VIDEO - Sen. Chris Coons on Morning Joe: “Stephen Miller is, I think, a cancer at the very heart of the values of this presidency”
Sen. Chris Coons of the Senate Judiciary Committee joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the Justice Department Inspector General’s report.
“President Trump since he became president has been claiming that the investigation into his campaign’s activities was a witch hunt and a hoax. That’s an investigation that produced six convictions of some of his most senior folks, his campaign manager, his personal attorney, his national security advisor, and this inspector general report shows that it was without bias and well-founded,” said Coons.
“President Trump’s got one personal attorney who is currently serving jail time, another one who is mucking around in Ukraine again and has frankly become somewhat of a laughingstock, despite his respected tenure as mayor of New York, and so if Attorney General Barr wants to join that company, I think ultimately, he will go down in history as a discredited attorney general.”
Q: What did you make of Attorney General Barr’s comments denouncing the DOJ Inspector General?
Senator Coons: This was a striking action by the Attorney General to try and continue to pump up these fake conspiracy theories that Republicans in support of Trump’s campaign to discredit the ongoing impeachment inquiry have been spreading.
Later this morning, we are going to have a hearing on the Senate Judiciary Committee about Inspector General Horowitz’s investigation – an investigation that concluded that the FBI was without bias and properly and well-founded as they launched the investigation into the then-Trump campaign and Russian interference into the 2016 election.
That Attorney General Barr dismisses that out of hand, in sharp contrast to the FBI Director, Chris Wray, who stands by the conclusions of the inspector general, is to me just one more piece of evidence to me that the attorney general is not our nation’s top law enforcement officer, but is instead acting as President Trump’s personal attorney.
Q: What do you hope happens beyond Stephen Miller getting fired, how do you think that’d even happen?
Coons: Well in any previous administration, someone in the modern era who is revealed to have views so wildly different from what is acceptable in the United States, in our modern society, would have been thrown out years ago.
It tells us everything we need to know about where President Trump is on immigration policy, on his views of people of different racial backgrounds, and where some of his most divisive actions have come from.
Those of us in the Senate who’ve worked on a bipartisan basis to try to resolve some of our impasses over immigration, for example, can see a straight line between Stephen Miller’s hateful views and opinions and the decision to separate parents from their children at the border or the decision to dramatically reduce the number of refugees accepted into the United States. These have long been bipartisan positions that we don’t use cruelty towards immigrant children as a tool of our policy, that as a nation, many of whom came here as refugees ourselves, it is a nation whose families have a history of seeking asylum in this country where we don’t block those seeking refuge.
Stephen Miller is, I think, a cancer at the very heart of the values of this presidency. I hope that more senators will join us in saying, these expressed views released in recent emails show that not only is he disqualified from serving, but that President Trump should abandon his hateful rhetoric and move towards representing all Americans.
Q: Which Lindsey Graham is going to show up to the Senate Judiciary hearing today?
Coons: Of course, I hope that the Chairman Graham who shows up this morning will be the seasoned attorney, someone who understands and respects the role of the inspector general, someone who sounds more like FBI Director Wray, who has accepted the findings of his report.
I am concerned that we are more likely to see the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing Lindsey Graham who is full of aggression and anger and at times even venom and who is a vigorous, forceful defender of everything President Trump is saying or has said. I’ll remind you, President Trump since he became president has been claiming that the investigation into his campaign’s activities was a witch hunt and a hoax.
That’s an investigation that produced six convictions of some of his most senior folks, his campaign manager, his personal attorney, his national security advisor, and this inspector general report shows that it was without bias and well-founded. That is the conclusion that I hope Chairman Graham accepts in this morning’s hearing, but given the current environment here in the Senate, I suspect we are in for a rough ride this morning.
Q: What are your thoughts about how Barr has evolved as attorney general? What happens to Chris Wray?
Coons: I’ve known Chris Wray since law school and I voted against Attorney General Barr and I voted for FBI Director Wray in their confirmation hearing processes, and I suspect events in the days and weeks ahead may bear out the differences in their approaches.
There are thousands of men and women every day who go to work at the FBI to protect our nation, to keep us safe, and to uphold our laws and Constitution. The attorney general of the United States should be the head of the Department of Justice, the person whose personal oath is to the Constitution, not to any one president.
I’ll remind you, President Trump’s got one personal attorney who is currently serving jail time, another one who is mucking around in Ukraine again, and has frankly become somewhat of a laughingstock despite his respected tenure as mayor of New York, and so if Attorney General Barr wants to join that company, I think ultimately, he will go down in history as a discredited attorney general. I am impressed that FBI Director Wray is standing up to President Trump’s conspiracy theories and mischaracterizations and is continuing to defend the men and women of the FBI and to accept the IG report.
Q: I suspect the use of FISA to surveil the Trump campaign is going to be a tense issue in the hearing this morning. Do you think Republicans are moving in the direction of reform of warrantless surveillance or is this going to be political theater today?
Coons: If this were a coherent leadership approach, they would take some of the issues and concerns raised in the report, and as FBI Director Wray has done, embrace them, and then talk about responding to them and making sure that we continue to hold federal law enforcement to the highest possible standards going forward.
Instead, I am concerned we will be treated to more political theater. We have seen some of this tension on other matters and in other committees. You mentioned earlier in the show in this section that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo actually publicly challenged Russia’s interference in our last election. At the same time that the Department of Justice IG’s report is being reviewed by the Judiciary Committee this morning, the Foreign Relations Committee is taking up [A NUMBER OF] bipartisan bills. This week and next week, we will be taking up sanctions against Russia and sanctions against Turkey. I think it is encouraging to see some bipartisanship here in the Senate. Today, however, at the Department of Justice inspector general’s oversight hearing, I don’t expect that, I think we will just see more political theater.