04.10.19

[VIDEO] Sen. Coons: AG Barr “Has sought to restrict, control, redact this report…created more confusion, rather than more transparency.”

Sen. Coons: “It's striking that the two people who are repeatedly and publicly saying they're fully exonerated by the Mueller report are President Trump and Vladimir Putin.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss Attorney General Mueller’s handling of the Special Counsel’s report and the introduction of the No Ban Act today.

“The key thing that made me uncomfortable with his nomination was that he sent an unsolicited, 18-page memo into the Department of Justice, that directly critiqued what he believed to be Robert Mueller's argument on obstruction of justice -- not an obvious or simple thing for someone in private practice to do -- that he weighed in, proactively, on the argument on obstruction of justice, and then he insisted himself on reaching a conclusion about obstruction which the special counsel did not, gives me real concern,” said Senator Coons.

“One of the first things President Trump did that showed this anti-immigrant inclination was the so-called Muslim Ban. He campaigned on saying he was going to ban Muslims from entering our country, and then one of his first executive orders was that so-called Muslim Ban. It was temporarily restrained by a court -- my own home community, the church I grew up in, was at the time working with one of our local mosques and synagogues to welcome a Syrian refugee family that was blocked from coming to this country by -- the President's executive order was temporarily blocked by that action, and the family was able to come to this country. Ultimately, that Muslim Ban was, in a revised form, upheld by our Supreme Court. In just a few minutes, just an hour later this morning, I'm going to be introducing a bill with a wide range of senators and House members that would prevent this president, or a future president, from imposing a similar religiously based ban on folks coming into this country, narrowing his powers,” Senator Coons also said. 

Video and audio available here.  

Excerpts from the interview are below: 

Sen. Coons on Barr's handling of the report: No, I'm not. And that's one of my main concerns. The ways in which the Attorney General has sought to restrict, control, redact this report has created more confusion, rather than more transparency. He came before us in his confirmation hearing and pledged that he would lean in towards transparency. And, I still remain hopeful that we will find ways to achieve transparency. But everything he's done so far, from his very short summary of his version of the highlights of the report, released publicly, to the ways in which he's proceeding with redaction, I think, both don't fit with the regulation, and don't fit with his commitment to full transparency. 

Sen. Coons on Congress seeing the report: I think he's got an argument that, to the extent it would interfere with an ongoing investigation -- and, as we all know, there are several ongoing investigations -- that is a legitimate law enforcement-based argument for not providing it publicly. The Senate is fully capable of receiving classified information. As we know, one of the core things that the Mueller report confirmed was the breadth and depth and intent of the Russian interference campaign in our 2016 presidential elections. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to see the national security portions of this, in a classified annex. And frankly, in previous, very similar contexts, a court has ordered the release of grand jury information in the interests of public transparency.

Sen. Coons on a subpoena: That may well end up being the case. Unfortunately, a subpoena process can take a very long time to enforce. So, we should be trying to get as much out of the Attorney General voluntarily as we can, before turning to a subpoena in the House, if that's ultimately what happens. 

Sen. Coons on Putin's comments on the Mueller report: Well, it's striking that the two people who are repeatedly and publicly saying they're fully exonerated by the Mueller report are President Trump and Vladimir Putin. I don't think there's anyone here in my party, in my caucus, who believes that this report fully exonerates either our president or Vladimir Putin. That's exactly why getting the details in this report, in particular about obstruction, where the Attorney General reached his own conclusion and did not leave it to us to carry out our constitutional duty to conduct oversight, and to be better informed about whether or not the President violated the American people's trust, and his constitutional duty to see that the laws are fully and fairly enforced. That is something that is appropriate for Congress, to see this report, to be able to act on.

Sen. Coons on Barr releasing the report: That may end up being the case, and next week I may be surprised by a fulsome release of this report. The key thing that made me uncomfortable with his nomination was that he sent an unsolicited, 18-page memo into the Department of Justice, that directly critiqued what he believed to be Robert Mueller's argument on obstruction of justice -- not an obvious or simple thing for someone in private practice to do -- that he weighed in, proactively, on the argument on obstruction of justice, and then he insisted himself on reaching a conclusion about obstruction which the special counsel did not, gives me real concern. I agree with you that before moving towards a subpoena or some other measure, we should wait and see what the Attorney General releases. But, given that particular piece of his recent conduct, I'm skeptical. 

Sen. Coons on election interference: Not enough, and one of the key lessons we need to learn from the 2016 presidential election is that it's exactly the openness of our society, the ways in which social media is a powerful and almost completely unregulated influence in our campaigns, that we need to do more to strengthen our electoral systems. We did send out about $350 million in grants two years ago, but we have not yet done everything we could to strengthen the partnership between the federal government, in particular our law enforcement and intelligence communities, and the thousands of local officials and boards that are responsible for carrying out and protecting our elections. You're absolutely right -- I view China as the greatest competitor, as the greatest threat, to our role in the world in this century. And we need to be working together to find ways that we can cooperate or compete with China, in order to avoid what may otherwise be a conflict, in particular over future interference in our elections, by countries other than Russia, perhaps principally China.  

Sen. Coons on the Muslim Ban: It is a legitimate and widely-shared source of concern that President Trump repeatedly says things that suggest both that he views the press as, and this is a great phrase, the ‘enemy of the people,’ and that he views judges and courts as illegitimate. I'll remind you, one of the first things President Trump did that showed this anti-immigrant inclination was the so-called Muslim Ban. He campaigned on saying he was going to ban Muslims from entering our country, and then one of his first executive orders was that so-called Muslim Ban. It was temporarily restrained by a court -- my own home community, the church I grew up in, was at the time working with one of our local mosques and synagogues to welcome a Syrian refugee family that was blocked from coming to this country by -- the President's executive order was temporarily blocked by that action, and the family was able to come to this country. Ultimately, that Muslim Ban was, in a revised form, upheld by our Supreme Court. In just a few minutes, just an hour later this morning, I'm going to be introducing a bill with a wide range of senators and House members that would prevent this president, or a future president, from imposing a similar religiously based ban on folks coming into this country, narrowing his powers. This is not a bill that I expect to become law in this administration, but every Democratic senator running for president is a cosponsor, and I think it's important that we put out a marker that says, ‘we will not engage, as a party, in the kinds of family separation actions, whether at the border, or by preventing families from reuniting based on religion. This is just not who we are.’ There are ways that we can secure our border and secure our country without intentionally and cruelly dividing families, and I do worry, as do many of my colleagues that the President is increasingly unlikely to keep following the rule of law, should he be reelected. 

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Press Contact

Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov