Cooper Challenges Congress to “Uphold the Same Standards That We Want to See Upheld by Others”
Jul 7, 2016
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today participated in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing focused on FBI Director James Comey. A video of Cooper’s comments can be found here, and his full statement is below.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Director Comey.
I hate to see one of America's most distinguished public servants pilloried before this committee. We're all highly partisan here. We're good backseat drivers. We're all today, apparently, armchair prosecutors. And you stated the truth when you said that you didn't know of anyone who would bring a case like this. And some of the prosecutors have had decades to do that.
I hope that this committee's effort is not intended to intimidate you or the FBI or law enforcement in general or government employees. And I'm thankful at this moment that you have such a lifetime record of speaking truth to power. Because that's very important. It's also very important that apparently you're a lifelong Republican. You're just here to do your job, state the facts.
I think the key issue here is whether, in fact, there is a double standard; whether some Americans are being treated differently than others. I think I can rely on my Republican colleagues to make sure that Hillary Clinton is treated no better than anybody else. There should be some attention given to make sure that she's not treated any worse than anybody else. I think we all know that we wouldn't be having this hearing, especially on an emergency basis, unless she were running for president.
My colleague from Massachusetts has just pointed out the previous secretaries of state are not being called on the carpet, whether that be Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell or others.
But I think the grossest double standard here today is the fact that all of the members of this committee, every member of Congress, is not subject to the same law that Secretary Clinton was subject to. And as lawmakers, that means that we have exempted ourselves from the standard of other federal employees. My colleague from DC, Ms. Norton, referred to this. Why did we exempt ourselves from the same rules? Apparently, our chairman lists his private e-mail account on his business card. We all have access to classified information.
So I would like to challenge my Republican colleagues here today. Let's work together and introduce legislation to make the same laws apply to us as apply to the executive branch under Secretary Clinton. I would be happy to join in such legislation to make sure that we're not being hypocritical on this panel, that we're holding ourselves to the same standards as Secretary Clinton. And not trying to accuse her of things that we may be guilty of ourselves.
I bet my colleagues would be the first to complain if, for example, e-mails were retroactively classified. That's a situation most people in public service would object to pretty strongly. How did you know at the time if you had no idea?
So I think it's very important if we want, as Congress, to have the trust of the American people, to not be hypocritical, to uphold the same standards that we want to see upheld by others.
And I'm just thankful at this moment in our history that we have someone like you who is in charge of the FBI. Because too many things are highly politicized. The last thing we should do is criminalize our political system. I didn't see any of my Republican colleagues complain when former Governor Bob McDonnell was exonerated by an 8-0 vote at the Supreme Court for having done certain things I think most Americans would find objectionable, but our court -- on a bipartisan, unanimous basis -- exonerated him just a week or two ago.
So I think this is a moment for committee members to reflect, to take a deep breath, to calm down, and realize exactly what you said: That no reasonable prosecutor would have brought this case. And thank you for stating that so clearly and publicly.
I yield back the balance. I yield to the ranking member.