(Senate - March 30, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 56 (Thursday, March 30, 2017)]
[Pages S2140-S2141]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. UDALL. Mr. President, I know several Members are ready to come 
here and talk on a veterans issue, and they will let me know when they 
are ready to start. I thought there might be a good chance to get this 
  Our democracy is under attack. U.S. intelligence agencies have 
concluded that the Russian Government interfered in the U.S. 
Presidential election and intervened to help Candidate Trump. Around 
the same time, Candidate Trump began making flattering statements about 
Russian President Putin and proposing pro-Russia policy changes while 
criticizing longstanding U.S. allies, including in Europe.
  President Trump continues to defend Putin and offend Western allies. 
Now we have come to learn that there are unexplained ties between the 
President, his campaign staff, his associates, and Russia; that many 
close to the President had meetings and telephone calls with Russian 
officials during the campaign and the transition; most critically, that 
the FBI and the Department of Justice are investigating whether the 
President and his associates coordinated or conspired with the Russian 
Government to interfere with the Presidential election--an 
investigation that began last July and is likely to continue for 
  The President and his associates keep giving the American people 
reason for worry--inaccurate denials, evasive answers, explosive 
attacks they can't back up, scheming with the chair of the House 
Intelligence Committee on the committee's investigation of the White 
House. New, very disturbing information comes to light every day.
  A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showed that two thirds 
of Americans believe a special prosecutor should be appointed. The 
American people want answers. What was the scope of the interference? 
Who knew what, and when? How can we protect ourselves and our allies, 
who are facing similar cyber attacks? What is the appropriate 
government response to such an attack?
  I appreciate the work the Senate Intelligence Committee is doing. I 
believe that is the first step, but I believe we must go further. That 
is why I am again calling for an independent, bipartisan national 
commission modeled on the 9/11 Commission to fully investigate Russia's 
interference with our election and our election processes and to 
investigate the ties between the President, his family businesses, and 
his close associates and Russia that may threaten our national 
security. I am also again calling on the Department of Justice to 
appoint a special counsel to investigate potential criminal conduct 
that may jeopardize our security.
  Questions about the President's ties to Russia will divide the 
country, undermine his Presidency, and distract Congress, unless we 
take these steps. The American people are right to be concerned. The 
President's stance on Russia is perplexing, starting when he first 
denounced the role of NATO last spring, calling it ``obsolete,'' 
suggesting that it would be OK if NATO broke up. Then, he publicly 
asked Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails.
  Then, Mr. Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was forced to 
resign because of his close political and financial ties to Ukraine's 
former pro-Russian President. He became the subject of a multi-agency 
investigation. We don't have the full story, but we do know that he 
failed to register as a foreign agent while he lobbied for pro-Russian 
Ukrainian interests in the United States. It appears that Manafort has 
a $10 million contract with a Russian oligarch who is very close to 
Putin that would ``greatly benefit the Putin Government'' and that he 
had at least 15 offshore bank accounts in Cyprus that even Cypriot bank 
officials thought were suspicious. Once those bank officials began 
asking about money laundering activities, Manafort closed the accounts 
rather than answer questions.
  During his campaign, Mr. Trump stated that he would ``be looking at'' 
whether to recognize Crimea as Russian and to lift sanctions. President 
Trump and his team apparently took little or no interest in the debate 
over the party platform in the Republican National Convention, except 
for one thing--Ukraine. They intervened with delegates to get more 
Russia-friendly language in the Republican Party platform. Candidate 
Trump's national security policy staffer J.D. Gordon told CNN: ``This 
was the language Donald Trump himself wanted . . . and advocated for . 
. . back in March.'' Now Gordon is reportedly under investigation for 
his ties to Russia.
  We have all heard the President compliment President Putin, calling 
him a strong leader. Why is the President so enamored, when Putin's 
actions are authoritarian, violent, and anti-democratic? Putin seeks to 
weaken NATO and the European Council. He annexed Crimea in violation of 
international law and treaties. He interfered with our national 
election. Putin has crushed free press in the Russian Federation, 
placing restriction upon restriction on the press, quashing independent 
news organizations, and harassing and jailing journalists. The 
President's outspoken admiration is inexplicable.
  So we are still left with a President who has expressed policy views 
toward Russia that run counter to U.S. ideals and treaty obligations, 
as well as global norms of international affairs. While we don't know 
the full extent of the President's financial, personal, and political 
ties to Russia and Putin, we have plenty of reason to seek an impartial 
investigation. The President still has not released his tax returns, 
unlike any previous modern President. His son Donald Junior 
volunteered, as far as

[[Page S2141]]

back as 2008, that ``Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-
section of a lot of our assets. . . . We see a lot of money pouring in 
from Russia.''
  In 2013, Mr. Trump said on a talk show: ``Well, I've done a lot of 
business with the Russians.''
  Due to his history of bankruptcies, no major U.S. bank would loan to 
Donald Trump in recent years. So he has needed new sources of capital 
for his real estate projects. There is growing reason to believe that 
Russia--or at least wealthy Russians--have financial interests in the 
Trump organization. Recent reports link the President and his companies 
to ten wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal 
organizations or money laundering. The extent of corruption and 
criminal ties among the oligarchs of Russia are well known, and to stay 
wealthy oligarchs, they must stay friendly with the Putin regime.
  Is the Trump organization reliant on Russian capital or loans from 
Russian banks? What relationships are there between Russian oligarchs 
that are tied to the Russian Government and the Trump organization and 
between those former Soviet businessmen and Trump's properties? We need 
to get to the bottom of this, with a credible, deliberate, nonpartisan 
  Mr. Trump has surrounded himself with associates with close Russian 
ties--not just Mr. Manafort. Michael Flynn headed to Russia within 18 
months after his retirement as the head of the Defense Intelligence 
Agency to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Russian Government's 
media outlet RT. Secretary John Kerry called RT a ``propaganda 
bullhorn'' for Putin. Mr. Flynn was paid for that trip by RT, a 
potential violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, and 
appeared regularly on RT. Flynn, of course, had to resign as National 
Security Advisor after 24 days in office. But the President knew of 
Flynn's misrepresentations weeks before he was fired and did nothing 
until it became public. We now know that Russia's payments to Flynn 
were generous. In 2015, Russian entities paid him $65,000. We know he 
worked for pay as a foreign agent for Turkey during the campaign and 
during the transition, but he failed to register as an agent at the 
time, as required by law.
  Other Trump associates and campaign staff--Roger Stone, Carter Page, 
and Mr. Gordon--all are reportedly under investigation for intercepted 
communications and financial transactions with Russia. Stone admitted 
at least 16 contacts with Gufficer 2.0, the Twitter handle covering for 
Russian intelligence that released the Democratic National Committee 
hacked emails.
  Page, who has strong financial ties with Russia, admitted to meeting 
with the Russian Ambassador during the Republican Convention and 
traveling to Russia during the campaign.
  The President's Attorney General was forced to recuse himself from 
any Department of Justice investigation into Trump and Russia because 
he did not disclose to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he 
met with the Russian Ambassador during the campaign.
  Now the President's son-in-law and senior adviser is set to testify 
before the Senate's Intelligence Committee. He will talk about his 
contacts with the Russian ambassador, a close Putin ally who is head of 
a Russian-owned bank.
  Where does it stop, folks? Where does it stop?
  These contacts give us enough reason for pause. Combined with Mr. 
Trump's positions on NATO, sanctions relief, and Russia's human rights 
violations, they raise serious security questions for the United States 
and NATO. As I said, we need an independent prosecutor at the helm to 
ensure that the whole of the investigation is not compromised--one who 
is not subject to White House pressure and not in a position of 
investigating his or her boss--and a bipartisan commission along the 
lines of the 9/11 Commission that is independent of politics.
  The chair of the House Intelligence Committee is compromised and 
damaged beyond repair. He has coordinated with the subjects of his 
committee's investigation, and he has completely lost credibility. I 
compliment my Senate colleagues who are working together on an 
investigation. But the Senate committee does not have the resources to 
fully investigate this, and the ranking Democrat on the committee 
agrees we need an independent investigation that could go further, that 
could be public, and could be transparent.
  A former Acting Director of the CIA called the Russian interference 
in our election one of the most successful covert operations in 
history. Former Vice President Cheney has said that what they did could 
be ``considered an act of war.'' By covert interference in a U.S. 
election, Russia pursued a policy to install its favorite candidate as 
President of the United States. Yet the President has dismissed the 
National Security Agency findings, accused our national security 
agencies of acting like Nazi Germany, and leveled fake charges at the 
former President.
  The American people are not fooled, and they want Congress to get to 
the bottom of this. We in Congress have a solemn duty to the American 
people to do just that.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The senior assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. TESTER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.