WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday joined CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to discuss President Trump’s comments about the Department of Justice and the FBI as well as the continued protests in Iran.
“I'm concerned that a number of House Republicans are making increasingly baseless attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI, and that this is not just demoralizing to federal law enforcement but destabilizing to the rule of law,” said Senator Coons.
“It seems hard to believe that if this Trump campaign aide, Papadopoulos, had access to very damaging dirt on Hillary Clinton, stolen by the Russians and proffered to him, that he felt so enthusiastic about, that he was bragging about it to a senior Australian ambassador serving in London, it seems hard to believe that he then also wouldn't share it with the Trump campaign,” said Senator Coons.
Full audio and video available here.
Excerpts from the interview below:
Senator Coons on President Trump's tweet: This suggests that 2018 is going to be every bit as unsettling as 2017 with regards to unfocused tweets by the President trying to shake the very foundations of our democratic order. Previous Presidents may have been unhappy with the Department of Justice or may have wanted them to do things, but rarely in American history has a President ever so publicly attacked the Department of Justice, and in this particular tweet, he lays out three different names--his former opponent, Hillary Clinton, her aide, Huma Abedin, and the former FBI Director whom he fired, Jim Comey--and suggests in a wandering and unfocused tweet that somehow they should all be investigated, that jail might be an appropriate outcome, and that the DOJ, which is opposing him because it is part of some rumored Deep State needs to now finally act. This is a really troubling attempt by our President to continue to try to undermine the rule of law and to suggest that somehow the Department of Justice should take direction from him over Twitter.
More on President Trump and the DOJ: Yes, I'm concerned that although the President's lawyers continue to say that they will fully cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation, that the President's erratic behavior on Twitter, his shifting back and forth and the statements like the one you just read suggests that he might abruptly take action such as firing Robert Mueller before his investigation can fully conclude.
More on the DOJ and FBI: Well, I'm concerned that a number of House Republicans are making increasingly baseless attacks on the Department of Justice and the FBI, and that this is not just demoralizing to federal law enforcement but destabilizing to the rule of law. To have folks in office trying to assist the President in his ongoing effort to undermine this investigation. This is not constructive and I think it is in everyone's interest--Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate--for these investigations to be allowed to move forward to their logical conclusion, and if they reach the conclusion there was no collusion, so be it. If they reach a conclusion that there was, then I think rule of law demands we follow those conclusions, but this sort of effort by Devin Nunes, the House Republican Chair of the Intelligence Committee, to open a side investigation without consulting the full membership of the committee is another troubling development.
Senator Coons on the Russia probe: It seems hard to believe that if this Trump campaign aide, Papadopoulos, had access to very damaging dirt on Hillary Clinton, stolen by the Russians and proffered to him, that he felt so enthusiastic about, that he was bragging about it, to a senior Australian ambassador serving in London, it seems hard to believe that he then also wouldn't share it with the Trump campaign. This is a compelling lead that is worthy of being followed up and it suggests that there may yet be evidence that ties the path of the emails that were hacked by the Russians from the DNC and the Trump campaign.
Senator Coons on Iran: I do think it's important for leaders in the United States, including our President, to speak out on behalf of and in support of human rights around the world. I was surprised that even Rouhani, the leader of Iran, the elected leader of Iran, recently said that there is a right to protest, something previous Iranian leaders have not recognized or celebrated, but clearly the internal security services are already cracking down fairly hard on protests. I think it is important that we continue to speak out in support of the Iranian people as they try to pursue their own goals. The regime that has held sway in Iran since 1979 is brutal and repressive. I'm the co-chair with Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, and we put out a bipartisan statement in sympathy and solidarity with the Iranian people as they try to express their desires for more economic freedom and more political freedom.
More on Iran: I don't think the Iranian regime is a friend of the United States, of democracy, or of human rights. But, I also think that our ability to actually effect regime change in Iran is very limited. And, I think it's important that we talk about these demonstrations in ways that can't be misused by the Iranian regime for propaganda purposes internally. As your previous conversation with Jim Sciutto suggested, access to the internet, access through social media to each other in Iran is an absolutely vital piece of making it possible for the Iranian people to express themselves. And, there are steps we can take to help ensure that those who are seeking to express themselves continue to have free access to the internet. Other repressive regimes around the world tried to shut off the internet or censor the internet, and it's important that we continue to encourage free access to the internet around the world.
More on Iran: An important part of the record here is that the Iran Nuclear Deal was a deal about just that, about Iran's nuclear program. It didn't restrict the United States' ability to take action against Iran's bad behavior with regards to human rights or support for terrorism or its ballistic missile program, and on a strong bipartisan basis this past year, Congress did just that, we gave the President the power to impose stronger sanctions against Iran on those specific areas, human rights violations, ballistic missiles, support for terrorism. I would be concerned that if the President were to tear up the Iran Nuclear Deal, it would further distance us from our European allies who were vital partners in that work and it would remove any remaining restrictions on the Iranians from racing forward towards a nuclear weapon. We already have a significant strategic challenge with North Korea, we don't need a nuclear-armed Iran facing us with another challenge.