Press Releases

of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, called on senior Trump Administration officials to brief members of their committees on President Trump’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week in Helsinki. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the lawmakers underscored that the Administration has failed to inform Congress of the topics of the meeting or the agreements that Russian officials claim were negotiated.

“Democrats and Republicans alike were shocked to watch President Trump publicly side with Russia over its responsibility for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections and directly contradict the Intelligence Community’s assessment. But we also have profound concerns over what was said privately and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with each of you the national security matters that were discussed,” wrote the Ranking Members.

Full text of the letter follows and can be found here.

Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Mattis and Director Coats:

We are writing to formally request briefings of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) and House Armed Services Committee (HASC) regarding President Trump’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. 

On July 16, 2018, President Trump held a private meeting with President Putin, where one other U.S. government employee attended—a State Department interpreter. Since the meeting, Congress has received no notification from the White House or Executive Branch about the topics of the meeting or any purported deals or agreements reached on behalf of the United States. It also appears that President Trump’s cabinet has not been briefed on the private meeting, and Congress must be made aware of some of the potential deals or agreements that Russia claims were struck. 

Democrats and Republicans alike were shocked to watch President Trump publicly side with Russia over its responsibility for interfering in the 2016 U.S. elections and directly contradict the Intelligence Community’s assessment. But we also have profound concerns over what was said privately and would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with each of you the national security matters that were discussed, including Russia; its illegal occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea; ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine; ongoing sanctions policy towards Russia; Syria; the U.S. commitment to NATO and Article 5; counterterrorism cooperation; strategic stability and arms control; and China.  

We would appreciate your consideration of our request and hope to schedule a briefing with each of our committees by noon on July 26, 2018.

                                                           

Sincerely,

 

Eliot Engel

Ranking Member

Foreign Affairs Committee

 

Adam Smith

Ranking Member

Armed Services Committee

 

Adam B. Schiff

Ranking Member

Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following statement about the completion of negotiations on the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report:

“Democrats fought hard and won multiple progressive outcomes in this year’s Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We do not control Congress, and we cannot get everything we want, but I am pleased that by being persistent we succeeded on many important issues.

“Foremost, Democrats defeated multiple provisions that would have been extremely harmful to the environment. Although environmental riders have no place in a defense bill, Republicans have again attempted to undermine the Endangered Species Act, roll back regulations on mining nationwide, and allow the indefinite taking of certain public lands for defense purposes. I am pleased that Democrats succeeded in keeping all of these dangerous riders out of the bill. We also fought and significantly reduced a proposed doubling of an exception to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In addition, Democrats won inclusion of provisions to help local military communities address climate change related sea level rise, require DOD installations to establish energy and climate resiliency plans, and require plans for energy and conservation policy.

“Democrats made significant strides to advance human rights, the promotion of peace, protection of vulnerable populations abroad, and the rule of law in conflict. Thanks to Democrats, the FY 2019 NDAA prohibits in-flight refueling to Saudi Arabia or Saudi-led coalition non-United States aircraft conducting missions in Yemen, unless certifications are provided by the Secretary of State that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are taking certain actions related to the civil war in Yemen. The legislation furthermore requires a review of whether the U.S. Armed Forces or its partners have violated laws or policies while conducting operations in Yemen. 

“The bill also includes major provisions on the reporting of civilian casualties in connection with U.S. military operations. The bill requires the Secretary of Defense to develop and coordinate policy for civilian casualties connected with U.S. military operations. The Secretary is also accountable for improving means accessible to the public by which civilian casualties can be reported to the Department. Additionally, we clarify and improve upon requirements for annual reporting of civilian casualties and strengthen Congressional oversight of sensitive military operations.

“Transparency is further enhanced by requiring the President to make the total number of deployed members of the Armed Forces publicly available. It also requires the Secretary of State to report on war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Syria. The Defense Department is also required to report on transitional justice in Syria and to review the policy framework for military activity like the ongoing operations in Niger.

“Supporting service members and their families, HASC Democrats secured the inclusion of a substantial array of provisions to promote safety and combat domestic violence and sexual harassment among military personnel. Specifically, the FY 2019 NDAA establishes domestic violence as a separate article under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

“Democrats were able to remove a provision that would have made it easier for defense contractors to transfer machine guns. The bill closes a gun loophole that that allowed Devin Kelley, who was convicted of domestic violence, to purchase the gun he used in a 2017 mass shooting in a Texas church. The NDAA also requires the creation of an independent National Commission on Military Aviation Safety that I proposed in order to investigate aviation accidents.

“This bill continues the absolutely critical work of pushing back against President Putin’s ongoing campaign to undermine U.S. alliances, partnerships, and democratic values around the world. It is essential that Congress do everything it can to try to hold together our commitments in the face of President Trump’s attacks on those institutions. Building on last year’s package of Russia legislation that I introduced in the NDAA, this bill includes the largest investment to date for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI). It restates of our commitment to NATO and our partners. It extends the prohibition on military cooperation with Russia. It declares that Russia violated the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). It strengthens the prohibition on funding for activities that would recognize the sovereignty of Russia over Crimea. It requires a whole-of-government response to malign foreign influence operations and campaigns, it improve our cyber and counter-influence infrastructure, and a good deal more.

“I am pleased that this bill provides for our men and women in uniform and their families. There are many things to be concerned about in this bill, but the outcomes in these areas are positive.”

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) and Congressman Ted Yoho (FL-03), joined with leaders in the international development community to applaud the House of Representatives passage of H.R. 5105, the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act, known as the BUILD Act of 2018:

“Passage of the BUILD Act is an important step to modernizing U.S. international development finance and showing that the United States is committed to leading the international community in supporting less developed countries. This new institution will focus on sustainable, broad-based development programs supporting critically needed projects in communities across the world. It strengthens our ability to support economic growth that ensures people have the opportunity to live healthy lives and achieve their fullest potential,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Make no mistake, this reform is only part of our commitment to providing help to those most in need around the world. We must take an all-in approach to our foreign assistance that includes robust direct assistance from the United States. I will continue to fight for these essential programs promoting health, peace, and stability that are vital to our national security.”

“The BUILD Act is the most significant reform of America’s development finance system in decades. By streamlining our foreign assistance efforts, the United States will be more efficient and effective in how we target our foreign investments around the globe.  By creating a modern, 21st century, development finance system that better utilizes private sector-led development; we will help countries build their economies so that they can transition from needing our assistance – to opening up their markets for our goods,” said Congressman Ted Yoho. “Taking countries from aid to trade is the end goal. We want to assist countries in becoming robust trading partners with the United States. There is truth to the saying, 'a rising tide lifts all boats.’ By doing so, we will help create stable, self-sufficient societies around the world and open new markets for U.S. goods and services. I’d like to thank Congressman Smith for his support in moving this bill closer to becoming law.”

“The new International Development Finance Corporation, as outlined in the BUILD Act, would be an accountable, transparent, impact-focused leader in the development community,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. “The legislation prioritizes cooperation with USAID, our lead development agency, and directs the IDFC to pursue highly developmental projects, particularly in countries that are subject to extreme poverty, fragility, and violence.”

“OPIC’s work with its private sector partners in the poorest countries, conflict-affected areas and other foreign policy hotspots is one of our nation’s most powerful and tangible tools of foreign policy. Development finance catalyzes the private sector investment that is the principal driver of sustainable economic development, job creation and resilient societies. Through its investments in critical power generation, affordable housing, and private schools and hospitals, OPIC and its partners’ investments project the very best of American values, innovation and goodwill. Leveraging the core of OPIC’s strong institutional foundation, the BUILD Act will propel U.S. leadership across the globe by modernizing U.S. development finance capabilities and boosting our impact in tackling poverty and creating more prosperous societies,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, former Chairman, President and CEO of OPIC under the Obama Administration.

“The BUILD Act embraces the mission of sustainable, broad-based economic growth, poverty reduction, and development. Provisions in the improved legislation prioritize less-developed countries and small business, and include environmental and social safeguards. It’s encouraging to see the House of Representatives vote in favor of modernizing our finance tools and enabling transparent growth and development,” said Tessie San Martin, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Plan International USA.

“This is not your grandparents’ developing world—it is richer, freer, and has far more agency than it did 40 years ago. If we do not meet the hopes and aspirations of our friends and allies, they will take their business to the Chinese. At the same time, a number of our national security challenges require private sector solutions as part of our response,” said Dan Runde, Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Rather than look at many developing countries as simply recipients of aid, we must look at them as emerging or even emerged partners who desire a deeper relationship built around trade, investment, and economic growth. We should not let this moment pass. When passed, the BUILD Act will be the most important piece of international development legislation in more than a decade.”

“The BUILD Act is a positive step in modernizing the way the U.S. supports development around the world. Currently, private investment is being underutilized due to an outdated U.S. development finance infrastructure,” said Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center. “It’s time for Congress to help unleash more innovative financing tools, while maintaining existing high standards for transparency, evaluation, and performance measurement stipulated in this bill and in the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act that was enacted into law in 2016.”

"Passage of the BUILD Act will dramatically strengthen the capacity of our government to fight poverty in the world through private capital investment and to collaborate with our allies to offer countries a path to prosperity by embracing entrepreneurship, innovation, and private enterprise.  In the global marketplace of today, economic influence is an extraordinarily important soft power tool and the United States must redouble its efforts to compete with the Chinese and offer a more compelling narrative for growth.  The BUILD Act will provide the tools necessary to compete more effectively and offer a more appealing alternative built around entrepreneurial capitalism,” said Robert Mosbacher, former President and Chief Executive Officer of OPIC.

“America has always been a leader in promoting market-based solutions to poverty. The BUILD Act will help the US update our tools to catalyze private investment in the toughest markets in support of development, economic, and security goals,” said Todd Moss, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development. “For our partners, the BUILD Act will help to accelerate capital inflows, job creation, and ultimately economic growth.”

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) released the following statement about President Trump’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin:

“We should all be gravely concerned about whatever discussions President Trump has had with President Putin behind closed doors. At every turn of his trip to Europe, President Trump has followed a script that parallels Moscow’s plan to weaken and divide America’s allies and partners and undermine democratic values. There is an extensive factual record suggesting that President Trump’s campaign and the Russians conspired to influence our election for President Trump. Now Trump is trying to cover it up. There is no sugar coating this. It is hard to see President Trump siding with Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence community and our criminal investigators as anything other than treason.”

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WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Adam Smith (WA-09) today joined U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) in introducing the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act. The legislation would convene a commission of experts to provide a roadmap for Congress to implement a humane immigration enforcement system that upholds the dignity of all individuals, which includes terminating the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) within one year of enactment.

“We need to change the way we do immigration enforcement. Our current system is inhumane; it is separating children from their parents, deporting and detaining too many people, and ripping families apart. None of this is making us any safer. Unfortunately, Speaker Ryan is trying to demagogue the issue. This bill isn’t about stopping immigration enforcement or open borders. It is about shining a light on the injustices of our current system, and changing the way that we conduct immigration enforcement.”

“Across my district and throughout our country, ICE is ripping families apart. They are raiding workplaces, invading homes, showing up at courthouses, schools, and hospitals, detaining individuals indefinitely, and instilling fear throughout our communities. We must put a stop to this. President Trump has weaponized this agency to accomplish his racist and harmful agenda. To bring an end to these rampant human rights violations, we must terminate ICE and convene a commission of experts to make recommendations to Congress on the redistribution of ICE’s essential enforcement functions to other government agencies. ICE has strayed far from its original purpose and has failed to enforce immigration laws and protect national security in a humane and just way. I am proud to join several of my colleagues in cosponsoring this necessary legislation, and I will continue to fight to protect the dignity of all individuals.”  

Background:

Congress created ICE in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks with the primary mission of preventing “acts of terrorism by targeting the people, money, and materials that support terrorist and criminal activities.” However, since then, ICE has become synonymous with immigration raids, home invasions, family separation, abusive detention practices, and chronic noncompliance with the law.

Recently, ICE agents themselves recognized the irreparable damage being done by President Trump’s actions when nineteen ICE agents wrote to Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, stating that investigations, “have been perceived as targeting undocumented aliens, instead of the transnational criminal organizations that facilitate cross border crimes impacting our communities and national security.” The authors of the letter agree that the agency is now failing to perform its core mission and that the best path forward would be to end it and start fresh.

Ending ICE and developing a more humane immigration system that complies with constitutional protections, domestic law, and binding international treaties, while treating every person with respect and dignity is a strong step forward.

The Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act would:

  1. Convene a commission of experts to provide a roadmap for Congress to implement a humane immigration enforcement system that upholds the dignity of all individuals. This will include transferring issues like organized crime, drug smuggling, and human trafficking to other government agencies that are well-equipped to handle them and have proven track records of transparency, accountability and compliance with the law;
  2. Prior to the termination of the agency, direct Congress to act on the recommendations authored by the commission, including the transfer of necessary functions to relevant agencies and the implementation of the new immigration enforcement regime; and
  3. Terminate the agency within one year of enactment.

The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Mark Pocan (WI-02), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Jim McGovern (MA-02), José E. Serrano (NY-15), and Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07).

The bill text of the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act is available here.

A fact sheet on the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act is available here.

A section-by-section breakdown on the Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act is available here.