House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte joined me this morning to discuss the need for a second special counsel to review the actions of the FBI and DOJ during election 2016, the re-authorization of FISA, and immigration reform:
HH: Joined now by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Goodlatte. Representative, good morning, great to have you with us, Mr. Chairman.
BG: Oh, thank you, Hugh, it’s great to be with you and your listeners.
HH: I have two issues to cover with you today – the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and immigration. Let me take the first, first. About 21 minutes ago, or 59 minutes ago, the President tweeted House votes on controversial FISA act today. This is the act that may have been used with the help of the discredited and phony dossier to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump campaign by previous administration and others, question mark. Are you indeed voting on the FISA act today, and will it pass?
BG: We are voting on the FISA act today. I don’t know if it’ll pass or not. The program is a very important program when it’s used to gather information about people who are not citizens of the United States, and they’re outside the United States. But it has the potential, I don’t know of any facts that show that this program’s been abused, but it has the potential for abuse with regard to U.S. citizens. And that’s why the Judiciary Committee has always advocated for a search warrant requirement before you look at information that they have incidentally gathered in their database about United States citizens. This bill has a modification of that, that is not as good as the Judiciary Committee, but it is better than a straight up reauthorization, which is what the United States Senate wants to do. So I will support that.
HH: All right, second question and last one on this, I know that House Intel has jurisdiction over whether or not a FISA warrant was presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court supported by the Steele dossier. I know that’s not your committee. Do you believe.
BG: Actually, it is our committee.
HH: Okay. Do you believe that a FISA warrant was supported by the Steele dossier?
BG: We don’t know, yet, and we need to get to the bottom of those facts. One thing I do know is that it was not under Section 702. However, protecting Americans’ privacy and their 4th Amendment rights under any federal surveillance statute is very important. And this is, if it’s true, a very, very, very serious breach of the trust of the American people if that was done by a law enforcement agency in conjunction with a political campaign, and by the way, not Donald Trump’s political campaign. So this is a very important matter both to the Intelligence Committee and other committees in the Congress are working to get to the bottom of it, and we are looking at it from the direction of what happened last year in the FBI, which is the world’s premiere law enforcement organization, thousands of great people who work there, who protect us, who uphold the rule of law. But some of them at the top went astray, and we need to get the facts on that.
HH: Are you really concerned there were rogue agents who were attempting to influence the outcome of the election within the Bureau?
BG: I think that has to be investigated. I don’t think we should draw conclusions until we have all the facts, but we know from information that’s out there that’s there’s a serious concern about this, and we are supportive of finding those facts and acting upon them when we do.
HH: Very last question, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is no stranger to this. Do you think they have an obligation to speak up about what they were given and why they acted, if in fact they feel that they were misled?
BG: I think it is very important that the court let the Congress know if they feel that improprieties were followed in attempting to get the court to take legal actions.
HH: All right, now let’s move to immigration. I have spent the morning talking to Senator Tillis, Senator Cotton. I have been reading the Politico piece, all about whether or not there is a compromise on four critical issues – DACA, border security, chain migration, diversity lottery. You put forward a bill yesterday. What do you do about those four issues in your bill?
BG: Well, our bill addresses all of those issues. And by the way, when you’re talking about border security, the President has made it very clear, as has the secretary of Homeland Security, they’re not just talking about a wall. They’re not just talking about technology on the border. They’re talking about what happens to people when they get across that border, and we pick them up, and they can’t be returned to their home country, and they are allowed and released into the interior of the country. We’re talking about sanctuary cities, we’re talking about chain migration. All of these things play together. If you’re going to do what the Speaker of the House called for, which is help people who are in this DACA program, and this bill does that, if you’re going to do that, you should make sure it doesn’t happen again. And that means you have to have serious security measures both at the border and in the interior, and with regard to chain migration, because once people are in, they then petition for a whole host of other people to come in as well. And visa lottery, well, that’s just crazy. I mean, that’s giving green cards, permanent resident status and a pathway to citizenship to people based on pure luck, being drawn out, their name drawn out of a computer.
HH: So how optimistic are you that the House will send a bill to the Senate so that the Senate can then send a bill back to it for conference?
BG: We are working very hard to garner the necessary support to pass this legislation. We have a good, broad base group of people working on this. Martha McSally from a border district in Arizona to Raul Labrador, a member of the Freedom Caucus and chairman of our immigration subcommittee, we’re all chairmen of committees or subcommittees, and now we’re adding other cosponsors to the bill. I think it’s very good. I think it is good that the administration has indicated that this bill does what they want to accomplish, and we need to take that to the American people and get them to speak up and tell their members of Congress they want them to support the Security America’s Future Act.
HH: What would the bill do about the DACA recipients, nearly 800,000 of them, who have previously received work permits under the Obama administration program?
BG: It only applies to the DACA recipients. As you may know, Democrats and others want to expand that greatly. It applies to 690,000 people who are in that program, and it only allows them to renew their status. It allows them to continue to do that. It’s a permanent program rather than a temporary one. It’s one authorized by Congress, not illegal like President Obama’s unconstitutional action. But it allows them to stay here. It allows them to work. It allows them to travel. But it does not allow them a special pathway to citizenship, which is my opinion, critically important. You can never put people who were, no matter how they got here, if they were here illegally, you can’t put them ahead of people who have worked sometimes for years to follow the law and bring themselves and their family into this country legally.
HH: Now Chairman Goodlatte, if your bill passes, would the DACA recipients, the Dreamers, be allowed to stay indefinitely in the United States absent criminal violation?
BG: That’s correct. No gang members with criminal convictions or convictions in juvenile court for serious crimes, nobody who has violated the law or is a gang member. You can be a gang member and not violating the law. They’re excluded. They cannot participate in this program. But people who have abided by the law will have a status that allows them to stay in the United States, but not a special pathway to a green card or citizenship.
HH: Now that appears to me to be a very humanitarian gesture, and one supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. Do you believe Democrats will reject it over the combined demand for genuine border security, which is also humanitarian in that it sends a message do not try and cross this border, you’re going to die, be held hostage, abused, raped, held captive. We have got to send that message, Mr. Chairman.
BG: Well, you’re absolutely right. And your analysis of what this bill is intent upon doing is exactly right. You cannot do something for people who have been brought here illegally, or come here illegally on their own, and then not prevent this from happening in the future. And all of these things in this bill, ending the diversity program, ending chain migration, reducing overall immigration levels, visa security, border wall, advanced technology, security ports of entry, more boots on the ground, use of the National Guard, biometric entry/exit, e-verify, mandatory e-verify, sanctuary cities crackdown, detaining dangerous individuals, Kate’s Law combats asylum fraud, keeps out dangerous criminals and removes those that are arrested here, visa overstays, huge problem. 40% of the people who are here illegally enter the country legally and simply overstay their visa, and safe return of unaccompanied minors who right now come across the border, they turn themselves in, or if they’re apprehended, either way, in a few short days, they get released into the interior of the country, often to the very people who came here illegally in the first place and then arrange for them to be able to get here as well. These things are all needed if we’re going to address this problem in a serious way.
HH: Okay, Chairman Goodlatte, I want to conclude by going back to the Bureau, because I’m a Department of Justice alum. I’m very concerned about what’s going on there. Do you think we need a second special counsel to investigate the interference in Election 2016 by senior members of the Bureau and possibly by the associate deputy Attorney General Ohr?
BG: I don’t want to single anybody out at this point, but I definitely think there needs to be somebody from the outside who’s trusted by the American people to come in and act here, because neither the Inspector General at the Justice Department, who is doing good work and we’re expecting a report from him in the next few months, nor the Congress have prosecutorial authority. We can shine a spotlight on this, but we cannot, and we can refer people for prosecution, but guess what? We’d be referring them for prosecution to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice needs a housecleaning, particularly with regard to some of the people in the high ranks of the FBI. And we need an independent counsel to look into that.
HH: Now has Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein indicated whether or not he will be appointing such a person?
BG: He has not so indicated at this point. We have seen some signs that they are taking more seriously what has been uncovered about what was occurring last year. But you know, only time will tell. We, in the meantime, short of that special counsel, are going to continue to investigate this in the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
HH: Is the Attorney General Sessions recused from the decision about whether a second special counsel ought to be appointed, in your opinion?
BG: I don’t know the answer to that. In my opinion, it would be good for him to take action here.
HH: And in your opinion, can the President direct the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor? And should he?
BG: I don’t know exactly what the legal authorities are there. I think the President has made it clear that he’s concerned about this and that it should be looked into. And I think quite frankly, the way to look into it that would have the trust of the American people would be to have someone from the outside doing it.
HH: A special counsel. Chairman Goodlatte, thank you. Good luck with your bill. Good luck in moving both bills, the FISA bill today and the immigration reform bill. I appreciate you spending the time with me.
End of interview.