Flake: I Will Not Let Judicial Nominees Advance, Confirm Judges Until Senate Protects Mueller

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U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) Wednesday took to the Senate floor with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) in an attempt to secure immediate passage of S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. The bill, which passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in April by a bipartisan vote of 14-7, would protect the integrity of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The request was blocked by an objection from the Majority Leader.

"One further note on this unanimous consent request: because it has failed today, Senator Coons and I are prepared to raise it again and again, until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor. And I have informed the Majority Leader that I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee, or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting a confirmation vote on the floor, until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote," Flake demanded.

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ): I rise today to speak in defense of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and to defend the vital role he has been playing since May of last year in yet another act of service to his country, in what has been a life of distinguished service.



For his trouble, Mr. Mueller has been accused repeatedly and without basis in fact of conducting a “witch hunt” in the course of his current investigation - by none other than the president of the United States.

And so, I would like to also take this opportunity to say a few words about what Mueller and his team have been investigating and why, as the point of this vital investigation seems to have been purposely confused and maligned by the White House in a rather alarming way.

My colleague from Delaware, Senator Coons, and I have asked for unanimous consent to bring to the floor S. 2644, the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which passed on a bipartisan vote out of the Judiciary Committee in April. This request has received an objection.

This bill is designed to do one thing: protect the integrity of the Special Counsel’s investigation, and spare it of any interference from the executive branch, including from those who may themselves be subjects of the investigation.

Mr. President, the findings of Mr. Mueller’s investigation are of utmost importance to the security of this country, and to the well-being of our democratic institutions as well.

In America, as we all know, no one is above the law; our doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of our judicial system is what sets us apart from lawless countries; and presidents do not get to determine who and what gets investigated, and who and what does not.

For the record and for history, this Special Counsel was appointed to thoroughly investigate the attacks on our electoral system by elements of the Russian government during the lead-up to our 2016 general election.

How such an investigation could be a cause of controversy is beyond me – surely we all recognize that it is essential to understand this new form of foreign aggression so that we might better defend America against such attacks in the future, right?

One would think that there would be unanimous national resolve to get to the bottom of such aggression from an enemy foreign power, especially a foreign power with whom we spent much of the second half of the twentieth century locked in a global ideological struggle, especially when in their renewed aggression toward us they have targeted the institution that we have and they don’t – free and fair elections.

Vladimir Putin knows that he could never defeat us on the battlefield. And he knows that the ideas at the center of his former empire were soulless and bankrupt.

So he wants to rob us of what makes the United States superior to his autocracy: His goal is to turn us against ourselves and in so doing try to destroy our democracy.

This is a matter of grave national importance. This is not a moment for our own national leadership to be weak or irresolute or compromised in any way.

But some of us in Washington have seemed strangely incurious about just what the Russian malefactors did to America in 2016 at the direction of Vladimir Putin.

Our president has been so incurious that at times over the past two years he has been eager to accept Putin’s denials at face value. In fact, our executive branch has generally been in such a state of denial about the attacks on our democracy that the White House has not been at all aggressive to defend against future attacks.

I defy any of us to name a threat so grave, to which the government of the United States - that we, all of us, including this Senate - has responded so lackadaisically. Why is that?

And why have we been so meek in the face of outrageous claims from the White House that this investigation is a “witch hunt” – claims that we know are false?

Because in spite of what the White House has said at various times since that election of 2016, our intelligence agencies – corroborated by allied intelligence agencies as well - possess a mountain of forensic data that establishes the fact of these incursions and establishes Russian responsibility beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Presumably, this shameful counter-offensive by the White House has taken place because another part of Special Counsel Mueller’s charge is to determine whether the Russians had any American cooperation in their effort to undermine the sanctity of our electoral process.

Now, we have been told that the bill that Senator Coons and I have brought up is not necessary, as there have been no indications that the independence of Mr. Mueller’s investigation is in jeopardy. That may have been an arguable position before last week. But it is not arguable anymore.

With the firing of the attorney general, and (in my view) the improper installation of an acting attorney general – who has not been subject to confirmation by this body – the president now has this investigation in his sites, and we all know it.

My purpose here is not to divine the president’s motives in his seeming determination to sow doubt about and curtail Mr. Mueller’s investigation. If, as the president says, there was no involvement by anyone in his campaign with the Russian malefactors, then this investigation, properly concluded, will discover and document that.

But Mr. Mueller has already brought dozens of indictments against Russian nationals. And it is in the national security interest of the United States to fully understand what they did to us in 2016. If the president doesn’t understand that, we must. If he doesn’t prioritize that, we will.

We – all of us - talk much here in this place in defense of “all that we hold dear.” Those are the words that we speak. All that we hold dear.

But what do we actually mean by those words? And do we really mean it when we say them? Speaking personally, I cannot think of values held more “dear” than the independence of our judicial system and an electoral system free of malign influence, either foreign or domestic.

When I think of the things that we hold most dear, those things are right at the top of the list. It is our sworn oath to keep it that way.

One further note on this unanimous consent request: because it has failed today, Senator Coons and I are prepared to raise it again and again, until there is a vote on this vital bipartisan legislation on the Senate floor.

And I have informed the Majority Leader that I will not vote to advance any of the 21 judicial nominees pending in the Judiciary Committee, or vote to confirm the 32 judges awaiting a confirmation vote on the floor, until S. 2644 is brought to the full Senate for a vote.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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