Immigration Debate Steps on Hearing About FBI Report

‘These children are not animals, they are not bargaining chips, they are not leverage to help President Trump build his wall’

A group of mothers and their children protesting the separation of families at the southern border are escorted out of a House Oversight hearing Tuesday June 19, 2018. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
A group of mothers and their children protesting the separation of families at the southern border are escorted out of a House Oversight hearing Tuesday June 19, 2018. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call)
Posted June 19, 2018 at 12:38pm

House Democrats used a Tuesday hearing about the Justice Department’s report on the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails amid the 2016 campaign to turn the spotlight on the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republicans spent the joint hearing of the Justice and Oversight and Government Reform committees putting the spotlight on the findings of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report centered on Clinton including politically tinged text messages between agents. 

“As I’ve laid out here I thought this was completely antithetical to the core values of the department and extremely serious,” Horowitz testified Tuesday.

The House committee follows a Monday hearing on the same topic in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said the report should conjure “anger, disappointment and sadness” in anyone who reads it because of the bias, animus and prejudging of facts by senior FBI agents and attorneys.

“They prejudged the outcome of the Hillary Clinton investigation before the investigation ended,” Gowdy said. “And these exact same FBI agents and attorneys prejudged the outcome of the Russia investigation before it even began.”

The report, among other conclusions, did not find evidence that “improper considerations, including political bias,” directly affected specific decisions as the FBI investigated Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State.

Before the testimony began, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said he felt compelled to speak about what he called “a more immediate priority” and pivoted to a storyline about immigration policy that has dominated headlines in recent days.

“These children are not animals, they are not bargaining chips, they are not leverage to help President Trump build his wall,” Nadler said. 

Republicans at the hearing called Nadler “out of order.” Gowdy cut him off after about a minute, and said, “The gentleman from New York has been given more time than would have been afforded the other side if we had pulled something like that.”

Immediately afterward, a group of protesters that included a crying infant stood up and chanted, “Families belong together.” Gowdy paused the hearing while Capitol Police officers escorted the protesters out of the room.

Watch: Cummings Gets Emotional About Family Separation Policy

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Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight committee’s top Democrat, then diverted from his prepared remarks to deliver a fiery speech about children being held under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on all people trying to cross the border illegally.

“Are we really going to sit here, 70 members of the Congress of the United States of America, in 2018, and have a hearing that just repeats the hearings the Senate had yesterday on Hillary Clinton’s emails?” Cummings said. “We sent letter after letter, letter after letter, asking these committees to investigate the Trump administration’s policy, which is now resulting in child internment camps, that’s what I said, child internment camps.”

And, with his voice cracking, Cummings said the country is better than that and pleaded with Republicans.

“We need you, those children need you. I’m talking directly to my Republican colleagues. We need you to stand up to President Trump,” Cummings said. “We need you to join us in telling him we reject this mean policy. We need you to tell him to abandon this policy. We need you to remind him this is the United States of America and it is a great country. And we need you to stand up for these children.”