Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley Has Spent the Week Cowering from His Party’s Legal Problems

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Of all the Republicans responding their President’s increasing legal woes, Chuck Grassley — the Chair of the Judiciary Committee — has had the most appalling week.

On Monday (even before news of the George Papadopoulos plea broke), when reporters started asking about Paul Manafort’s indictment, Grassley used some American flags as cover to hide his escape.

On Wednesday, after it became clear that Papadopoulos told the FBI Grassley’s fellow Iowan, Sam Clovis, had prioritized chumming up to Russia on the campaign generally, and encouraged Papadopoulos to set up meetings with the Russians as late as August 2016 (two months after it was public they had hacked the DNC), the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair said the allegations would not be an issue in Clovis’ confirmation to US Department of Agriculture.

Grassley said he has reviewed emails provided by the Trump campaign that include a fuller account of Clovis’ interactions with Papadopoulos. According to those 80-some emails, Grassley said, Clovis does not appear to encourage any travel to meet with Russian officials.

“There’s an entirely different context than what was reported about Clovis and his relationship to this George P.,” Grassley told reporters.

The emails he reviewed cannot be released publicly, Grassley said, although some of them have been referenced in published newspaper accounts and are referred to in the court document from the Papadopoulos case.

When asked if he believes Clovis could face legal consequences over his role in the campaign, Grassley answered that it was “too early for me to say that.”

“But,” he went on, “reading these emails … that’s not an issue.”

Grassley was still prepared to introduce Clovis at his then planned confirmation hearing, even after the allegations.

Even the White House seems to disagree with Grassley’s assessment that these allegations are “not an issue” though, because Clovis has since withdrawn from consideration.

And then later on Wednesday, several days after I first showed that the Papadopoulos plea showed that Jeff Sessions had perjured himself yet again in Senate testimony, Chuck Grassley was still unsure whether he’d even call on the Attorney General to explain his serial lies before his committee.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday he was still learning all the details about the Papadopoulos matter.
Asked if Sessions should amend his testimony before his committee, Grassley told CNN: “I’m looking into it.”

I’ve long defended Grassley’s legitimate questions about the investigation — most notably questions about the Steele dossier. But all week the senior Republican overseer of the Justice Department has been cowering from the clear implications of this scandal. Perhaps it’s because Grassley has a duty, here, to ensure the integrity of a department led by a serial perjurer, he has instead been hiding and dodging.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

35 replies
    • Rugger9 says:

      He may not be forced to testify but you can bet that DiFi, Leahy, Whitehouse, Franken, Blumenthal, Hirono, Wyden among all of the others will ask very pointed questions.  Grassley can’t cut the mic on the asking, and there is no way I could see the Ranking Member agreeing to restrict those as out of bounds, JeffBo has lied to them at least twice now.

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Yes. Grassley is mud, just like Sessions.

        Now consider: why have many wanted to avoid SJC? Did they know that stuff would be leaked to Sessions and/or Trump?

        And now, at this point, can anyone fathom that Mueller could be fired?

        Political suicide.

        How much metadata does Mueller have that proves leaks from Sessions or Grassley?

        Did Grassley advise Sessions to recuse himself?
        (because Grassley thought he could bury or derail)

        Does Sessions and Grassley think they are immune?

        Or, are they just clueless?

  1. orionATL says:

    what bothers me most about grassley and the clovis matter, and what says a lot about the kind of senator he is for iowa, is that the post to which clovis was nominated called for a trained scientist. clovis is nothing near a trained scientist.**

    grassley’s egregious genuflection to the whitehouse ideologues who have been routinely appointing severely unqualified republican party operatives to important government posts since jan 21 cheats his state in a serious way.

    iowa is a farm state. farm (and hog ranch) products are a central support of its economy. the dept of agriculture needs high-quality scientific administators to help american agriculture to continue to compete internationally and to develop alternative farming for small farms that can no longer compete nationally, let alone intetnationally.

    grassley is just the sort of swamp politician trump threatened to get rid off. but iowa voters are too ignorant and too indoctrinated to see how they are being had by grassley and trump. and how their future economic propects are being dimmed.

    ** https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/who-is-sam-clovis/2017/11/02/1925ab6c-bffb-11e7-9294-705f80164f6e_video.html?

  2. Rugger9 says:

    It will become harder for the Republicans in Congress to ignore the collusion as more indictments come down. So far we have Papadopoulos pleading guilty, Manafort and Gates indicted, Sam left under a cloud, and General Flynn, Carter and Corey waiting in the wings. All of these are campaign people, Flynn was the first NSA and so all would be expected to contribute something. Even JeffBo has seen the light remembering those other Russian discussions, but he will be too wrapped up in his own lies to escape without a pardon, I would think.

    Time for a pool on who perp-walks or pleads out next: My guess is General Flynn or his son in a play to get the old man.

    • lefty665 says:

      To get that you have to actually elect Dems to the Senate. That is a tough row to hoe next year when the Dems are defending 24 seats and the Repubs 9. It is even harder since the Dems so far are going for more of the same that worked so well for them last year.  Even Clinton sycophant Donna Brazile has figured out that elite neo lib corruption is a loser. If you can imagine her shock when her nose was rubbed in it perhaps you and some of the Party’s other “bright lights” can figure it out too, change course and stop the slide into irrelevance.  But I wouldn’t bet on it. Oh, and Franken is a relatively junior member of the committee. Who you’d get with a Dem majority is Feinstein. Bwahahahah. She’s no better than Grassely.

  3. Charles says:

    Is Grassley cowering? Or complicit?

    I realize it’s difficult to read people’s minds. And Marcy has given one example of where Grassley has been good (whistleblower protection). But Grassley’s actions have, I believe, consistently interfered with the investigation.

    Given the connections between the useful idiots/Russian intelligence assets like Papadopolous and congressional Republicans like Ted Yoho that are emerging, I don’t think we can assume that our national leaders are working for our nation. Some may be working for another.

    Sessions could be a quisling. Grassley could be another.

    • orionATL says:

      yes!

      lamar smith is a neolithic cretin.

      but i’d like to know why – scandal or illness or more money to be made lobbying?

  4. Charles says:

    OT, with regard to EW interview on WBAI.  EW’s explanation of difference between Democrats financing Steele dossier and Trump getting hacked e-mails was a little muddy.

    The distinction is that Trump was dealing with emissaries working for the interests of the Russian state while Steele was dealing with Russians working against the interests of the Russian state. That’s why Trump was paying in policy, while Steele was paying in money.  Since interference in the election disrupted the constitutional order of the United States, the former does constitute the dictionary definition of treason, while the latter clearly does not.

    I do agree the Republicans are very good at mudwrestling and Dems are not very smart at staying away from pigs. But in this case, I think indictments will speak more clearly than words.

  5. GKJames says:

    Maybe Grassley’s still busy pondering his March 2016 statement in response to Obama’s nominating Garland: “A majority of the Senate has decided to fulfill its constitutional role of advice and consent by withholding support for the nomination during a presidential election year, with millions of votes having been cast in highly charged contests.” Am happy to hear what that cretin has to say as soon as he can rationally explain his depriving millions of the benefit of their vote in the 2012 election.

  6. Rapier says:

    Chuck has been little more than an old hack for a long time. That’s not the story. The story is  and has been the relentless diminishment of the congress itself so that now it’s little more than a first rate dog and pony show.

    I am not saying that it will happen but I think it could happen that eventually the US congress could one day pass it’s own version of the Enabling Act, giving all power to the president.

  7. Splashoil says:

    Good all us Democrats stand tall for integrity and justice. United we stand, except a few back sliders like Donna Brazile. Great we got Russia to suck all oxygen out of the room! Seems like that’s all the intelligentsia can discuss.
    .
    .

  8. Rugger9 says:

    Another problem for SHS to explain (and JeffBo too).  Apparently Carter Page told the House Intel committee yesterday that he told Sessions he was going to Russia and (presumably) why.  Sessions should have resigned some time ago, but since our resident KKKeebler AG has no shame whatsoever, and his continued presence means continued protection for the Kaiser JeffBo will not move out until forced.

    If Sessions does go, there is no one I can think of who would be simultaneously acceptable to the Senate (enough to avoid a filibuster) and willing to defend the Kaiser at all costs.  I’m pretty sure the AG has to be a lawyer (but am not sure if that is codified into law) so that rules out Kelly.

    It seems that in spite of his obnoxious behavior over the last few weeks on the TV, Carter is squealing to save his skin.  Will it work with Mueller?

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/02/politics/carter-page-testimony-russia-trip/index.html

    • orionATL says:

      “sessions should have resigned some time ago”

      i don’t think we want sessions gone. the situation with special councel is perilously stable. without sessions rosenstein loses authority does he not?

      another paradox of politics.

  9. pseudonymous in nc says:

    OT: with the AP report that Guccifer 2.0 passed off Podesta emails as DNC ones and edited documents, would the hackers have been looking for some way to collate multiple overlapping email corpuses?

    (o hai Julian, Lord of the Stationery Cupboard and Cambridge Analytica.)

  10. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT: Email hypocrisy

    https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/02/jared-kushner-email-account-white-house-243389

    White House officials have begun examining emails associated with a third and previously unreported email account on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s private domain, according to three people familiar with the matter.

    Hundreds of emails have been sent since January from White House addresses to accounts on the Kushner family domain, these people said. Many of those emails went not to Kushner’s or Ivanka Trump’s personal addresses but to an account they both had access to and shared with their personal household staff for family scheduling.

    [Haha. WH investigating? FBI has the info, so why potus not asking Mueller for help? /s]

  11. SpaceLifeForm says:

    OT?: House can not be this stupid
    (except they can)

    https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/03/house-republicans-robert-mueller-resignation-244517

    Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), introduced a measure…

    “[B]e it Resolved, That House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately,” the resolution states.

    [Someday, they may realize they are blaming the wrong person. Nah, won’t happen with these corrupted red state idiots]

    • bmaz says:

      Yes,they can. Andy Biggs is absolutely that craven and stupid. And I may not be from TX and know him personally, but there is a crystal clear track record on Gohmert Pyle. The other twit, no clue, but he seems appropriately craven and ignorant.

      • Rugger9 says:

        I concur, and we’ll call it today’s Hail Mary.  We will see a lot more of these shiny objects designed to distract attention away from the daily dose of bad news for the Kaiser and his minions.

        If there is a silver lining, it will be that some of these clowns in not-too-gerrymandered districts will be forced to eat their words if they vote for this on top of their support of the ObamaCare repeal and probably the tax bill too.

        We’ll see.  bmaz, there’s a CSGOPOTD (Crazy Stupid Republican of the Day) column that runs regularly on Daily Kos.  I’m sure all of them are there.

        A Sense of the House / Senate resolution is kabuki for grandstanding purposes only.

  12. SpaceLifeForm says:

    @emptywheel

    “Sitting here frozen in front of my computer contemplating starting a timeline & realizing it’s a rabbit hole out of which I’ll never escape”

    [Yep. Been working on this problem for many years. Must be crowdsourced with links and snippets (like I do), but there must be some kind of incentive. It is not an easy problem]

    • bmaz says:

      Why not you? Marcy has done it on many cases. The good citizens of EW, including Marcy, me and all the others will help polish the work product.

      I look forward to it!

  13. SpaceLifeForm says:

    @emptywheel

    “I get email (from an AOL account). ”

    [Did you contact Mueller on this? I would. Not just a general contact at FBI]

  14. James Spindler says:

    As a former Iowan, and as an old guy, I remember when Chuck was elected, replacing arch-conservative Senator H.R. Gross. He gained my respect through ensuing years as he consistently held various colleagues’ (fellow Republicans as well as Dems) feet to the fire, as he tried to find out where all the money was going. He made ’em squirm and he didn’t seem to care who they were. But y’all are now right: he seems to have lost his passion and he has been caving in ever since Obama got in (maybe before that — I was off the grid for years).

    • Jerry says:

      Technical point:  Grassley succeeded Congressman H.R. Gross, then later beat incumbent Senator Culver in 1980 on Reagan’s coattails.  He made his name in part by attacking Pentagon procurement practices, especially criticizing high prices paid for seemingly ordinary hammers and toilet seats.

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