Senator Carper Urges His Colleagues to Preserve the Rule of Law and Protect the Special Counsel’s Investigation
May 23 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) spoke on the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election. Senator Carper urged members on both sides of the aisle to come together to protect the ongoing investigation from undue political interference, allow the Special Counsel to get to the truth and send a strong signal to President Trump that firing Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein without clear legal justification would pose a grave threat to our constitutional system of checks and balances.
“We must not be distracted by the President’s tweets and other attempts to undermine the investigation. We must keep the main thing the main thing,” said Senator Carper. “Special Counsel Mueller and his team must finish this investigation. And Congress, especially our Republican colleagues, must do our part to protect the investigation and insist that the President stop the political interference and gamesmanship.”
Senator Carper called on his Senate colleagues to move expeditiously to pass the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Coons (D-Del.), Tillis (R-N.C.), Booker (D-N.J.), and Graham (R-S.C.). Senator Carper noted that passing the legislation would preserve the rule of law in this country, should President Trump try to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and uphold the system of checks and balances on which our democracy hinges.
Video of Senator Carper’s full remarks are available here.
The text of Senator Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:
“Mr. President, during my career as a public servant, many Delawareans and American citizens have approached me in the grocery store in Wilmington and on my morning train down to Washington. Sometimes it’s just to say hello or to ask how I’m doing. Other times, it’s to share their views on pending legislation or to let me know they have a family member who needs help getting their Social Security check.
“Since the 2016 election, however, a growing number of Delawareans and American citizens have approached me at the ShopRite and on the Amtrak to share their sense of uncertainty and their fears regarding the trajectory of our country. Specifically, they have expressed their uncertainty about the future of the Special Counsel’s investigation and their fears that the President may put his own personal interests above the interests of all Americans and the Constitution of the United States.
“As we pass the one year mark following Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing Former FBI Director Robert Mueller to Special Counsel, I believe it is worth remembering why the investigation began, what it has uncovered, where it is heading, and how we can uphold the rule of law and protect the investigation from political interference.
“Mr. President, during the 2016 Presidential Campaign, our democracy was attacked by a foreign adversary. No shots were fired, no bombs were dropped. But let me be as clear as possible: Russia attacked the United States. Using sophisticated cyber warfare, Russia interfered in our electoral process. As they have in other Western democracies, Russia borrowed from their tried-and-true playbook. Russian Internet trolls posed as American citizens on Facebook and Twitter. Russian shell companies funded political propaganda online. All with the intent of pitting us against one another and spreading misinformation among the American electorate. We also know that our nation’s election infrastructure was targeted by the Kremlin and that Russian cyber-attacks penetrated voting machines in some of our states.
“Mr. President, Thomas Jefferson often wrote about the truth, including a famous description of a few truths that we still consider self-evident—namely, that all men and women are created equal and entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Later in life, Jefferson remarked that, ‘We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.’ Since the attack on our democracy, many patriotic Americans within federal law enforcement and our intelligence agencies have been heeding Jefferson’s advice and following the truth.
“Here is what we have learned so far:
“In a declassified report released in January 2017, our own intelligence agencies told us that, ‘Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at… undermin[ing] public faith in the US democratic process.’ Further, our own intelligence agencies told us that, ‘Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order.’ Those same agencies – our own intelligence agencies – have told us that it will happen again: ‘Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.
“During recent testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence and our former Senate colleague, Dan Coats, said, ‘There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts have been successful and views the 2018 midterm U.S. elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.’ Director Coats added, ‘Frankly, the United States is under attack.’
“In response, we have a responsibility – not to a political party, but to the Constitution and to the American people – to band together as we would following any attack on our country: to fight back, to protect and safeguard our democracy, to ensure that it never happens again. And we also have a responsibility – again, one that rises above political party – to determine whether the Trump Campaign may have had inappropriate contact with Russia during the campaign. This responsibility is shared between Congress and the Executive Branch, including different Committees in the House and Senate, as well as the Department of Justice, the FBI, and our intelligence agencies.
“Unfortunately, President Trump has rejected this responsibility from the start. Let’s not forget: President Trump fired former FBI Director Comey, and publicly stated it was because of the Russia investigation. President Trump told NBC News, ‘When I decided to [fire Comey] I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’ Because Attorney General Sessions is recused from matters involving Russia and the 2016 election, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, a lifelong Republican appointed by President Trump to his current position, made the decision to appoint a Special Counsel to continue the Russia investigation.
“Let me take a moment to remind the American people about the background and the character of the Special Counsel. Robert Mueller has spent his life serving his country with distinction. He received the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Purple Heart as an officer in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. After a career in federal law enforcement and private law practice, President George W. Bush nominated him to serve as FBI Director, and he guided the Bureau in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. A steady hand during uncertain times, Director Mueller gained the respect and admiration of the men and women of the FBI, as well as those of us here on Capitol Hill.
“During my tenure as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I had the opportunity to meet with Director Mueller on a range of issues, including protecting our nation from cybersecurity threats. I also got to know Robert Mueller personally. I believe he is guided by very strong core values. He is a man of unimpeachable integrity, and there may be no better person suited to this task. I have every confidence that he will follow the truth wherever it may lead him.
“But don’t just take my word for it. When the Deputy Attorney General appointed him to the position of Special Counsel a little more than a year ago, his selection drew a particularly resounding endorsement from our friends on the other side of the aisle. Senator John McCain said, ‘Robert Mueller is a great choice for special counsel’ and added that he’s ‘confident he’ll fully investigate all aspects of Russia’s interference in our election.’ Senator Richard Burr said, ‘By having someone like Bob Mueller head [the] investigation assures the American people that there’s no undue influence, be it here or be it at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, or within the Justice Department or FBI.’ Even Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, ‘Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.’
“Unfortunately, President Trump has not been as praiseworthy of the Special Counsel. President Trump has repeatedly used his Twitter account to call Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation a ‘witch hunt.’
A witch hunt? Really?
“Mr. President, in February, 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies were charged with breaking U.S. law and interfering in the 2016 election. The indictment details an elaborate, coordinated scheme to disrupt our election. Moreover, three Trump Campaign officials have pled guilty to crimes that include lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia during the campaign and conspiracy to defraud the United States. And the former Trump Campaign Manager is currently facing similar charges.
“Despite the progress of the investigation, we know from news reports that President Trump repeatedly has considered firing Director Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. What a grave that mistake that would be.
“Instead of exercising presidential leadership and holding Russia accountable and safeguarding our upcoming election, President Trump continues to use dangerous rhetoric directed toward the Special Counsel’s investigation, as well as people at the FBI and Department of Justice who deserve our thanks, not our scorn.
“Instead of exercising presidential leadership and holding Russia accountable and safeguarding our upcoming election, President Trump is now demanding a counter-investigation.
“Instead of exercising presidential leadership and holding Russia accountable and safeguarding election, President Trump is now undermining the Special Counsel’s investigation while risking the identity of American intelligence sources.
“Despite this failure of presidential leadership, the Special Counsel’s investigation must go on. We have to keep the main thing the main thing. Special Counsel Mueller must be allowed to follow the truth no matter where it leads, no matter how uncomfortable that makes President Trump, no matter how uncomfortable that makes Vladimir Putin. We must continue to ensure Special Counsel Mueller has all the time and resources he needs to follow the truth and bring this investigation to a conclusion. We must also protect the Special Counsel from undue political interference and send a strong signal to President Trump that firing Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein without clear legal justification would pose a grave threat to our constitutional system of checks and balances.
“To be clear, we can’t pass a bill to end President Trump’s erratic threats on Twitter, though I know there are plenty of Americans who would support such a proposal. However, we can pass a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Coons, Tillis, Booker, and Graham to protect the Special Counsel’s investigation.
“That legislation -- The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act -- will ensure that the Special Counsel can only be fired for good cause by a senior Justice Department official, and the reason must be provided in writing. It will ensure that, in the event of his firing, the Special Counsel can seek expedited judicial review of his removal. And, it will preserve all the documents and materials related to the investigation.
“I want to thank our colleagues for introducing this bipartisan bill. I support it and urge its swift passage. Passing this bill will demonstrate to the American people that, despite the uncertainty and fears at the moment, we still have a system of checks and balances. If we allow that system to work, it will eventually lead us to the truth, which is what we should all seek. If the unthinkable were to happen and the Special Counsel were fired on a whim, I believe this bill would help us preserve the Russia investigation—and the rule of law.
“As I begin to conclude, Mr. President, I will say this. Like Special Counsel Mueller, Congress must not be afraid to follow the truth. We must not be distracted by the President’s tweets and other attempts to undermine the investigation. We must keep the main thing the main thing. Special Counsel Mueller and his team must finish this investigation. And Congress, especially our Republican colleagues, must do our part to protect the investigation and insist that the President stop the political interference and gamesmanship. Taken together, I believe these actions will allow us to emerge from this moment as we often have following other crises throughout our history: stronger and more resilient; and deeply proud that we upheld our responsibility to the Constitution and to the American people.”