Washington Review, May 19. 2017
This week in Washington, I pushed for a special prosecutor and independent commission to investigate the Administration’s ties to Russia, attended a hearing on air traffic control (ATC) privatization and energy opportunities in South America, and held a number of meetings.
Earlier this week, it was reported that President Trump had allegedly revealed highly sensitive, classified information to Russian officials, jeopardizing the work of both our intelligence community and the delicate intelligence sharing networks we have with allies around the world. On Tuesday, it was also reported that President Trump had requested recently fired FBI Director James Comey to shut down the investigation into his former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. If these reports are true, these revelations are growing evidence of the urgent need for an independent commission to investigate the growing connections between the Trump Administration and Russia. While I am encouraged by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recent appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor, the continuous flood of new evidence and the growing unanswered questions demands an independent commission that is beyond the scope of the White House to fully and thoroughly investigate Russian influence in our democracy and the Administration’s ties to Russia.
This is why I have cosponsored Rep. Eric Swallwell’s (D-CA) Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 356), which establishes a bipartisan, independent commission charged with examining attempts by the Russian government to influence, interfere with, or sow distrust in the 2016 election. I will continue to push for this Commission so that the American people will get the answers they deserve.
On Wednesday, I participated in a House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure hearing on privatizing our Nation’s air traffic control (ATC) system, where I questioned witnesses on the feasibility of transitioning to a privatized ATC system. I am concerned that giving control of our airspace to private airlines and their allies will not actually be an improvement but could instead put the safety of our airspace at risk.
I also attended a hearing in the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee which explored the future of energy opportunities in South America. In an era of increasing globalization, it is important that we continue to invest in and support the growth of our regional partners.
This week on the House Floor, two pieces of legislation that I cosponsored, H.R. 672, the Combatting European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 and H.R. 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017, both passed the House of Representatives unanimously and now await action in the Senate.
The use of divisive and hateful rhetoric has surged recently, targeting minority communities around the world. In the United States and abroad, there have been an increased number of attacks on Jewish sites in particular, as community centers, graveyards and schools have suffered repeated threats and destruction. I cosponsored H.R. 672, the Combatting European Anti-Semitism Act of 2017, with the belief that efforts to combat anti-Semitism both here and abroad, particularly in Europe, is in our national interest. The United States should take an active role in combating anti-Semitism in all communities.
Additionally, the ongoing conflict in Syria is producing refugees at an alarming rate. Reports of gross human rights abuses by the Assad regime continue to occur daily. I have cosponsored H.R. 1677, the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017, which would direct the President to impose sanctions on any individual or institution which conducts business or provides financial support to the Syrian government or its affiliated entities.
On Wednesday, I met with NJ members of NORPAC, to discuss regional developments in the Middle East and the importance of continued U.S. assistance to Israel. It is imperative that the United States uphold our strong relationship with our friends in the Middle East.
Later in the week, I spoke to business leaders from Colombia and representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to discuss ways to strengthen U.S.-Colombia relations in a way that is beneficial for both our economies.
I also welcomed representatives of the American Hotel and Lodging Association from New Jersey. We discussed legislative issues that affect their industry including efforts to prevent online booking scams.
Additionally, I discussed the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship with leaders from Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies. As our neighbor, the U.S.-Mexico relationship is too important to allow its descent into disrepair. A stable ally means greater economic development and security for the entire region.
Finally, I met with the Memorial Human Rights Center to learn more about the status of human rights and political prisoners in Russia and how Congress can be an advocate for global human rights.