two guilty pleas and multiple indictments for money laundering, false statements, and failure to register as a foreign agent, and continues to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and associated issues like obstruction of justice.

Full text of the Senators’ request is below.  A PDF copy is available here.

January 24, 2018

 

The Honorable Chuck Grassley

Chairman

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

224 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Grassley:

Senate Judiciary Committee staff has conducted several interviews with participants in the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, including with Donald Trump, Jr.  It is our understanding that the Committee has not shared transcripts of these interviews with the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO), despite the investigative relevance of their contents to that Office. It is also our understanding that the Committee has agreed in principle, with the Minority’s support, to permit the SCO to review those transcripts after reasonable accommodations for witnesses to review them and to correct errata.  Given that the transcripts in question are now all final, we request that you make them available immediately to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his staff. 

In light of your recent referral of former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation based on “statements the Committee has reason to believe Mr. Steele made,” sharing Committee transcripts with the SCO is appropriate and overdue.  The press release your office issued when making the referral public states that “[i]t is the practice of the committee to notify the Justice Department whenever it comes across what appears to be credible evidence of a criminal violation that warrants further investigation by appropriate authorities based on information from any source, public or non-public.” The transcripts of congressional testimony may reveal other, and better-founded, concerns about witness false statements. 

Presumably Steele’s statements were made to the Department’s own investigators, considering the statute you referenced.  It remains unclear to us what law enforcement objective was advanced by sharing information – particularly classified material – with the Department that originated and classified it.  In the case of the interview transcripts – unlike your Steele referral – the Committee actually has information relevant to the Special Counsel’s investigation that is not otherwise available to the SCO. 

You have stated publicly that you believe it is important for the Special Counsel to carry his investigation through to completion and determine the facts.  It is hard to see how withholding the transcripts achieves that goal.  We urge you to take immediate steps to resolve this inconsistency.  

Thank you in advance for your consideration. 

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