Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Ted Deutch (D-FL), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism led a letter with 38 other members of the House urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hold Egypt accountable for its failure to meet human rights standards and end the use of arbitrary detention. 

“We urge you to utilize all tools at your disposal to hold Egypt accountable for its failure to meet human rights standards and bring to an end the arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens, individuals with close ties to America, and other politically-motivated detainees,” the members wrote. “We recognize the importance of the U.S.-Egypt relationship to help provide stability in the region. However, for years, Congressional leaders and senior Administration officials such as yourself have urged the Egyptian government to conform to the human rights standards we expect from partners and allies”

“Recent actions demonstrate that Egypt is still failing to take ‘sustained and effective steps’ to make progress in these areas. We ask you to make clear to the Egyptian government that closer security relations and bilateral ties are contingent on improving the human rights situation in Egypt.”

Politically motivated arrests have continued even in the face of international backlash. In January, U.S. citizen Moustafa Kassem tragically died after a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment and inhumane detention conditions. In 2018, Kassem had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in a mass trial. Lawmakers and human rights organizations have repeatedly raised concerns regarding the continued lack of human rights and due process with Egypt’s use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment, including the targeting of U.S. citizens and others with close ties to Americans.

The full letter can be found here and below.

Full list of signers of the letter: Adam Smith, Ted Deutch, Eliot Engel, James P. McGovern, Adam B. Schiff, Ruben Gallego, Barbara Lee, Jamie Raskin, David E. Price, Ilhan Omar, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Alcee Hastings, Jim Cooper, Ro Khanna, Susan Wild, Bobby L. Rush, Steve Cohen, David Trone, Stephen F. Lynch, Jan Schakowsky, Tom Malinowski, Cheri Bustos, Alan Lowenthal, Thomas R. Suozzi, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Maxine Waters, Gerald E. Connolly, Rashida Tlaib Betty McCollum, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Pramila Jayapal, Adriano Espaillat, Juan Vargas, William R. Keating, Karen Bass, Veronica Escobar, Lois Frankel, Emanuel Cleaver, II, Brenda Lawrence, Gregory W. Meeks.

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We write to raise significant concerns regarding the continued lack of human rights and due process with Egypt’s use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment, including the targeting of U.S. citizens and others with close ties to Americans. We urge you to utilize all tools at your disposal to hold Egypt accountable for its failure to meet human rights standards and bring to an end the arbitrary detention of U.S. citizens, individuals with close ties to America, and other politically-motivated detainees.

Politically motivated arrests have continued even in the face of international backlash. Earlier this summer, the family of Egyptian-American citizen and human rights activist Mohamed Soltan was targeted by Egyptian security forces in raids and several of his relatives have been arrested. In June, Nora Younis, the editor of the news website Al-Manassa and a former Washington Post journalist, and Sanaa Seif, a human rights activist, were both arrested. Seif and Soltan’s family members, including Soltan’s father, remain imprisoned.  Egypt has also still not adequately resolved the case of American April Corley who was injured in a horrific attack by the Egyptian military in 2015.

While we were heartened to see the release of U.S. citizens Mohamed Amashah and Reem Desouky earlier this year, the continued arbitrary detention and imprisonment of individuals is unacceptable. Amashah was detained for 486 days and Desouky for 301 days before being released. Their release followed the tragic death of U.S. citizen Moustafa Kassem in January of this year, who died after a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment and inhumane detention conditions. In 2018, Kassem had been sentenced to 15 years in prison in a mass trial. He was the subject of a letter to you from numerous members of the House in December 2018, raising the same concerns about human rights and imprisonment that are prevalent today. 

Ola al-Qaradawi and Hosam Khalaf in Egypt, a couple approved for U.S. legal permanent resident status, have remained imprisoned in pretrial detention without formal charges for over three years. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that their arrest, detention, and imprisonment lack a legal basis. Ola and Hosam have been kept in solitary confinement almost entirely since their June 2017 arrest with virtually no visitor access for legal counsel or family.

We recognize the importance of the U.S.-Egypt relationship to help provide stability in the region. However, for years, Congressional leaders and senior Administration officials such as yourself have urged the Egyptian government to conform to the human rights standards we expect from partners and allies.

In the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations bill, Congress withheld $300 million of Foreign Military Financing Program funds until you certify the Government of Egypt is taking sustained and effective steps to improve human rights, release political prisoners, and provide detainees with due process, among other reforms. Recent actions demonstrate that Egypt is still failing to take “sustained and effective steps” to make progress in these areas. We ask you to make clear to the Egyptian government that closer security relations and bilateral ties are contingent on improving the human rights situation in Egypt.  

We stand ready to continue working with you to support efforts to ensure Egypt is advancing basic human rights.

Sincerely,

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Committees Release New Details Regarding Potential Legal and Ethical Violations Committed by Multiple White House Officials

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Adam Smith, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Adam Schiff, Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on National Security sent a letter to Sean O’Donnell, Acting Inspector General of the Department of Defense (DOD IG), urging him to open an investigation into what appears to have been a concerted effort by the Trump Administration to retaliate against U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) Alexander S. Vindman and Yevgeny Vindman.

The request comes after the Committees obtained a complaint filed on August 18, 2020 with the DOD IG. The complaint details disturbing new allegations that the President and White House officials retaliated against LTC Yevgeny Vindman for making protected disclosures, including about President Trump’s July 25, 2019 call with the Ukrainian President and serious allegations of legal and ethical violations committed by senior White House officials. 

In the new letter, the Chairs write:

Based on this new information, it is all the more urgent that the DOD IG immediately investigate whether adverse personnel actions taken against LTC Alexander Vindman and LTC Y. Vindman were carried out in retaliation for their protected disclosures, and that your investigation include a close examination of actions taken by White House officials.  If the White House refuses to cooperate fully—including by denying requests for documents or for interviews with White House officials—we will have no other choice but to infer that any such actions were retaliatory.  

LTC Y. Vindman appears not only to have been punished for raising concerns to National Security Council (NSC) lawyers about President Trump’s July 25, 2019, phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but also for reporting multiple allegations that Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA) Robert O’Brien and NSC Chief of Staff (CoS), Alex Gray, committed several ethics and legal compliance violations, misused government resources, excluded women from meetings, and made sexist and demeaning remarks to female NSC staffers, including inappropriately commenting on women’s looks and “talk[ing] down” to women.

LTC Yevgeny Vindman outlined his concerns in a memorandum to the DOD Office of General Counsel within a month of his abrupt removal from the NSC staff, writing in March:

During the fall of 2019 to February 2020, I became aware of legal compliance and ethics violations involving Robert O’Brien, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor (NSA) and Alex Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President (DAP) and National Security Council (NSC) Chief of Staff (CoS).  Specifically, there were allegations of sexism, violations of standards of ethical conduct for employees and violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act.  These violations were within my purview as the senior ethics official on the NSC staff and NSC Deputy Legal Advisor.  I notified my supervisors on the NSC staff and White House Counsel’s Office about each of these concerns.  To my knowledge no action was taken.  Consequently, my professional obligations persist. While any of these infractions are serious, together they form a disturbing pattern of flagrant disregard for rules.  I fear that if this situation persists, personnel will depart and national security will be harmed.  I request you inquire into the facts and allegations herein and take appropriate action.

In July, Maloney, Schiff and Lynch sent a letter to the DOD IG urging him to open an investigation into whether the Trump Administration sought to retaliate against LTC Alexander S. Vindman following his testimony before the House of Representatives during the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, including by taking retributive actions against his brother, LTC Yevgeny Vindman. 

The full letter sent today by the Chairs can be found here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Adam Smith (WA-9), Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-8), Rep. Paul Mitchell (MI-10), Rep. Don Bacon (NE-2), Rep. Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39), Rep. Kendra Horn (OK-5), Rep. Elaine Luria (VA-2), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM-2), and Rep. Lori Trahan (MA-3) released the following statement after news reports indicated a Russian vehicle intentionally rammed a coalition vehicle and injured U.S. troops in Syria:

“Recent reports that Russian forces in Syria harassed and assaulted U.S. forces are deeply concerning.  We are appalled by reports of Russian military aggression toward U.S. troops on the ground in Syria and strongly condemn their actions. We strongly urge Russian forces to stop these aggressive behaviors immediately. It is critical that officials at the Pentagon and the White House also clearly communicate to the highest levels of the Russian government and military that actions like this will not be tolerated.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement after the House passed the Delivering for America Act, which prohibits the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) from implementing harmful changes to its operations or level of service and provides $25 billion in funding.

“People across the country depend on the U.S. Postal Service to receive life-saving medications, paychecks, essential goods, ballots, and more. Even though the American people rely on this essential service, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear the President sees the USPS as a mere pawn in his desperate attempt to disenfranchise the people he views as a threat to his presidency.

“Postmaster General DeJoy has continued to disrupt the operations of the Postal Service, including decommissioning critical mail sorting machines, removing post boxes, cutting overtime, and restricting extra mail trips that ensure deliveries are made on time. These new policies significantly weaken the Postal Service’s ability to deliver essential items, which in some cases are a matter of life or death.

“Passage of the Delivering for America Act sends a strong message that the House stands with the American people to protect and support the Postal Service, its workers, and the right to vote. This bill would also provide the same level of funding recommended by the USPS Board of Governors, which is composed entirely of Trump appointees, to ensure the USPS has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission.

“This should not be a partisan issue. The damage to the Postal Service impacts rural and urban communities, seniors, veterans, small businesses, and families across the country. It is vital that we protect and fund the Postal service, and that the Postmaster General undo the damage he has already done.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following statement after U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the department will not extend expiring waivers which have allowed schools to continue providing access to free meals to students throughout the pandemic.

“As school districts make difficult decisions about how to safely reopen schools this fall, it’s crucial that regardless of whether students are physically in the classroom, families know they can count on having access to school meal programs.

“I have repeatedly called on the Administration to extend the waivers put in place over the last six months to provide certainty to families throughout this next school year. These waivers, which expire at the end of this month, have removed bureaucratic barriers to accessing meals, and allow school districts to provide meals to all students. This Administration, in failing to extend the waivers, has neglected students and families at a time of unprecedented need.

“This inexplicable decision makes it even harder for families to access vital food assistance programs amidst a pandemic that has increased food insecurity for children and families. Secretary Perdue must extend these emergency waivers through the rest of the school year to ensure America’s children do not go hungry.”

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