WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke on the Senate floor to outline the facts on the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
In his remarks, Senator Heinrich highlighted the importance of seeing past the distractions and getting to the bottom of what really happened, stating, “History will judge severely those of us in this body tasked with finding the whole truth and determining conclusively whether or not associates of the Trump campaign cooperated or coordinated with this effort to undermine our American democracy. We cannot allow political pressure or unsubstantiated distractions to get in the way of following the facts. I remain committed to seeing this important mission through and following the facts wherever they may lead.”
Senator Heinrich has led efforts to hold the Trump administration accountable and ensure the American people get the answers they deserve. During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing earlier this year, Heinrich questioned top intelligence officials about Russian interference in the presidential election. He has also called for Paul Manafort to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In January, Heinrich helped lead the effort to declassify the intelligence assesment that Russian hacking and propaganda efforts were aimed at the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Senator Heinrich's remarks as prepared for delivery are below:
I come to the floor today not as a member of any one committee or political party, but as a gravely concerned American.
On a seemingly daily—or even hourly—basis, there is a new revelation about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to, or even coordination with, Russia’s interference in our presidential election last year.
And with these constant reports coming out, it can be difficult to see through all the smoke in the air.
However, we must get to the bottom of what happened.
I know the White House and some in Congress are furiously working to sweep this under the rug, but only the truth will serve as a public means to move past this crisis for our democracy.
That is why I come to the Senate floor today.
To address this issue before my colleagues and to help the American people sort through the details of what we know to be undisputed facts.
We know without a doubt based on the assessment of credible intelligence that the Russian government hacked into presidential campaign infrastructure and sought to not only damage Hillary Clinton, but to try to help elect Donald Trump.
Russian intelligence operatives hacked into the email servers of both of our two major political parties.
They chose to selectively leak information that damaged one presidential candidate and favored the other.
That is not a partisan political assessment.
That is the plain truth as proven by credible intelligence gathered by the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the military’s Cyber Command.
In addition, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies issued a statement expressing their unanimous assessment that Moscow had penetrated state election voting centers and voting centers.
During an open hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, FBI Director James Comey said: “There were intrusions and attempted intrusions at the state level voter registration databases.”
Director Comey said that there was no evidence of activity on Election Day related to this voter registration data.
However, this clearly demonstrates that this data may be vulnerable to future cyber-attacks and manipulations by foreign hackers.
What happened in this last year’s election is already disturbing enough.
In testimony during the same Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said: "We have high confidence that President Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. The goals of this campaign were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.”
He continued: “Putin and the Russian government also developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
That shocking revelation at the very least begged for deeper investigation and accountability to protect our democratic institutions from foreign interference moving forward.
After all, Russia didn’t do this to help the Republican Party. Russia did this to help the Russia.
I don’t want foreign powers putting their thumb on the scales for Democrats or Republicans.
Our democracy hinges on our ability to protect the voices of Americans to choose our own leaders.
You can see similar ongoing Russian efforts at work seeking to influence and undermine democratic elections in France, Germany, and throughout the West – in addition to the former Soviet states.
Which is why we have to take this seriously and see through the latest news cycle, political commentary, or tweet and remain focused on following the facts wherever they may lead us.
And, unfortunately, the facts suggest that we not only need to hold the Russians accountable, but that we also have reason to look into possible ties between key members of the Trump campaign and their connections to the Russian actors who we know meddled in our election.
The obvious question Americans are demanding an answer to is: “Did the Trump campaign cooperate or coordinate with the Russians in their effort to help Donald Trump?”
It is a logical question that has striking implications not only for the Trump Administration, but also for our democracy.
The President and his senior advisors – both on the campaign and now in the Administration – have vehemently denied any Russian connections whatsoever.
Back in November, Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign spokeswoman, said: "There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign."
A month ago, President Trump responded to a question in a press conference about whether anyone in his campaign had been in contact with Russia, saying: “Nobody that I know of…Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia.” I truly wish that is what the facts showed.
But at nearly every turn there is evidence – and, when forced, admissions – that there were communications and contact with the Russians that are not only unprecedented but are hard to believe and understand.
Contrary to denials, we know that senior leaders and surrogates in then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign had contact with the Russian government and actors behind the Russian cyber-attacks and leaks.
One campaign advisor, Carter Page, traveled to Moscow in July of 2016 on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. During the trip, Page delivered a lecture that slammed U.S. policy toward Russia.
Three days later, at the Republican National Convention, Trump campaign aides stepped in to oppose the inclusion of language in the RNC Platform that called on the U.S. Government to send weapons to our ally Ukraine in response to Russian military aggression and the illegal invasion by Russia of Ukrainian Crimea.
Despite Trump campaign denials of involvement at the time, former campaign aides have since come forward to say that they were involved in defeating the language.
While this was going on, again despite denials to the contrary, we know that senior Trump advisors met with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak on the sidelines of the Republican Convention.
We know that then-Senator Sessions, a senior campaign surrogate, also met with Kislyak in his personal Senate office later in September.
Again, this communication was uncovered despite Attorney General Sessions denying it ever took place.
During his Senate confirmation hearing in January, then-Senator Sessions said in response to a question about how he would respond as attorney general to any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the campaign: “I'm not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn't have — did not have communications with the Russians.”
Then, the day after the Republican National Convention, WikiLeaks posted nearly 20,000 emails hacked and stolen by Russian Intelligence from the DNC server.
After this, Donald Trump, during a press conference in late July, called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s private emails saying: "I will tell you this -- Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Although Trump later claimed to be joking, we now have reason to believe that one of his friends and advisors, Roger Stone, was in contact with the Russian hackers behind the cyber-attacks.
Stone boasted in a speech in August 2016 that he had communicated with WikiLeaks’ owner Julian Assange and that more damaging documents would be forthcoming as an “October surprise.”
Stone also admitted to communicating via Twitter with the Russian hacker behind the breaches who went by the moniker “Guccifer 2.0.”
Stone tweeted out predictions that Hillary Clinton’s senior campaign aide John Podesta’s personal emails would soon be published, saying: “Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel.” Stone also tweeted: “I have total confidence that WikiLeaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon.”
Soon after this, WikiLeaks released its first batch of John Podesta’s stolen emails, and continued releasing more on a daily basis up to Election Day.
In the face of these facts, the Trump Administration’s story has evolved from rejecting Russian influence on the election entirely, to denying any connection or communication with Russian actors, to asserting that this contact was innocent or routine and that Americans should simply trust that there was nothing more going on.
But to ask the public to trust you when you’ve falsely denied the communication occurred in the first place is absurd on its face and in fact a plausible reason to suspect coordination.
After the election, we now know that President-elect Trump’s appointed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s senior-aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner had a secret meeting with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and that Flynn later conducted phone calls with Kislyak that included discussion of rolling back sanctions for Russia.
Flynn has since resigned as National Security Adviser after having lied about the content of his conversations with Kislyak.
And Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia due to his undisclosed meetings with the same Russian Ambassador.
And last week, FBI Director James Comey confirmed to the public that the FBI is currently conducting a counterintelligence investigation into possible coordination between President Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.
I’ll repeat that, because I fear that the public is becoming desensitized to the gravity of what we are confronting.
The President’s campaign officials are under investigation by the FBI for possible links with the Russian government, including whether they coordinated with one another to impact the presidential election.
We also saw reports last week that before his time on the Trump campaign, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort created and then sold the Russians what appears to be a playbook on how to undermine Western democracy and further the interests of the Russian government – including inside the United States.
Manafort’s reported recommendation to use political campaign tactics, establish front groups, and manipulate the press cycle are strikingly similar to the actual tactics we know the Russians employed to undermine our presidential election.
The Trump administration’s repeated attempts to now distance itself from its former campaign chairman—a man who played a central role in the Trump campaign—is indicative of its desperate attempts to cover up the truth.
The facts are there if we just look:
• The Trump campaign denied having worked to scrub the RNC platform to be friendlier to Russia, but then later had to admit to having done so.
• Michael Flynn denied conversations with the Russian Ambassador, and then had to resign when it turned out to be a lie.
• Attorney General Sessions denied having conversations with the Russians, but later recused himself from the investigation after having to admit he secretly met on several occasions with the Russian Ambassador.
• The Trump campaign and Trump’s advisors denied any communications with the Russians, but it turns out they personally met with the Russian Ambassador at the RNC, communicated with Russian hackers, and appear to have had advanced notice about impending DNC and Clinton leaks.
• And this all culminates with the news that the Trump campaign chairman sold the Russians a playbook on how to conduct a strikingly similar influence operation to undermine democracy and promote the Putin agenda throughout the West.
This is all a complicated web of connections that we need to piece together.
As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I am committed to finding the answers the American people deserve and working together with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put our country first and to make sure we get to the bottom of this.
We need to do everything possible to get to the objective truth.
That includes subpoenaing President Trump’s tax returns and financial statements so that we can follow the money and determine who holds the debt behind the President’s complex international business empire.
That includes calling President Trump’s associates such as Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Jared Kushner, Jeff Sessions, and Michael Flynn to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
But with the incredible amount of information and intelligence that we need to look through, I believe we also need an independent, nonpartisan commission designed solely to investigate what happened.
During the investigation of the Watergate scandal, Congress conducted thorough select oversight investigations at the same time that an independent special prosecutor was pursuing a case to uncover the truth.
All of those avenues proved essential to discovering the crimes and cover-up that were committed. If we do not take this seriously, our fundamental democratic institutions are at risk.
History will judge severely those of us in this body tasked with finding the whole truth and determining conclusively whether or not associates of the Trump campaign cooperated or coordinated with this effort to undermine our American democracy.
We cannot allow political pressure or unsubstantiated distractions to get in the way of following the facts.
I don’t think it is hyperbolic to state that the fate of our democracy depends on our ability to thoroughly and carefully get to the truth here.
Until we are able to find out the full extent of Russia’s operations and ensure that we set up protections against similar actions going forward, our democratic institutions will remain vulnerable.
I want my constituents in New Mexico and all of the American people to know that I remain committed to seeing this important mission through and following the facts where they lead.