tv U.S. Senate U.S. Senate CSPAN April 25, 2018 3:59pm-6:00pm EDT
actually i was really impressed. we have a bunch of pages sitting in here today. i don't know if they were able to hear the speech, if you got to hear the speech, raise your hand. okay. it had to be uplifting for young people because he was focused very much on the future. not just looking back, but focusing very much on young people. i like that. i like that a lot. one of the other things that he talked about, mr. president, was the iran deal. the iran deal. and for years and years, as some of you may recall, we suspected that iran was secretly developing nuclear weapons. didn't know for sure. we suspected the worst. and in the last administration here in this country, we work to work with the new leader in iran
to see if we might be able to better ensure that they're not going to develop nuclear weapons. and provide safeguards and early detection systems that if they do, we'll know p about -- about it. in the meantime, we have placed a lot of economic sanctions on iran, trying to get them to give up what we thought was their development of nuclear weapons. they always said no, no, we're not doing that. but we didn't believe them. and at the end of the day, we knew we were entering this agreement between the u.s. and iran, and five other nations. and the long and short of it is iran had to open up -- open themselves up to intrusive inspections. they had to be willing to give up some of the more modern centrifuges they had for developing highly enriched
uranium. and to the extent that they're willing to do that, they continued to put up with intrusive inspections by the atomic energy agency, and we would gradually reduce and relax the economic sanctions. the intrusive inspections have continued now for several years, and the folks who are doing inspections, the agencies responsible for this -- the agency responsible for this says so far they're keeping their word. so far they are keeping their word. does that mean they are always going to keep their word? not necessarily. does it mean we should be less -- i won't say suspicious, but less resolute in making sure that they are watching what they're doing? no, no. we should be resolute. hold their feet to the fire. but to the extent that they're keeping their word, i think the
idea of our lifting our sanctions, along with other countries that are part of these accords, the joint agreement, i think that's probably good not just for iran but i think ultimately for us. the reason why we have this agreement is because we felt that it was important that we have a window into that country. not just we but inspectors have a window into that country to see what they're doing along these lines. and we have that. and so far it seems to be working. our president now says -- and he says in a couple of weeks, he would like to pull us out of the iran deal. my fear is if we do that, they will simply go back to a secret kind of program to develop nuclear weapons. that will encourage the saudis to do the same and maybe lay the
precursor, put us in motion for having a nuclear arms race in that part of the world. sunni versus shia, saudis versus iran, and that is not a competition that will end well. that is not a competition that will end well. i'm not going to read everything that many macron -- that president macron said today about the iran deal, but a fair amount of it is worth repeating. i'm going to do that and then add some comments of my own. this is what he said. he said, as for iran, our objective is clear. iran shall never possess any nuclear weapons. not now, not in five years, not in ten years, never. that's a long time. never is a long time. but he goes on to say but this
policy should never lead us to war in the middle east. we must ensure stability and respect sovereignty of the nations, including that one of iran which represents a great civilization. it does. let us not replicate past mistakes in the region. let us not be naive on one side. let us not create new laws also on the other side. there is an existing framework i talked about earlier. it's called the jcpoa, a joint agreement, to control the nuclear activity of iran. we signed it. we being the french is macron's words, we signed it at the initiative of the united states. we encouraged them to sign it. macron said we signed it, both the u.s. and france signed it. that is why we cannot say we should just get rid of it like -- like that. but it's true to say that this agreement may not address all concerns and very important
concerns. this is true. again, macron's words. he went on to say we should not abandon it without having something substantial and more substantial instead. that's my position. that's macron's position. that's why france he went on to say will not leave the jcpoa because we signed it. president macron added your president and your country will have to take in the current days and weeks its own responsibilities regarding this issue, but what i want to do and what we decided together with your president is that we can work in a more -- on a more comprehensive deal, addressing all these concerns. and that is why we have to work on this more comprehensive deal as was discussed with president trump yesterday based on four pillars. and then president macron went on to talk about those four pillars. number one, the substance of the
existing agreement, especially if you decide to live it. number two, the post-2025 period, in order to be sure we will never have any nuclear activity for iran. the third pillar, the containment of the military influence of the iranian regime in the region. and the fourth pillar and fourth and final pillar, and the monitoring of ballistic activities. my words now, but the iranians have a penchant for firing and testing ballistic missiles. they say it's not offensive, it's defensive. but one would wonder about that. i think questioning minds may wonder. but back to macron's words, i think these four pillars are ones that i addressed, that he addressed in front of the assembly of the u.n. last
september are the ones which cover the legitimate fears of the u.s. and our allies in the region. i think we have to start working now on these four pillars to build this new comprehensive deal and be sure that whatever decision of the united states will be will not leave the floor to the absence of rule. it will not leave the floor to this conflict of powers in the middle east, and we will not increase tensions in potential war. macron concluded by saying that's my position, and i think we can work together to build this comprehensive deal, for the whole region, for our people because i think it fairly addresses our concern. that's my position. i have heard a lot of presidents speak to joint sessions of congress over the years. i have heard any number of leaders from other nations speak before a joint session of the congress in the years i have been privileged to serve here.
i don't know that i have seen a warmer welcome, a more enthusiastic welcome than the one we witnessed today for the president of our close ally, our friends, the french. and i hope of the standing ovations that he got repeatedly actually reflect not just the emotion of the moment but the -- actually reflect the belief that he may be on to something here. he may be on to something here. and one of my colleagues i was sitting next to during president macron's remarks said at one point in time that the president of france was delivering an he will can't rebuke to the priorities of our president. he was so skillful in doing it, it was really hard to tell that that's what he was doing. maybe that's true. i would -- i tend to say that again, i think he might be on to
something here. he didn't just come up with it today. this is something that president macron has been talking about for days, weeks, months since last -- at least since last fall. before we are pulling out of the iran deal, i hope the president with whom our president has had a chance to spend some time might say let's -- let's drill down the matter, i think you might be onto something. meanwhile, before us today as we're debating the nomination of our next secretary of state to succeed to rex tillerson, i don't know what others have been saying about former secretary of state tillerson, but i thought he was an unlikely person to be secretary of state. he had been the leader of exxon and knew the world, knew the world's leaders, a huge company. it is unusual to have someone with that pedigree to be our secretary of state. he exceeded expectations, at
least for me, and was i think fired by the president a couple of months ago via twitter. that was it. no ceremony, no handshake, no thank you for taking on a tough job and doing your best. i would just say today to rex tillerson thank you for your willingness to give it a shot, for taking on a tough job and a tough administration. we may not agree with everything he said or thought or did, but he took on a tough job. we're grateful for that. the question is who is going to succeed him? i have asked to meet with the president's nominee. they have not been able to find time to do that, which i think is unfortunate. we had the time to meet -- if we had had the time to meet, i
would have wanted to talk to him about a number of those issues, but one of those would be the iran nuclear deal and how you feels about it. i'd like to hear his thoughts on what president macron suggested today as a possible alternative, sort of follow-on to the jcpoa, but i'm not going to have the opportunity to do that. i was reminded recently of something that i think john kennedy once said about meeting and talking. i think it was something like this. i hope i have it right. america should never -- america should never negotiate out of fear. america should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear negotiating. think about that. our country should never negotiate out of fear, but we shouldn't be afraid to negotiate.
i think president macron may have given us an opening here, and the opening is to come up with something that maybe can be even more effective than the jcpoa. and if we're smart, this door has been opened, we'll walk through it instead of walking backwards, instead of walking backwards. mr. president, i think that's pretty much what i wanted to say. thank you for coming by and listening. while we prepare to vote maybe tomorrow on the nominee to be our next secretary of state, i would just say one of my disappointments is not having had a chance to actually, not negotiate with him but to share with him what president macron had to say and try to get his take on that, and how he might,
if he were secretary of state, pursue this opening. unfortunately, that's not going to happen. with that, mr. president, i notice that my neighbor from across the border there in pennsylvania has risen to address the senate, and i yield the floor to him. mr. toomey: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. mr. toomey: thank you, mr. president. it's a pleasure to follow my friend and neighbor to the south and east from the great state of delaware. mr. president, yesterday, the senate finance committee had a hearing on tax reform, and i had the privilege to introduce one of the witnesses, a fellow named david cranston from robinson township in western pennsylvania. david is the president of cranston material handling equipment corporation. it's a third generation small
business, and it was founded in 1957 by david's grandfather. today david leads that company, a company he's worked at since 1983, so for 35 years he has been there. today he leads a team of seven full-time employees and two part-time employees. truly a small family-owned business. cranston material sells and installs material handling and storage equipment to manufacturing companies, including very large manufacturing companies, and their products and services help these manufacturers to store and lift products in the storage process. it's items like cabinets and containers and conveyors and cranes and dock equipment, that sort of equipment. well, as i know the presiding officer understands very well, it's small businesses like this that really make up the backbone of our economy and the backbone of our communities. what is it that david cranston
had to share with us as a witness before our committee? he shared the story of how our tax reform from late last year is already working and helping his small business. now, how is that happening? well, the two most direct ways is, one, cranston materials is subsidized as a subchapter s corporation. they are not taxed at the level of the corporation itself but rather at the income that is earned by the business flows through the owners of the business and is taxed on the individual returns of the owners. so how has our tax reform helped the owners of this business? we built into the tax code an automatic 20% discount on the amount of their income that is taxed. so 20% of their income from this business is not taxed at all.
that's true for all small businesses in america. the 80% that is taxed is taxed at lower rates. so the total tax burden for these small businesses is much lower than it used to be. now, why is that important? well, it's important for a lot of reasons, but david cranston told us this is how they are able to accumulate capital. this is how his business is better able to accumulate the capital that he describes as the lifeblood of his small business, and it is, in fact, capital that allows these small businesses like cranston to take advantage of new growth opportunities and specifically he shared with us an example the tax savings that he is already enjoying have helped him to expand into a new product line, a product line he couldn't afford to but now he can. in order to launch this product
line he needed to purchase new equipment, employ new training. he touched on another way that tax reform is helping his business, and that's the business optimism that he is seeing and that is encouraging his customers, primarily larger companies, to increase their own capital spending. that includes, in some cases, the purchasing of his products. so, as mr. cranston put it, the tax reform is spurring business investment and therefore has set the stage for economic growth for years to come. and that's a quote. mr. president, this increased investment activity that is helping workers and businesses and small businesses and economy, that's exactly what we envisioned, exactly what we had hoped for and exactly what we designed our tax reform to
accomplish. i have to say that the store that mr. cranston told us is not an isolated story. it is completely consistent with stories i have heard all across the commonwealth of pennsylvania from small businesses, than is that tax reform is working. it's working for them. businesses are, in fact, increasing. their investments exactly as predicted if we would lower the after-tax of making those investments. an example, last month the 2018 research report by morgan stanley, they surveyed their clients and they concluded, the capital expenditure plan which hont -- which monitors the amount of capital spent in america on new equipment and according to them in march last month it reached an all-time high -- an all-time high.
their characterization, i quote, is the strength in our index indicates momentum in equipment and investment through the second quarter of 2018. end quote. it's already happening and they believe it's likely to continue. some of our friends on the other side who were very critical of our tax reform, they -- they were very critical of the idea that business should benefit from this. they didn't want business to benefit from this at all, and i -- i just have to point out, mr. president, the multiple ways in which they are wrong in their analysis because, first of all, when business, especially small business, but all kinds of businesses, when they benefit from a lower tax regime, much of that benefit flows right to workers. we've seen that in a very direct fashion. in fact, there's over 500 known large companies big enough that their press releases get picked
up and noticed, 500 of them have given employees bonuses, pay raises, increased pension plans. it is now millions of american workers who work for these 500 companies who have personally benefited in their pocket because of tax reform. i think this is fantastic and it has been immediate. it is already happening. over the long term i think there is even bigger benefit that will be accruing to american workers as a result of tax reform, and that is the medium, long-term upper pressure on wages for people who work for a living to earn those wages. why do i say that? the fact is the more capital gets spent, the more productive workers are able to become and the more they are able to earn. let me give an example that i
like. if you go to any construction site, if you're at the stage they are doing the site development, when they are moving the dirt or a hole for the foundation, at that process, you will typically see a guy operating a backhoe, he's digging the hole for the foundation and you will often see somebody with a shovel, he's doing the tidy up work around the edges. now, the guy with the shovel is working really hard. he's probably working up more of a sweat, he probable goes home with -- probably goes home with his muscles and back aching more than the guy with the backhoe. who you do think is getting paid more? the guy with the backhoe is always getting paid more. the reason is he has a more advanced set of skills. and because he has those skills and because he has a major piece of equipment to operate, he's much more productive than any human being can ever be with a
shovel. the more productive worker is able to earn more, and that's why i'm so excited about a reform that encourages business to invest in capital. it's going to -- it's already making workers more productive and that means they are going to earn more income, but it doesn't stop there. you know, all of that capital expend it tiewrt, -- expenditure whether with david cranston's company or a backhoe, when companies want to buy that, someone's got to build it. there's more demand for workers to build more of this equipment that's getting put to use, and then after it's built and then it's purchased by the business that can afford it now because of tax reform, why someone's got to operate it, still more demand for workers. so what happens in an economy when you're close to full employment -- the unemployment rate is are around 4%, unusually low for the american economy --
and you introduce a significant new demand for workers? i would say there are two things that happen. you create opportunities for people to come back to the workforce and put pressure on businesses because they have to compete for whatever workers are available. mr. president, we have both a direct benefit that people have seen in the form of lower withholdings and more take-home pay. we have a direct benefit when workers have seen that the companies they work for have decided to give them a bonus or raise and we have the indirect benefit which might be the biggest of them all. as workers become more productive because they get to use the equipment that is put to work when their companies invest the capital that we have made more available to them. so i am very, very bullish, as apparently the respondents to the morgan stanley survey were,
and i am grateful to david cranston for telling his story about how much his small business is already benefiting from our tax reform. mr. president, i'd like to make a completely unrelated point, and that is i'd just like to mention i had an opportunity to have a long conversation today with c.i.a. director mike pompeo to discuss his vision for his role as secretary of state should he be confirmed and his vision for america's role in the world, the leadership role that we have historically played and how he sees that going forward. and i have to tell you i was extremely impressed. he is a very, very thoughtful, very, very knowledgeable, wise individual. i think he will give great counsel to our president. i think he will be an outstanding dim malt. i think -- diplomat. i think the fact that he comes from the intelligence community
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. mr. murphy: i ask we dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. i come to speak on the pending nomination of mike pompeo to be secretary of state. i opposed that nomination in
committee, and i will oppose it on the floor. i have said publicly that this wasn't an open and shut case for me. i frankly would submit that i probably voted for more of the president's nominees that come before the united states senate than many of my democratic colleagues. i do believe in substantial amount of deference to the president and the choices that he makes to serve him in his administration, and there have been a number of applicants for cabinet posts that i have supported, even though i had grave misgivings about the policies that they were going to be articulating and that they were going to be carrying out. i also believe director pompeo when he talks about the morale crisis at the department of state and his sincere desire to try to remedy that and address it. there is a morale crisis at the department of state.
after secretary tillerson waged an assault on diplomats trying to push out as many as he could for over a year changing work requirements to make it harder for people to live in very difficult places around the world, continuing a hiring freeze well past the point of which it was justified. there are a lot of people serving this country here in washington and abroad who need to be told that their work is valuable again. i believe mike pompeo when he talks about the need to try to engage in that morale-building project. so i think there are check marks on the side of the ledger that would argue for mike pompeo's confirmation but i'm going to vote no because unfortunately i think there are far more check marks on the other side of the ledger. i want to talk to you today about the issue of qualifications. i don't argue with the fact that our choices as a united states
senate when it comes to those that are 'ticced for the cab -- that are picked for the cabinet really shouldn't be about policy differences. sometimes the policy differences will be so serious that members of the opposing party of the president may have to cast a no vote. but by and large i do think we should be evaluating candidates based on their qualifications and based on whether their views are at least between the 20-yard lines, within the mainstream conversation about the portfolio of issues that they are going to understand take to -- undertake to oversee. so i want to talk today about my belief that director pompeo is not qualified to be our next secretary of state. i think that's the appropriate conversation for us to be having. i want to talk about that through the prism of three qualifications that i would argue any secretary of state has to meet. one is that secretary of state
who's going to be advising the president on matters of war and peace, on questions of military operations overseas. a secretary of state has to believe in his heart, in her heart in the constitution, in the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branch when it comes to war making. second, the secretary of state has to believe in the value of diplomacy. the secretary of state is in the national security cabinet in order to represent diplomatic pathways out of very complicated vexing and dangerous problems around the globe. you need a secretary of state who truly believes that diplomacy can be a viable path out of very complicated problems. and third, you need a secretary of state who is free of prejudice or who is free of
substantial association with prejudice. this is our nation's chief diplomat who's going to be representing the united states all over the world, who is going to try to build bridges between our country and those countries with different cultures, different faiths, different backgrounds, different ways of viewing the world. on these three tests, i just don't believe director pompeo measures up. let me talk about each one of them very briefly. first, there's belief in the separation of powers. if we aren't standing up for article 1 powers, no one else will. the founding fathers were very clear that when it came to military engagement outside of the united states, it was the congress and only the congress that has the ability to declare war. now, admittedly, war is a much fuzzier concept today than it was when armies were marching against each other in open
fields and neat, tidy peace treaties were wrapping up those hostilities. i will grant my colleagues that decorations of war -- declarations of war are harder when the definitions of hostilities is a little different than it used to be. but i asked a series of questions of director pompeo at the hearing which did not leave me with any confidence that he understood that there still must be some places in which only the congress can declare hostilities. now, i don't believe that the president has the ability to take military action against the syrian regime without an authorization of congress. apparently, there are members of the president's cabinet who believe the same thing. media reports suggest that secretary mattis counsel the president to come to congress first before attacking the syrian regime. so i queried director pompeo about this topic. i asked him whether there was
any attack that had been launched against the united states from the syrian regime. his answer was no. i asked him if there was any threat of imminent attack. he said his answer was no. i then asked him what was the authorization that allowed the president to take this action. his answer was article 2 authority, which is kind of a blanket answer for anybody in an administration that doesn't have an answer. and i will submit that the obama administration occasionally relied on article 2 authority as well. but i tried to give director pompeo a way out of that overly broad answer. i said, could you identify for me one limiting factor, one limiting factor on this broad claim of article 2 authority. he could not. he couldn't articulate one definable, articulated restraint
on article 2 military authority before the foreign relations committee. and it speaks to what i think is a belief inside this administration that is now being buoyed by people like director pompeo and john bolton that the president has virtually unlimited authority to begin military operations overseas. if you can attack the syrian regime without any authorization from congress, then why couldn't the president launch a military attack against north korea without coming to congress in the way that john bolton has recommended in some of his writings before joining the administration? and if the secretary of state is not prepared to argue that the constitution requires that authority, can't even articulate a single restraint on a seemingly limitless power under article 2 to launch attacks overseas without coming to
congress, then who is making that argument? i think the secretary of state has to have an understanding of the limits of executive power overseas. i don't think director pompeo has that belief. otherwise, he would have answered the questions that he was given in his confirmation hearing very differently. second, i believe that a baseline qualification to be the secretary of state, to be the nation's chief diplomat is to believe in the fundamental power of diplomacy. over and over again, primarily when he was a congressman, director pompeo showed us that he doesn't think much of american diplomatic power. he opposed the jcpoa which is, of course, a mainstream opinion within the republican party, but he did so because he thought that military action would involve just a few thousand sorties, manner planes flying
over iran, bombing the country into submission. i think that's a pretty naive, uneducated view of how a war with iran would go down, but it demonstrates an enthusiasm for military options ahead of diplomatic options. the kind that maybe -- the kind that may be better suited for the department of defense than the department of state. he has further cheered on this president, as he has pulled out of the paris climate accords, as he has attacked other multilateral alliances that the united states has long been a part of. this is a candidate for secretary of state who has a long history of critiquing and criticizing diplomatic paths to very complicated problems, to solve complicated problems around the world. i want a cheerleader for
diplomacy at the department of state. we've been missing that for the last year and a half with secretary tillerson. it doesn't seem that we're going to remedy that. i think a qualification for secretary of state is to be a cheerleader for diplomacy. that has not been the reputation or the record of mike pompeo. lastly, i think you need to be free of prejudice or free of substantial association with prejudice. and the reason for this qualification is self-evident. this is the member of the administration who'sing about to be most often -- who's going to be most often overseas meeting with leaders that come from very different backgrounds, that believe different things than americans do, that practice different religions than the majority of americans do, that have different traditions than the majority of americans do. and so you have to have a
respect, right, you have to have a love for other people who come from different faiths and different traditions if you're going to take this job. and here may be the blackest mark on director pompeo's record. because there is a vast network all across this country that engages in a kind of islamophobia, a hatred and bigotry towards the muslim faith, that is completely un-american but is also deeply antithetical to american national security interests. because if we really want to make this country safe, then we have to be building constant, active bridges to muslim communities here in the united states and to our muslim partners around the world, because when you trade in islamophobia, a fear of muslims, you are adding bulletinboard material to terrorist recruiters
who want to write a story about how america is at war with the east, how america is at war with the islamic faith. for much of his congressional career, mike pompeo was deeply intertwined with this network of anti-muslim organizations. there was a really interesting study that i hope some of you will take a look at that details this network of organizations. they have fairly innocuous sounding names, like the american islamic forum for democracy, the middle east forum, the investigative project on terrorism, jihad watch, act for america, the center for security policy, the society of americans for national excellence. those sound like things that i might be for, but if you really take look at what they do, they preach intolerance, they try to tell americans that all muslims
are ar -- are out to get them ad that we are better off if we just shelter ourselves from people of the muslim faith. it morally weakens us as a nation. and it is not coincidental that all of these groups springing up were receiving substantial funding after barack obama became president of the united states. it wasn't coincidental that as donald trump was going on cable newscasting doubt as to whether the president of the united states was really an american citizen or whether he was a secret kenyan citizen planted in the united states that all of these organizations started to take root. and they gained legitimacy because american political leaders associated whelm they was with their -- associated themselves with their cause, because they were able to lure members of congress like mike pompeo into their web. mike pompeo went on these radio
shows that traded in these conspiracy theories about muslims. he allowed for his name and his office to be associated with their causes. at one point he actually accepted an award from a group called act for america, which is arguably the largest anti-muslim group in america. they gave him an award saying that representative mike pompeo has been a steadfast ally of ours since the day he was elected to congress. this is an organization that the antidefamation league and the southern poverty law group classified as a hate group. their founders said, quote, practicing muslims cannot be loyal citizens of the united states. let me say that again. the founder of the group that gave mike pompeo an award for being a steadfast ally of their cause said that practicing muslims cannot be loyal citizens of the united states.
these anti-muslim groups became stronger, became more deeply intertwined into the mainstream because they had allies like mike pompeo. and so it wasn't coincidence when a presidential candidate stood up and said, if you elect me, i will ban all muslims from entering the united states. he wasn't laughed off the debate stage, he wasn't laughed off the debate stage because this conspiracy of islamophobia had penetrated the mainstream because of its access to people like the nominee to be the secretary of state. that is disqualifying to me. that is not about mike pompeo's views. it's not about my differences with the policies that he is going to espouse as secretary of state. that speaks to his qualifications. and so this is one of the most important debates that we're going to have, and these are exceptional times for both of us, republicans and democrats, dealing with an administration that conducts itself very
differently than others. but when this comes down to it, i don't think that by casting a no vote i am violating the tra i guess dids of that body -- the traditions of this body, which have admittedly given deference to the president in some of these choices for cabinet positions. i don't think that mike pompeo really understands the importance of the separation of powers between the congress and the executive when it comes to war making. i don't think that this is a secretary of state who's going to walk into the room when big decisions are being made on foreign policy and argue the diplomacy portfolio. and by virtue of his long standing association with groups that argued values antithetical to a diverse america, arguing that muslims have no place in this country, i don't think that he passes the test when this comes to a secretary of state who doesn't have an association
with prejudice that would disqualify him from being an effective advocate for us in parts of the world that practice faiths different than ours. so for those reasons, i'm going to be voting no on mike pompeo's nomination while at the same time, as i said at the outset, i acknowledge that there are arguments for his nomination, and while at the same time i will hope that my fears are unfounded. i will hope that he, if he gets confirmation -- which it looks like he will -- from this body, is an advocate for diplomacy, that he understands the proper role of congress, and that he represents all americans when he serves us overseas. i certainly hope that to be the case. i hope that i am wrong about my reservations, but i will still
cast a no vote when his nomination comes before the congress. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from massachusetts. mr. markey: thank you, mr. president. as with many of my colleagues here today, i stand before you to voice my deep concern over the nomination of mike pompeo to be our next secretary of state. president trump has tweeted about senate democrats that it is, quote, hard to believe obstructionists may vote against mike pompeo for secretary of state. others have accused democrats of playing politics, pointing to past secretary of state confirmation votes that have faced less opposition in the foreign relations committee and on the senate floor. but this inference that we simply should rubber stamp
secretary of state nominees is misplaced. like all of my colleagues, i take my article 2 advise and consent responsibilities very seriously. so i would like to tell you why i oppose mr. pompeo's nomination to be secretary of state. my opposition is not about politics. it isn't really about policy either. while i disagree vehemently with many of mr. pompeo's positions on issues such as human rights and climate change and the iran nuclear deal, these differences alone are not enough to disqualify him or any nominee for that matter. fundamentally, my opposition to mr. pompeo's nomination is about whether he can credibly fulfill his duties as our nation's chief diplomat.
can he effectively and faithfully advocate for american diplomacy at home and abroad? and in this regard, as one of my esteemed colleagues said while introducing mr. pompeo before the foreign relations committee, quote, your background does matter. so here is what it is in mr. mr. pompeo's past that concerns me. mr. pompeo was okay characterizing an indian american political opponent as, quote, just another turbine topper we don't need this congress or any political office that deals with the u.s. constitution, christianity, and the united states of america. with a viewpoint like that, how can he credibly represent the millions of indian americans in the united states? equally important, how can the united states be viewed credibly by india's 1.3 billion people,
the world's largest democracy, a critical american partner in promoting american values and ideals in asia in the face of a rising and evermore aggressive china? sadly, that display of intolerance wasn't mr. pompeo's only past offense. mr. pompeo has suggested homosexuality is, quote, perversion, an insinuation mr. mr. pompeo ever-so-cleverly did not address when questioned by my colleague senator booker. at the c.i.a. he also canceled a pride month event, which featured a discussion on the importance of diversity and an appearance by the parents of matthew shepherd, a young man beaten, tortured, and left to die in wyoming on account of his sexual orientation. how can the united states stand
with the lgbtq people in chechnya who have been the victims of violence simply because of who they love, if our nation's top diplomat has disparaged who they are? the offenses continue. followingthe horrific patriot's day bombing in boston, he alleged that american muslim leaders were, quote, potentially complicit in violent acts for failing to speak out. under my questioning at the confirmation hearing, he refused to apologize for these comments. why was i concerned? it happened in boston. why was i concerned? because the muslim leaders in boston had spoken out against that attack on our nation on patriot's day, on marathon day in the boston. mr. pompeo has said he disagrees
with the characterization of his comments, but there is nothing to characterize. he made these comments on the floor of the house of representatives. his comments disparaging muslim leaderleaders, a part of the --m leaders, a part of the public record. muslim leaders around the world are just as interested as we are in preventing religiously motivated violence. mr. pompeo now claims these statements were meant to demonstrate that tackling extremism requires those who are the most credible voices to take an unambiguous stand against violence. well, as to secretary of state, mr. pompeo would be considered almost credible -- our most credible diplomatic voice around the world. how could muslims nations ever people respected when our top diplomat has voiced such
unambiguous hate? mr. pompeo cowrote an article on migrants that blame sweden's radical immigration policy on political correctness. america must be a leader in finding pathways to protect syrians and afghannies and iraqis fleeing the death and destruction of war. in sheltering the rohingya seeking shelter in oppression from burma and the countless refugee crises roiling the globe and collecting our security, that is not political correctness, that is our moral responsibility. america is a nation built by immigrants and refugees, some 40% of fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. google, tesla, yahoo, intel, ebay, all companies founded by immigrants.
given these past statements, can mr. pompeo truly represent the interests of a nation made up of and built by immigrants? i do not believe that he can. in the fight against violent extremism, there is no more divisive issue that erodes our ability to effectively cooperate with other governments than the use of torture. mr. pompeo has said that he won't rule out bringing back the abhorrent practice of waterboarding, a man who has said that those who carried out such actions were not torturers, they are patriots, will not be able to credibly convey to governments with histories of human rights abuses that these actions are reprehensible with any semblance of moral authority. today french president emmanuel macron addressed congress and urged us to rejoin the international community in the
commitment to combatting climate change. he rightfully said there is no planet b. mr. pompeo characterized the paris negotiations as an elitist effort to reduce the power of the united states economy, when in fact it was an historic effort by almost every country in the world to tackle a global challenge that will be an existential threat to every single person on the planet. i believe in american ingenuity, american enterprise, american leadership. i believe america must lead the world in solutions to this generational challenge. but how can we expect mr. pompeo to lead the department of state in bringing greater peace, security, and prosperity to the american people through international engagement if he does not believe in u.s. leadership? he does not believe that the united states is necessary for solving global problems,
especially global warming. mr. pompeo has too much to apologize for, too many statements to retract or explain, too many controversial positions to defend. and of most concern are mr. pompeo's past statements suggesting that he values military force over diplomacy even when diplomacy is a real option. while negotiations with iran over its nuclear program were underway, he argued that military strikes on iran were prefrpbable -- preferable to diplomacy and that, quote, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the iranian nuclear capacity. this is not an insurmountable cask for the coalition forces. just a few weeks ago under my questioning during his confirmation hearing, he did not rule out a military solution in north korea, which would be
disastrous for the 230,000 americans who live on the korean peninsula. there is no military solution to the north korean nuclear threat. only through sustained diplomacy and economic pressure in close coordination with our allies will we be able to negotiate peaceful denuclearization of north korea. america's top diplomat should embody the best of america's values and diplomatic traditions, not attack people's race, defend torture, promote division, ignore human rights, propose military force as the primary solution to our problems around the world, or reject solutions to the climate change which is threatening our planet. the president can choose his own cabinet, yes, but the senate must advise and consent. no one wants to see the united states without a top diplomat, especially at such an important
time in world affairs. but having a secretary of state who has so thoroughly disqualified himself from credibly doing the job is no better. yes, i see and respect the former soldier and member of congress, the strong intellect that graduated first in his west point class and edited the "harvard law review." but i also see and hear mr. pompeo's past comments, his more recent comments and positions that are more conveniently choosing to be disregarded by those who support him. but we cannot do that. so i advise president trump to choose a secretary of state who embodies the best of america's values and diplomatic traditions and communicates them to the rest of the world, and i do not consent to the nomination of mre person for this important task.
thank you, mr. president. a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mr. grassley: thank you, mr. president. in a time when we're facing serious international challenges from russian meddling or north korean saber rattling to an increasingly assertive china, it seems to me to be very essential that the president have a qualified secretary of state whom he trusts to be on the job. mike pompeo unquestionably understands the international challenges that we face and is more than capable of being a very effective secretary of state. when i talk to our allies, they're anxious to see him on the job.
unfortunately, some on the other side of the aisle are now claiming that he's not suited for the post of secretary of state because of all things like positions he took as a member of congress or his holding to traditional christian teachings, just as if a person's religion ought to have something to say about their being in public office or public service. others have spoken about that, and i don't have a whole lot more to add on that point. i would note the irony, though, that many of the senators who are most likely to vote against cabinet nominees are also rumored to have presidential ambitions. they should ask then themselves if they truly want to live with the precedent that they're
setting. you don't have to like the president personally or you don't have to support the president's policies, but as an american it is in all of our interests to have a fully functioning executive branch, especially when it comes to foreign policy. if a mainstream republican former member of congress is deemed unacceptable because of his beliefs, how should mainstream republicans vote when faced with future nominees who do not share the beliefs that republicans hold? should republicans just willy-nilly vote against any future nominee who does not share our political or religious views? now that said, i would simply like to focus on other attributes of director pompeo
that some have criticized but which i see as an asset. by all accounts, this nominee's tenure at the c.i.a. has been a success. however, some senators who supported him then are now arguing that he should not be secretary of state because he is not diplomatic enough. first, let's dismiss the more radical talking points about his being a warmonger. the theory is that president trump is liable to start a war at any moment so that we need some force, somebody to force him as president to have cabinet officials surrounding him that will counter act his impulses. he could have a hypothetical debate about whether if the american people elected a
warmonger as president, he should be allowed to appoint a warmongerer cabinet. but suffice it to say that i don't think that label applies to mike pompeo or donald trump, and i view such acquisitions as simply cheap partisan talking points. on the other hand, it is fair to say that mike pompeo doesn't always couch his words in diplomatic niceties. he doesn't mince words about the threats that we face. his time at the c.i.a. has surely enhanced his strategic thinking, and that's good. that's exactly what we need at the state department. we need less diplomatic double-talk and more clear-eyed strategic thinking about all of our international threats.
real diplomacy isn't always about sweet talk. sometimes it requires taking a firm stand and to be effective, it should be part of a strategic vision that incorporates all the elements of statecraft. for instance, i hope that we have finally discarded once and for all all the diplomatic impulse to make unilateral concessions to president putin in hopes that president putin will be reciprocated. as exemplified by the obama-clinton reset. we all know it didn't really reset. if you understand russian history and russian political culture, you know that russians, especially a k.g.b. pedigree
type are likely to see this as a sign of weakness, be exploited. diplomatic overtures to the russians without a corresponding demonstration of strength, we're simply inviting further aggression and misbehavior. i think we're finally arriving at a bipartisan consensus that russia is a very major geo political foe. mike pompeo has made clear that he has no doubts about this threat from russia. he understands the need to push back and push back hard against russia's attempt to dominate its neighbors. sow discord in the west. a threat from russia will need a strategic plan that integrates
all the elements of statecraft, including government-to-government diplomacy alongside military deterrence, intelligence, and counterintelligence, cybersecurity, public diplomacy, just to maim a few. and -- just to name a few. and there's a lot of others. in other areas where some clear-eyed strategic thinking is even more crucial is our approach to the people's republic of china. so i just stated, consider china a bigger threat than russia. i just returned from a trip to china with several colleagues at the beginning of this month. it was an eye-opener. we hear a lot about how china is embracing capitalism and
becoming more and more like us. just don't believe it. the chinese communist party has modified its economic policy to allow for economic growth, but it still serves the interest of the state, not the interest of the people. it is not a free market, clearly because they admit their economic socialism or their economic system is what they would call authoritative capitalism, a.k.a. mercantilism. i visited with government officials at the national and local level, chinese and american businesses, and american diplomats. the chinese officials and the chinese businesses had their talking points down almost too
well. however, the impression that i took away from the visit is that the chinese government will do anything legal or illegal, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical to get ahead of the united states. and when they get ahead to stay ahead. china coined the term peaceful rise to describe its drive to become a great power which is designed to sound very benign. in fact, china later changed this slogan peaceful rise to peaceful development out of concern that the word rise sounds threatening. just to be clear, i'm not threatened by chinese economic growth. the development of a truly
peaceful free market democracy, no matter how large, would not be threatening because democracies generally do not threaten each other and free enterprise is mutually beneficial. the fact that so many chinese people have been lifted out of poverty and into the middle class is a good story for humanity, a very good news story. it's also good for the united states. the more chinese people that can afford to buy our pork, our soybeans, our john deere tractors and our advanced manufacturing, the better for iowa and our national economy. free trade on a level playing field enriches both participants. unfortunately, however, china's not interested in a level
playing field. it seeks dominance economically, militarily, and politically. confuseus said, quote, heaven does not have two sons and the people do not have two kings. end of quote. by the same token, the chinese leadership does not think there is room for two great powers on this earth. china seeks the advantage of trade with the united states but not mutually beneficial free trade in the spirit of the w.t.o. despite having a middle class that is bigger than ours in the united states in absolute numbers, china still claims to need special preferences extended to developing countries. can you believe that? the second largest economy in
the world still wants special preferences like we would do for some country that would be ranked 100th in the standing of being a prosperous nation or not prosperous. and china erects nontariff barriers in ways that just barely, barely strip the w.t.o. level playing field that the w.t.o. seeks to create. the chinese military is 60% larger than the u.s. military and its efforts to claim exclusive control over the south china sea in violation of international law by creating artificial islands reveals an expansionist impulse, and you can't hide those islands. and you know what it implies,
just like i said, dominance. however the threat from china is not mainly military. the influential ancient chinese military strategist focused on the role of deception over combat. he famously said, quote, to subdue the enemy without fighting is the being acme of s. end of quote. get this. the problem we face is that we are being treated like an enemy to be subdued without those of us in the united states, or maybe not enough people in our government, realizing what the chinese are up to. now i say all of this not to be an alarmist but to point out that china sees itself in a
long-term strategic struggle with the united states. we don't need to over react to this act, but we do not to be aware and we do need to apply some clear-eyed strategic thinking of our own. in that respect mike pompeo's unique background seems perfectly aligned with the task ahead to develop a strategic foreign policy towards chinese incorporating all the elements of statecraft. because i mentioned aspects of chinese culture to illuminate the strategic thinking on the part of the people's republic of china, i don't want to give the impression that this is a clash of civilizations.
quite to the contrary. it's not traditional chinese culture that's the problem, it's the unreconstructed leninist nature that's the problem, the political system. it's sometimes claimed that chinese culture is not compatible with democracy, but that's hog wash. the proof to the contrary is all the chinese people that live in the republic of china on taiwan. taiwan is a fully functioning prosperous democracy with the same chinese culture and tradition. this same democracy is what mainland china could have also if it is able to shed its one-party dictatorship, and i hope that it will shed that some day. in the meantime, we need leaders
in our government who see china clearly and have the ability to think strategically. mike pompeo seems, to me, to be just that kind of a person so i am happy to support his confirmation as secretary of state. i yield the floor. and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
a senator: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. mr. van hollen: thank you, mr. president. as we consider the nomination of mike pompeo -- the presiding officer: the senate is in a quorum call. mr. van hollen: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. van hollen: thank you, mr. president. as the senate considers the nomination of mike pompeo to be secretary of state, we have to ask ourselves many questions. among them are will mr. pompeo offer the kind of independent judgment that is necessary to help restrain president trump's worst impulses? or will he be somebody who
becomes a yes man to the president of the united states? will mr. pompeo continue in his past attitude which reflect a shoot first, ask questions later approach to foreign policy? and can somebody like mr. pompeo who has made very divisive, polarizing, in fact hateful remarks here in the united states be able to reflect american values abroad? mr. president, i regret to conclude that i do not think that mr. pompeo can pass these tests, and i will oppose his nomination for secretary of state. we all know that our country is facing formidable challenges.
armed conflicts are raging in the middle east, africa and asia, creating refugee crises across borders. russia's campaign to undermine democracies continues a pace in sharpened divisions. in our society it bolstered movements at home and abroad and we've seen terrorist networks continue to expand their reach into information space. changes in our climate have resulted in drought, natural disaster, and famine. and as the president of france reminded a joint session of congress today, there is no planet b. of the many crises we are confronting, at least one of them is entirely of president trump's own making, and that is the potential unraveling of the iran nuclear agreement. and let me say that i agree with
all those who believe that we should never allow iran to have a nuclear weapon, and that's exactly why it's so important to keep that agreement in place. and in just a few weeks president trump will make a decision. he'll decide whether to waive the nuclear-related sanctions on iran in order to keep the iran agreement intact or whether to blow up that agreement. as the president of france reminded us today, that agreement was tporblged -- forged with our european allies, with russia and china, and it cut off iran's pathways to a nuclear bomb. it's imposed very tough constraints on their nuclear program. and i should say subjected iran to the most comprehensive inspection and monitoring regime ever negotiated. an inspection regime that would disappear if we backed out of
that agreement, leaving us blind as to exactly what the iranians were doing with respect to their nuclear program. our state department, our defense department, our intelligence community have all assessed time and again that iran is in compliance with the nuclear agreement. secretary of defense mattis testified before the senate armed services committee just last fall that the iran deal was in the national security interest of the united states. despite that consensus even among the president's current team, the president is talking about recklessly shredding the agreement. as president macron of france warned us today, such a move would be very reckless, and it would be reckless to replace what we have today without
having something to substitute for it. now, mr. pompeo has weighed in on this issue over the years. it's not only that he's been a fierce opponent of the iran deal, he has proposed military strikes against iran, saying in 2014 that it would take, quote, under 2,000 sorties to destroy the iranian nuclear capacity. this is not an insurmountable task, he said, for the coalition forces. unquote. mr. president, that's a dangerous allusion. the notion that there would be absolutely no response to an american attack on iran's nuclear facilities. iran, of course, is right next door to iraq, where the united states spent an ill-fated number
of years at great loss of lives both to americans and iraqis and great cost to the public. and to just talk offhand about bombing iran as the solution is not the kind of sentiment or mind-set that we want in the secretary of state for the united states of america. and the idea is that he somehow had a conversion to diplomacy is difficult to believe given the testimony that he's provided and the statements that he's made. mr. president, we also know that we're at an inflection point when it comes to the situation in north korea. in the span of just a fuel months, president trump has veered from taunting kim jong un over twitter to recently calling
him, quote, very honorable. we are all rooting for diplomacy to succeed in north korea, but we all know that the opening rounds are in fact the easiest legs and that reaching a credible and lasting accord with north korea will take considerable time, hard bargaining and the support of our partners and allies in the region. mr. president, when it comes to russia, president trump's affection for president putin continues unabated. two weeks ago he rejected the sanctions on russian companies found to be assisting syria's chemical weapons program, contradicting his own u.s. ambassador to the united nations. and then he earlier congratulated putin on winning an election, an election that we all know was a sham election and that the outcome was never in doubt. it was marred by ballot stuffing and forced voting, and hardly
what you would call a fair and free election. and when it comes to russia, despite appeals from republicans and democrats in this body and in other parts of the country, the president has decided not to take action to address the threat of russian cyber attacks in our upcoming elections. in fact, admiral rogers, former head of the u.s. cyber command testified just in february that president trump had not directed him to confront russian cyber operations at their source. so while mr. pompeo has said that russia will meddle again in our midterm elections, he has been much quieter and softer since his nomination was presented by the president with respect to president trump's
soft approach to russia and putin. mr. president, it's also a fact that our next secretary of state will be responsible for managing tens of thousands of foreign service officers, civil servants, and locally employed staff of the state department at our embassies and consolates overseas. and we all know that today at the state department we are witnessing historically low morale. the president and his budget has tried to gut the state department of its personnel and resources, issuing two budgets in a row that cut the state department's by over 30%. you cannot conduct the diplomacy of the greatest country on earth with two hands tied behind your back, and yet i heard nothing from mr. pompeo about challenging the president with respect to the deep cuts to the
state department and the resources that he will have available to him to conduct american diplomacy. there's also the very long history of really awful remarks that mike pompeo has made toward various minority groups here in the united states, including muslims, including the lgbt community, and you have to wonder how somebody who's made these comments is going to be able to oversee a state department that has patriotic americans who are american muslims, who are lgbt, and who come from other minority groups. how do you lead an agency when you have made those kind of comments about people in your
workforce? and how do you present american values overseas when you have disregarded those important values here at home? mr. pompeo has said that muslims, quote, abhor christians. he has said that all muslim leaders were, quote, potentially complicit, unquote, in acts of terrorism. and he has made other statements and not condemned statements by groups that were supporting him. so we heard today, we heard today from the president of france, mr. macron, a speech that uplifted the best of american values, of french values. it was a speech that could have given, been given by earlier american presidents, republican
or democrat. and he called upon america, and he called upon france and nato allies and other freedom-loving democracies and countries that respected the rule of law to seize the mantle of leadership. he said, and i quote, he said we can actively contribute together to building the 21st century world order for our people, for all people. the united states and europe have a historical role in this respect because it is the only way to defend what we believe in, to promote our universal values, to express strongly that human rights, the rights of minorities, and shared liberty as a true answer to the disorders of the world.
he warned, mr. president, against using anger and fear to divide us. he said, quote, we are living in a time of anger and fear because of the global threats, but these feelings did not build anything. you can play with fear and danger -- fear and anger for a time, but they do not construct anything. mr. president, what we have heard from president trump is exactly the stirring of anger and division that the president of france warned about in his talk today to the united states congress. it is those fears that president trump has sought to exploit rather than to rise above and to
lead. as i look at the record of mr. pompeo and i listen to the statements he's made, including many repulsive statements about different groups within the united states, i have to conclude that he does not reflect the great tradition of american foreign policy in standing up for those universal values that the president of france talked about today, and it is a sad moment in our history when it requires the president from france to remind us of those universal values. france has been a leader in the world, but the united states has been the chief organizer of the post-world war ii era, and our friends in france and england and germany and our other allies, not just in europe but around the world, have stood with us. and yet, in this administration,
we see a full retreat from that kind of american leadership around the world. and i regret to conclude that looking at the record and statements of mr. pompeo, that he is part of the retreat and not part of the leadership that we need in the 21st century. and so i ask my colleagues to oppose this nomination. we can do better. we need to remind every member of this body that the united states has always stood up for those values that are in our declaration of independence and in our constitution, and we need to uphold those values in the conduct of our foreign policy. thank you, mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. reed: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today to join my colleagues and to associate myself with the remarks on the critically important issue of unlimited and
unaccountable money in our political system. i'd like to thank my colleague from rhode island, senator sheldon whitehouse, for organizing this speaking series and for being a national leader on the issue of campaign finance reform. while my colleagues make important points about how our rigged campaign finance system can and does serve as a channel for anonymous billionaires and special interests who exert undue influence across our political system, i'd like to focus my remarks on a related issue, how a broken campaign finance system also threatens our national security. there is no series dispute that maligned foreign actors like russia are working to subvert our democratic processes and sow chaos in our political system. as we have seen, their strategies depend not upon direct conventional attacks on our nation but an asystemmic approach that exploits the divisions and vulnerabilities of
our open society, our democratic institutions, and our free markets. even though we are now aware of this, we have not taken the necessary steps to repair this situation. indeed, our nation retains a campaign finance system that empowers anonymous donors to funnel unlimited amounts of money to influence public policy at every level of government and to hide their actions behind corporations. this misguided system which fell into place in the wake of the supreme court's citizens united decision in 2010 allegedly has been exploited by foreign adversaries to advance their agendas on our soil. how does this threat work? prior to citizens united, an incorporated entity did not have the same right as a flesh and blood human being to make contributions and expenditures in elections. this distinction makes sense. corporations typically are permanent legal entities. they can amass outside --
outsized sums of wealth and they can shield the human beings behind them from scrutiny and liability. it is easier for those who wish to circumvent the laws protecting our democratic system to do so from behind a corporate mask. thus, when the supreme court gave corporations the right to make unlimited independent expenditures in elections, it also opened the door for those who wished to hide their election spending to cover their cracks of shell companies and other entities that only exist on paper. our nation historically has sought to safeguard our system of government from foreign influence. the constitution requires the president to be a natural-born citizen. early lobbying disclosure reforms were crafted with the threat of foreign propaganda in mind. and it remains a federal crime for a foreign national directly or indirectly to spend money to influence our elections. but how can we know that authorities have the tools they need to enforce the law
consistently when the law permits donors to funnel unlimited sums into elections and cover their tracks with shell corporations? there are serious allegations that foreign actors have taken advantage of this vulnerability in our system. cnn reported in early april that special counsel mueller is investigating whether russian oligarchs use donations to think tanks, political action committees and straw donors to cover their illegal campaign spending in the 2016 cycle. one figure who was suspected of this type of maligned influence peddling is alexander torchon. he is the deputy governor of the central bank of russia, a close putin ally, and was recently sanctioned by the trump administration, along with other oligarchs and other high-ranking government officials. multiple press reports stemming from documents turned over to congressional investigations by trump family campaign associates
detail how torchon allegedly cultivated people associated with the n.r.a. to influence the 2016 election. his ultimate goal allegedly was to arrange a meeting during the campaign between then-candidate trump and putin. press reports indicate that the f.b.i.'s currently investigating whether torshon illegally fund money to the n.r.a. to assist the trump campaign in particular. indeed, if russia did use the n.r.a. to circumvent public scrutiny of its electoral meddling, it would have been following the same patent as -- pattern as the koch network. as robert mcgwire from responsible politics stated we have seen some of the groups in the koch network give large six and seven-figure grants to the n.r.a., knowing the n.r.a. is going to spend money on ads in an election. the russians could easily have fund money into the n.r.a. coffers using a similar pathway, a legal ostensibly apolitical
donation by the n.r.a. to russia could have freed up other funds to spend on politics. while money is fungible, it is quite striking that the n.r.a. spent over $30 million to assist the trump campaign two and a half times more than what it spent in 2012 to assist mitt romney. these allegations regarding links between russia and the n.r.a. are among the most widely reported, but there is evidence of other instances where kremlin-linked oligarchs and their allies allegedly directed money into american elections. for example, victor vexelberg, another close putin ally, an oligarch who made billions from a government-sanctioned oil deal, allegedly fund over $250,000 through a u.s. corporation won by his cousin to spend on the 2016 election. the cousin had no prior history as a major political donor before the last election cycle. vexelberg was also recently
sanctioned by the trump administration for his close ties with putin, an alleged role in advancing russia's maligned influence activities. special counsel mueller is also reportedly investigating whether vexelberg fund money into the 2016 election. these are two illustrations of how those from putin's inner circle may have sought to influence our election. some of these methods may appear legal because the source of the money on paper was a person who was legally allowed to make expenditures on american elections, but experts like louise shelly, director of the terrorism transnational crime and corruption center at george mason university, doubt that these sums could have entered our political process without approval from the kremlin. as she puts it, if you have investments in russia, then you cannot be sure that they are secure if you go against the kremlin's will. you can't get an enormously rich
person in russia or even hold large holdings in russia without being in putin's clutches. mr. president, if sophisticated special interest groups in our country rely on dark money to pursue their political agendas and the kremlin and kremlin-linked actors can exploit this vulnerability, then it stands to reason that other foreign actors can also manipulate our system. as long as we maintain a system wherein a political spender can be a corporation which received money from another corporation, which in turn received money from yet another corporation, there will be no accountability in our campaign finance system. even if it cannot be proved that illegal campaign spending is changing electoral outcomes, i believe it is unacceptable for our nation to knowingly commit an open conduit for foreign meddling in our elections, which has an effect on our national security. our system of government depends on public faith that election
results reflect the will of the american people. going forward, i intend to speak further on this topic and work on ways to give authorities much stronger tools to prosecute the laundering of foreign money in our campaign finance system. in my view, this is not just an administrative or election issue. this is a national security and an international criminal issue, and as such, there should be investigations and prosecutions on that scale. i invite my colleagues to work with me on this important issue and thank my colleagues again for highlighting the need to make unaccountable money out of our politics. with that, mr. president, i would yield the floor and i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: