Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Overview

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary oversees the Department of Justice (DOJ) and all agencies under its jurisdiction, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It takes a lead role in vetting Executive nominations for homeland security and law enforcement positions; all Article III judicial nominations, which includes the Supreme Court; and nominations to the Court of Internal Trade. The Judiciary Committee also considers legislation and resolutions in a wide range of areas, including bankruptcy, civil liberties, immigration, patents and trademarks, state boundary lines, and more.  

There are 20 Senators (11 Republicans and nine Democrats) serving on the committee led by Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Hearings Schedule 

Members

Republicans

Democrats

Chairman Chuck Grassley (IA)

Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (CA)

Orrin G. Hatch (UT)

Patrick Leahy (VT)

Lindsey Graham (SC)

Dick Durbin (IL)

John Cornyn (TX)

Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)

Michael S. Lee (UT)

Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Ted Cruz (TX)

Al Franken (MN) (resigned)

Ben Sasse (NE)

Christopher A. Coons (DE)

Jeff Flake (AZ)

Richard Blumenthal (CT)

Mike Crapo (ID)

Mazie Hirono (HI)

Thom Tillis (NC)

Cory Booker (NJ)

John Kennedy (LA)

Kamala Harris (CA)

Focus

The Senate Judiciary Committee originally planned to focus on President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and what obstruction of justice questions the incident raised. It also would have explored – under the umbrella of that same inquiry -- whether or not former Attorney General Loretta Lynch interfered with the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. However, as new events related to the primary Russia investigation came to light, such as the June 9th Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein have expanded their committee’s focus.

They invited Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Glenn Simpson to testify, issuing subpoenas to Manafort and Simpson who have been reluctant to comply, and they are working together to examine the Department of Justice’s seemingly lax enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Chairman Grassley has been particularly interested in knowing more about lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin who attended the June 9th Trump Tower meeting and who has been working to repeal sanctions imposed by the 2012 Magnitsky Act.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has six subcommittees, and one – The Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism led by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Ranking Member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) – has played a significant role in uncovering pertinent information regarding former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

On May 8, 2017, Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates appeared before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. At that hearing, Yates testified she had warned the Trump White House in a meeting on January 26, 2017 that she believed Flynn was "compromised." President Trump fired Yates four days later for refusing to defend his travel ban. (VIDEO)

Notable Developments

January 9, 2018: Ranking member Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) releases the full transcript of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson's testimony as given before the committee on August 22, 2017. 

October 31, 2017: Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter's acting general counsel Sean Edgett, and Google’s director of law enforcement and information security Richard Salgado appear before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism in the first of three appearances before lawmakers on Capitol Hill in two days. Tech company representatives explain that Russian operatives used their platforms to sow discord and attack Hillary Clinton during the campaign and then switched to trying to undermine President Trump's legitimacy after the election. Many Senators chastise witnesses for not doing enough to stop disinformation and foreign efforts to undermine democracy and not being proactive enough even now, knowing what they do about Russian interference. 

October 18, 2017: Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing on Justice Department oversight. Sessions refuses to discuss his conversations with President Trump, citing executive privilege, even though the president has not invoked the privilege. Sessions hesitates but eventually says no when Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asks if Special Counsel Robert Mueller has interviewed the AG about Russian interference into the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Sessions also tries to qualify his earlier testimony before Congress that he had not had contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign even though he had, claiming he believed those questions had been about having contact to discuss campaign specifics or collaboration.

September 7, 2017: Donald Trump Jr. sits for a five-hour interview with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators. Prior to his testimony, Trump Jr. submitted a written statement claiming he was conflicted about meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya but felt he has a responsibility to find out what she knew about Secretary of State Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications.” He added he always planned to consult with his lawyers after receiving whatever information she provided.

Following Trump Jr.’s interview, committee member Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) emails a memo to “interested parties,” explaining the consequences for lying to Congress and insinuating he does not believe the President’s son has been truthful.

July 27, 2017:  Chairman Grassley opens the hearing on the Department of Justice’s Enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which has been pushed back a day, explaining Donald Trump Jr. Paul Manafort, and Glenn Simpson will not be testifying. Simpson, he says, has agreed to a transcribed staff interview instead. Grassley adds that he and Ranking Member Feinstein are negotiating with Manafort to secure a future transcribed interview and that Donald Trump Jr. has offered to cooperate but gives no additional information as to when that might be.

Financier Bill Browder does testify as scheduled and gives a scathing account of Russia’s entrenched system of political and financial corruption that has made President Putin the world’s richest man. He also details the horrific events leading up to the death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was imprisoned and tortured for uncovering Russian government officials had stolen $230 million. (VIDEO)

July 19, 2017: The Senate Judiciary Committee schedules a hearing for Wednesday July 26th entitled “Oversight of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Attempts to Influence U.S. Elections: Lessons Learned from Current and Prior Administrations” and invites – among others - Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., Glenn Simpson to testify. Committee and subcommittee leadership also issue preservation and records requests to Simpson, Trump Jr., Manafort, the Trump Organization, and the Trump Campaign. Chairman Chuck Grassley and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein say they are ready to issue subpoenas for Simpson, Manafort, and Trump, Jr. if the three men refuse to testify voluntarily.

July 13, 2017: Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley – in reaction to news that Donald Trump, Jr. took a previously undisclosed meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 - announces he will invite the president’s son to testify before his committee on this issue.

Potential Outcome

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not said what it plans to do with what it uncovers, but just like the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, it does not have the authority to press charges or prosecute crimes.