Dear Mr. Gavaler:
Thank you for contacting me regarding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I am actively seeking answers from the intelligence community and ensuring the Committee maintains rigorous oversight of Executive Branch agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction.
On March 20, 2017, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James B. Comey publicly announced that the FBI is conducting an investigation into possible connections between Russian officials and President Trump’s presidential campaign. While this is an ongoing investigation, and information is therefore kept confidentially within the FBI, I am monitoring all developments in the investigation.
In this effort, I coauthored a letter on March 24, 2017, with my colleagues Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas which pressed key intelligence agencies about leaks of classified information and the impact they have on the American people’s trust in vital national security programs. In this letter to the leaders of the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, we expressed deep concern about leaks of classified information from unnamed sources to the media and the continuous repercussions of prior unauthorized and damaging disclosures about national security programs. These leaks are especially damaging as the House Judiciary Committee seeks to reauthorize and reform foreign surveillance programs in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) later this year. This program, which targets the communications of non-U.S. persons outside of the United States in order to protect national security, reportedly encompasses more than a quarter of all NSA surveillance and has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent horrific terrorist plots against our country.
All leaks of classified information have the potential to erode the American people’s trust in their government’s ability to protect both the security of our country and privacy of U.S. persons. In our letter, we call on the intelligence community to openly dispel any false accusations of widespread illegal surveillance. Moreover, it is vital for the intelligence community to publicly describe the value of FISA Section 702 in thwarting terrorist plots. Finally, we have requested a briefing on efforts made by the intelligence agencies to weed out any leakers of classified information and bring them to justice.
Furthermore, I share your concerns of the prospect that the Russian government or affiliated foreign agents attempted to interfere with our elections and are seeking to meddle with upcoming general election campaigns in France and Germany this year.
I want to emphasize that the intelligence community has found no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, testified that Russia “definitely did try to influence the campaign.”
Right now, the FBI and the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence are pursuing separate investigations to determine what level of interference the Russians did play in attempting to influence the 2016 election, and what relationship existed between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign. Rest assured I will monitor the respective investigations and work to ensure the investigations into Russia’s action will be conducted professionally and will follow the facts wherever they may lead.
I appreciate you taking the time contact me. It is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District. I hope you will continue to be in touch as Congress debates issues of importance to the United States.
Member of Congress