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tv   Sens. Coons Flake on Protecting Special Counsel  CSPAN  November 14, 2018 6:07pm-6:22pm EST

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discuss leadership in the new congress. republicans keep the senate, mcconnell stays leader, thune of south dakota becomes whip, barrasso of wyoming is of rence chair, blunt missouri is policy children, anderness of iowa is conference vice chair. met. mocrats also chuck schumer of new york stays as leader, durbin of illinois takes over at whip, murray of washington is the assistant leader, and stabenow of michigan is the policy chair. onight, the annual correspondents dinner take
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place, senate jeff flake of arizona will host. next, senator jeff flake and jim une talk about their plan to prevent interference in the election. senator flake: bring the special counsel act to the floor. this vote, april 26 in a 14-7 it's rare there's such bipartisan legislation in the committee but it passed. it's languished here ever since. in the intervening time, we have , district inations and circuit court judges to the senate familiar for a -- floor for a vote. 50 have received a vote. it's not that everything from the judiciary committee has been waiting here for action.
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we've done a lot. these have been good votes. we've needed to move these judges through. but -- this is priority now. the justification given in april for not bringing it to a floor vote was that nobody was being fired, nothing to see here. special counsel mueller was not in any danger that clearly is not the case now. the attorney general has been fired. and the authority and the oversight for the investigation was taken away from rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and given to someone who has not been senate-confirmed, who has expressed open hostility to the mueller investigation. senator thune? senator thune: thank you, senator flake. i appreciate the ongoing working partnership i enjoy on the judiciary committee and public relations. we just called for a unanimous consent vote, the majority leader came out an objected.
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i appreciate that there are many colleagues, mostly in the other party who said there's nothing to worry about here, that there's no reason to be concerned but they support special counsel robert mueller being able to complete his investigation. senator coons: we need to to the realize a week ago the president compeled the resignation of his attorney general. his closest ally in the early stages of his campaign. and the reason he fired attorney general jeff sessions is because he recused himself. the president just the same day that he compeled the resignation of the attorney general tweeted about the mueller investigation being a hoax. he has replaced the attorney general not with the deputy attorney general which would have been appropriate under the succession statute but instead with an acting attorney general, matt whittaker, whose legal ideas are well outside the mainstream. whose relevant experience is significantly below that of the deputy attorney general. those questions, the
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constitutional i have to his appointment have been challenged now in a lawsuit brought by the state of maryland. the larger issue that concerns me and i think concerns my friend senator flake is public statements made a year ago by matthew whittaker, now the acting attorney general of the united states, questioning the validity and conduct of the special counsel's investigation. if not now, when? it seems to me it's important for us to remember. the whole reason there is a special counsel, president trump fired the f.b.i. director and said he did it because of, quote that russia thing. the president has now taken another, i think precipitous, step in compeling the resignation of his attorney general and replacing him not with the appropriate successor but with a hand-picked successor who has a history of making public statements challenging the investigation. this is a bipartisan bill that's been ready for floor action for months. we are confident it would get 60 votes if given a vote. it is a majority leader who controls the floor agenda an by
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compeling a unanimous consent request action today, senator flake has put us in a place where it's clear that there's an unwillingness to act my hope is that we will in the tais ahead find additional colleagues who are willing to join with senator flake and me. this is a bill that continues to enjoy the support of its four initial co-sponsors, and i'm confident it would get 60 votes if brought to the floor. with that, i think it's time for us to move from speeches to action. i appreciate senator flake's action today and i'm hopeful we'll find other colleagues who will agree as they reflect on the very perilous situation that special counsel mueller's investigation is in today as a result of the president's actions of a week ago. >> mitch mcconnell said there's no need to do this. does he know something you don't? is that wishful thinking? where do you think that comfort level of doing nothing comes from? senator flake: the president has
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said he's not going to move on special counsel. but that doesn't -- that's not enough. that's not enough. perhaps that's what his comfort, the majority leader, i would ask him. but it doesn't given comfort to me when this was brought to the floor in april, it was said there's nothing to see here, there's nothing going on. but now that clearly is not the case. when you have the attorney general fired and the oversight for the investigation moved to someone who has not received senate confirmation, who expressed open hostility to the mueller investigation, and there's a problem. and i think that most of our olleagues feel the same way. >> given the concern of open hostility toward the investigation should matt whittaker recuse hymn from overseing the investigation? senator coons: yes, absolutely.
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i don't think he should be in the position at all to have oversight of the investigation. that's what seems unconstitutional. senator flake: to step out of the succession they've always had, the same type of success succession, it goes to the deputy who is already performing that function. it wasn't as if they leapfrogged over the deputy they took this investigation from him and gave it to someone who has not received senate confirmation and that does not seem constitutional today. >> chuck grassley said he wouldn't have hearings before the end they have year with matt whittaker. do you think it's important for the senate judiciary committee to open matt whittaker in open session? senator coons: the ranking member sent a letter saying we should have matt whittaker in front of us to ask questions about his prior tirks values, conduct and whether or not he'll context. self in this senator flake: when you hear the statement he is has made in the past, not just about the special
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counsel but what he thinks of, for example, marbury vs. madison, to say that was wrongly decided undercuts our entire system of justice here that we've enjoyed for a couple of centuries. so that's the type of thing that he would be asked if he were subject subjected to senate confirmation. but he hasn't been. other than as u.s. attorney in iowa, they don't receive nearly the scrutiny that somebody who is going for attorney general would receive. senator conditions: matthew whittaker has been reported to have said that the h believes in the policy of nullification that he believes it's possible they are states to nullify laws. there a number of truly alarming statements matthew whittaker has made in the past he ought to come in front of the
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judiciary committee and explain why he's the appropriate person to serve as the acting attorney general of the united states. >> it seems like your best avenue for protection bill is through something with leverage. like the appropriation process. what's the likelihood you can get enough people on board to use appropriations process to protect mueller? senator flake: i'm an appropriator, i've discussed this with other appropriators, we're not there yet but jerry nadler who is likely the next chairman of the judiciary committee in the house has suggested an end of year appropriation bill may be the right vehicle. i think we've done what we can right now, saying we could have a floor vote today. we'll crs that bridge when we get toyota. i'd be willing to consider it as a vehicle. >> senator flake would you be willing to consider that? senator flake: i'm not an
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appropriator but then it comes to a vote ton the floor. >> is there any other way you think you have? senator flake: i committed not to advance any more nominees through the judiciary committee. we had hearings for 21. they're awaiting action, some of them tomorrow. and they will not receive my vote and with the margins we have in the judiciary committee it means they will not move forward. also i will not vote for any who come to the floor. there are 32, i believe, awaiting action on the floor. now theoretically if the vice president comes and breaks a tie, if all the republicans are for and democrats against, they would still pass. that's not where my leverage is but i'll use what i have. >> one of the criticisms i think of your critismcism about the president is you don't seem to act on it at time. for example, kavanaugh and other judges. is there any sense that you might waver on that? when it comes down toyota --
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senator flake: i've used this leverage once with judges, to receive a vote on tariffs, which we did. and i didn't vote on any until we received that vote. i'm fully prepared to carry through with this. >> you can see the president would never sign this bill even if it got out of congress and onto his desk. what real protection would something like this offer the special counsel beyond saying ok the senate doesn't want you to do this? senator coons: the president said he would never sign for the bill providing mandatory sangs against russia. it passed the senate 98-2. i think history show he is signed it. >> specifically what you're threatening or saying you'll do if you get a vote, would you lift your hold on the judicial nominees? and the vote goes down or the house never takes it up, are you insisting that --
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senator flake: we're insisting on a vote. that's the letter i sent to the majority leader on friday. he's had this over the weekend, he's known this was coming. we're insisting on a vote. now i believe if we have the vote we'll pass overwhelmingly and the pressure to put it as part of a must-pass spending bill where the president will have to sign it is a lot greater. so we just need the vote. >> have you spoken to paul ryan about maybe the house doing something with this as well? senator flake: i haven't. >> can't leader mcconnell wait you out at this point? senator flake: sure. but there are a lot of judges they want to get through before the first of the year. there are like i said 21 awaiting action in the judiciary committee. 32 on the floor. theoretically all those could move in a lame duck session. >> it's not like the senate is changing hands, they could bring them through committee again and
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to the floor again. senator flake: you have to start it over again. it's a tougher process. >> how did leader mcconnell react to that? on the elections, republicans were like judicial nomination , he said next year, judicial nominations were the number one thing left. how did he react in your conversation when you said you'd withhold these nominations? senator flake: this conversation came before with regard the vote on tariffs. with regard to the motion to instruct. and we got that vote. i don't think we would have had the threat not been made or had i i not held for a couple of weeks these nominees in the judiciary committee. so you use what leverage would have. this is priority now. between april and now, the attorney general wasn't fired. there wasn't this blatant a move on the special counsel. there has been now. that's the reason we're doing this. thank you.
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>> it's ok, everybody. nobody panic. >> tonight we'll hear more from arizona republican senator jeff flake. he's the keynote speaker at this year's annual radio and television congressional correspondents' dinner here in washington. live starting at 7:30 p.m. eastern here on c span 2. tomorrow, c-span's road to the white house 2020 coverage continues with comments from ohio governor john kasich in new hampshire. he'll speak to societiers and supporters as an annual absolute to the first amendment in manchester. that's live thursday at 6:00 p.m. ian on c-span3.


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