Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) blasted Democrats on Thursday — particularly Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — for fueling media hysteria, knowing full well President Trump was not under investigation for collusion with Russia.
In a statement delivered on the Senate floor, Grassley said that in March, former FBI Director James Comey had told him, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and the group of Senate and House members known as the “Gang of Eight” that the president was not under investigation.
But Schumer, who is part of the Gang of Eight, continued to tell the media Trump was under investigation, Grassley said.
“That helped feed the media hysteria,” he said. “The Minority Leader even tried to say that the Senate shouldn’t vote on the Supreme Court nomination because the president was under investigation. And the whole time, he knew it wasn’t true.”
In once instance, Schumer told reporters on March 21, “There is a cloud now hanging over the head of the president, and while that’s happening, to have a lifetime appointment made by this president seems very unseemly and there ought to be a delay.”
Grassley said it was not until months later that it came to light, on May 12, when Trump revealed in a letter firing Comey that the FBI director had told him three times he was not under investigation.
Grassley also said he had asked Comey to come out and tell the public Trump was not under investigation, but he had refused to do so over a hypothetical situation where he might have to correct the record.
“That concern was merely hypothetical — pure speculation,” he said. “In the unlikely event it came to pass, the public should know if the FBI is pursuing a criminal investigation against the president.”
In the meantime, he said, what happened was “media hysteria.”
“Countless media articles falsely claimed the president was under investigation for colluding with Russia. … Over and over again, the media published selective leaks. They published classified half-truths. All this was used to make false allegations of sinister conduct by the president. And a lot of people believed it.”
“After a year of the entire might of the U.S. intelligence community and the FBI looking for evidence of collusion with the Russians, where is it?” he said.
Grassley’s committee is one of several investigating Russian interference in the presidential elections and whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign.
The Iowa senator said the media hysteria is now focused on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after Comey suggested during a hearing this month that the FBI knew something about Sessions he could not discuss publicly.
“Unfortunately, now it looks like Mr. Comey and the media might be doing the same thing to Attorney General Sessions,” he said. “Here we go again. The rumor mill is back in business. It’s insinuating improper ties with Russians and undermining people’s faith in another senior government official.”
Grassley urged Comey to publicly say whether Sessions has ever been under investigation, to nip the speculation in the bud.
“This is the same destructive pattern. And it plays right into Russia’s hands again. Well, this time around, we shouldn’t put up with it. Enough is enough. There’s no reason Mr. Comey couldn’t have told the public the whole truth,” he said.
Grassley said the investigations of Russian interference and the circumstances around Comey’s firing will continue and that they would go where the facts lead them.
“In the meantime, it’s time to stop the rumor-mongering. It’s time to stop the innuendo and half-truths. It’s time to stop leaking national security information to score political points.
“It’s time to stop playing into Russia’s hands by intentionally sowing false doubt about your political opponents. Instead, it’s time to get back to doing the people’s work,” he said.