Providing for Consideration of H. Con. Res. Expressing the Sense of Congress That the Report of Special Counsel Mueller Should Be Made Available to the Public and to Congress, and Providing for Proceedings During the Period From March Through March 2019

Floor Speech

Date: March 13, 2019
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, when I see someone of your stature come to the chair, I think: We must be down here to debate some serious American public policy. We must be down here to change the law in ways that can only happen once in a generation when people come together to make things happen.

I don't know what they told you when you came to the chair this morning, but let me be the first to tell you that is not at all why we are here today. What we are here to say today is important, that the American people have a vested interest in confidence in our democracy. That is a value shared from the furthest side of the left to the furthest side of the right. But the resolution we have here before us today is just a restatement of current law.

Sometimes I think, Mr. Speaker, that we undermine faith in the democracy when we try to pretend that division exists where division does not, where we try to pretend that we are doing great things when, in fact, we are not.

This is an opportunity today to speak with a voice in Congress that says the special counsel should release the report. But let me be clear, because we sometimes do more harm than good, that is going to be the headline: ``House Votes for Special Counsel to Release Report.'' That is not actually what the resolution says, and I want to guide you.

If you have a copy, Mr. Speaker, you can go back through it. It is not going to be on page 1. It is not going to be on pages 2, 3, 4, or 5. The real substance of the resolution is back on the bottom of page 5, early on page 6. It says, ``to the extent permitted by law.''

As you know from your legal background, Mr. Speaker, the law does not allow the special counsel to release so many things. Grand jury testimony, for example, nowhere in the country is grand jury testimony disclosed. Those facts are gathered, but that is never disclosed. Intelligence sources and methods, that is never disclosed, nor would anybody on the other side of the aisle suggest that it should be.

That is why, in the resolution drafted by the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, it says specifically that these things need not be released because it is prohibited by law. I only make that point, Mr. Speaker, because sometimes the headlines are all we read when they come through on our Twitter feed. Sometimes we believe the headline tells the whole story.

I want to make it clear that there is unanimity in this Chamber that transparency is valuable in our Republic. But it is also true that this is a nation of laws. The reason the special counsel exists is because we are a nation of laws, and the substance of the special counsel's report is going to be governed by those laws. To the extent allowable by law, our Attorney General has already said he wants to make the entire thing available.

I don't know how you want to characterize the resolution today, Mr. Speaker, whether you want to characterize it as an insistence of the House on how the administration should behave or just a big attaboy to our new Attorney General to say: You are doing a great job, and we are behind you 100 percent in what you have already promised the American people you were going to do.

However you characterize that resolution--we heard it in the Rules Committee, as my friend from California suggested--it is coming to the floor today under a closed rule. So if anybody has any additional changes they want to make, those changes will not be permitted. This is a take-it-or-leave-it resolution from the Rules Committee today.

But as a restatement of current law, it is quite clear. Again, you have to go all the way to the back of the resolution to find those 10 lines of substance. But when you get there, you will find these are already things the Attorney General has agreed to, and all Americans should be pleased about that outcome.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my friend from Rhode Island before he leaves the floor: The bill that he introduced, was that also a House resolution or was that an H.R. to insist on the revealing?


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman from Rhode Island introducing the bill.

And I think that is an important distinction, Mr. Speaker, and that is what you have heard, largely. You heard it in the Rules Committee; you have heard it down here on the floor, that: Listen, there are lots of things that we could be doing here, and if we wanted to pass a law that insisted that the entire report was released--those parts that are prohibited from being released under current law and those parts that are intended to be released under current law--we could do that. That is just not what we are doing.

What we are doing is saying: Hey, do you know what current law is? Follow current law. Follow current law. We, the House of Representatives, have thought about it, and in our deliberative wisdom, we are prepared to announce that we believe current law should be followed--Signed, U.S. House of Representatives.

There are those who would have you believe this is something more than that. It is not. There is nothing wrong with what we are doing today except that it is not a particularly valuable use of time.

When I opened, Mr. Speaker, you were not in the chair, but I mentioned that I think we do great damage to trust in our Republic when we seek division instead of highlighting our unity. To suggest that we are down here doing something to protect our Republic from its inevitable demise is just ridiculous. No such thing is happening here on the floor today. All that is happening on the floor today is saying that we, the duly-elected Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, believe U.S. law should be followed.

Mr. Speaker, I am looking for something to disagree with my friend from Vermont about. I don't disagree with him about anything at all. I thought that was a very thoughtful presentation.

The only thing I would point out is the reason that he doesn't know what is in the Mueller report and the American people don't know what is in the Mueller report, is because as of today, there is no Mueller report. That is the only reason we don't know what is in it. It hasn't been released yet.

I don't mean released to the public. I mean, Mueller hasn't written it and handed it to the Attorney General yet, and so we don't know. When that happens, let me tell you what the Attorney General has said, Mr. Speaker. The Attorney General has committed to being transparent with Congress and the public consistent with the rules and the law. I don't think we would ask anything different of him.

The Attorney General has committed to providing as much information as he can consistent with current regulations. I don't think we would ask anything different of him than that, and, certainly, this resolution does not ask anything different of him other than that.

He says that his objective and goal is to get as much information as he can to the public. That is exactly what this resolution asks for; exactly what he has already committed to. And he says, ``I feel like I'm in a position in life where I can do the right thing and not really care about the consequences. I can be truly independent.''

Well, that doesn't just mean truly independent from pressure put on him from the White House. It also means truly independent from statements of opinion sent to him by the U.S. House. He is going to do the right thing, as allowed by the law and resolutions. If he doesn't, this House can act and try to push a different outcome.

Just understand that that is not what this resolution does today. It is simply a statement of fact. To my friend from California, there are those Members of Congress that sometimes they speak and you just want to get out your sharp stick, Mr. Speaker, and poke them a little bit harder. They don't calm you down. They rile you up. My friend from California is one of those folks whose thoughtful words always recenter me and remind me what we have together.

He is right about the hyperbole, and I don't want to mischaracterize this resolution. It does do one thing that is not available in current law today, and that is, that it makes the official position of the United States House known. I have always presumed that the Attorney General would follow the law. This resolution says we expect the Attorney General to follow the law.

It is not that it does nothing. It is just that it does something so very little, perhaps our time would be better spent elsewhere, but I support the underlying premise.


Mr. WOODALL. Mr. Speaker, I tell my friend, I do not have any speakers remaining at this point, so

Mr. Speaker, I hope folks pay attention to some of those things that have brought folks together today, and I hope folks pay attention to some of those things that haven't brought us together today.

We have talked about whether there has been overstatement and hyperbole, whether it comes from that end of Pennsylvania Avenue or this end of Pennsylvania Avenue. None of us are advantaged by that. It breeds more distrust in the American public, and breeds more distrust in this institution.

We have talked about who is to blame within the administration. Of course, there is news today of Paul Manafort's sentence, not for anything related to the election, but for things related to his private business practices. There will be efforts to conflate those two investigations. Those are two different investigations, and I think the American people are disadvantaged if they are led to believe that those sentences are related to the election of the President of the United States.

But what you have heard is a lot of unanimity, as you would expect, that we are a Nation of laws and the rule of law should be followed, and transparency should be our touchstone, and the American People, the boss of each and every one of us, whether we work on that end of Pennsylvania Avenue or this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, have a right to know what their tax dollars have paid for and what their government is up to.

I find that very encouraging that we have that sense of agreement here today, Mr. Speaker. What is noticeably absent in this resolution is the dramatic overreach that I think has characterized most of the work we have done so far in 2019. Things that could have been partnership issues have been pushed further and further out to the edge of the political continuum that they became partisan issues.

This resolution does not make those mistakes of the past, and to my friend from California's point, these things are done incrementally. Trust is built incrementally; relationships grow incrementally; and success happens incrementally.

It is my great hope, Mr. Speaker, that those things that unite us, transparency, rule of law, trust in and of the American people will begin today to flourish in ways, perhaps, those common themes have not thus far. And both parties play a role in that disappointing outcome. But success has to begin on one day, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps success begins today.

I serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. There is no such thing as a Republican road or a Democratic bridge. There is no such thing as sitting in traffic on a Democratic highway or missing your child's soccer game because of malfunctions on a Republican road. We are all in this together.

I do not plan to offer a previous question today, Mr. Speaker, because this isn't one of those issues that dramatically divides us. My friend suggested in the Rules Committee we passed this out in, I think, our first voice vote of the year out of the Rules Committee, and I intend to do exactly that today.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my friend from California for yielding the time and leading the debate today, and I yield back the balance of my time.