Statement On The “Nobody Is Above The Law Protest”

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy
On The “Nobody Is Above The Law Protest”

[Delivered On Senator Leahy’s Behalf By Leahy Vermont Director John Tracy]

Burlington, Vermont
Thursday, November 8, 2018

I am so proud of the Vermonters here today and across our state, and across our country, who are speaking out in support of the rule of law. You are doing your country a great service, and your collective voice may very well prevent a constitutional crisis. We all owe you our sincere thanks and appreciation.

President Trump has wanted to hobble the Russia investigation from its inception. The only reason why he demanded Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation — and the only reason why he has regularly disparaged and belittled his Attorney General for the last 18 months — is that he was unhappy that Jeff Sessions followed mandatory Department of Justice regulations and recused himself from the Russia investigation. And the President has now attempted, under questionable legal authority, to install a close ally of the White House in charge of this investigation.

Matthew Whitaker has spent years as a partisan political operative. He has heavily criticized the Special Counsel’s investigation. He has publicly discussed defunding it. He is also friends with and a former campaign chair for a critical grand jury witness in this very investigation. That prompts recusal requirements under Justice Department regulations. For all of these reasons, Mr. Whitaker needs to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. And do so immediately.

If Mr. Whitaker fails to recuse himself, he will prove exactly why he was selected: to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Mr. Whitaker should also immediately be called to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. He must be asked about what communications he has already had with President Trump about the Russia investigation; what career Justice Department officials have said about his obligation to recuse; and what commitments he will make to recuse himself and protect the investigation.

Last night, the ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and relevant House committees sent “preservation letters” to the Justice Department, demanding that all documents related to this investigation be preserved. Now Democrats will be in the majority in the House starting in January, which will provide them with subpoena power to obtain executive documents in case it’s necessary. The truth will come out, one way or another.

In the Senate Judiciary Committee, we have already approved, with a strong bipartisan vote of 14 to 7, legislation to protect the Special Counsel’s investigation. Majority Leader McConnell has refused to allow a vote in the full Senate, claiming it’s not needed. Last night proved just how wrong he is. And it’s time for the full Senate to have its say.

No matter what happens, I will do everything within my power — as both the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the most senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee — to ensure that Special Counsel Mueller is permitted to continue this most critical national security investigation, without any interference.

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