Senator Charles Grassley, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

Hearing Titled: “See Something, Say Something: Oversight of the Parkland Shooting and legislative Proposals to Improve School Safety”

March 14, 2018


Good morning. We are here this morning to discuss a national tragedy and to mourn the loss of 17 innocent lives.

The February 14, 2018, attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was an evil act committed by a troubled young man.

He will account for what he has done in a court of law. But today, we will also call the government to account for its role in this tragedy.

Federal, state, and local officials each received tips about the alarming behavior of the Parkland shooter. Their failure to act allowed the Parkland shooter to obtain and continue to possess firearms.

In the wake of the Parkland attack, this Committee has an obligation to find out what happened. We must hold government to account for its failures, and make sure plans are in place to avoid future tragedies. And we must rally around consensus, evidenced-based solutions that will protect our nation’s most valuable resource—it’s youth—from violent attacks.

I worry that political opportunists will seek to interject their extreme agendas into this debate. That might be good for party politics and fundraising for the midterms, but it is not good for America.

I saw this happen after the Newtown shooting. After Newtown, I worked with my colleague Senator Cruz to introduce legislation that would have:

·         improved reporting to the NICS background check system;

·         provided grants to support school safety measures and programs;

·         supported the prosecutions of dangerous people who lied to try to buy firearms;

·         and authorized a government study to solve the problem of mass shootings. 

That law could’ve helped prevent tragedies like the Sutherland Springs and Parkland shootings.

A majority of the Senate supported our bill, on a bipartisan basis. Tragically it was held hostage by partisan politics, and did not pass. Senator Cruz and I reintroduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act of 2018 last week.

In addition, I’ve worked with Senator Hatch to draft the STOP School Violence Act, which will provide needed funding to increase school safety. That bill is now cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 36 senators.

I’m also a cosponsor of Senator Cornyn’s Fix NICS bill, which is supported by 68 Senators. I also support the President’s effort to regulate bump stocks.

And today I want to announce that I will be introducing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Memorial Act of 2018. This bill will provide funding to support the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center’s efforts to conduct cutting edge research into the prevention of school violence. It will also enable the National Threat Assessment Center to train more of our nation’s schools in how to conduct threat assessments and early interventions.

The Secret Service has already trained 93,000 government officials, school administrators, teachers, and law enforcement officials in implementing effective threat assessment programs. This training enables local communities to prevent dangerous and unstable individuals like the Parkland shooter from carrying out intended attacks.

This bill will enable the National Threat Assessment Center to share its proven techniques and research with more of our nation’s school systems. It is a fitting memorial to the victims and survivors of the Parkland attack, and will help prevent future violence. I invite all of my colleagues on this Committee to support this bill as a cosponsor.

I think it’s clear that we have a number of bills that the Senate can come together to support that can reduce school violence and mass shootings. Some on this Committee have said that we’re not taking action—that we’re not holding hearings and marking up bills on this issue.

This is the second hearing on mass shootings and related legislation that we’ve had in four months. That’s more hearings than the last Democratic Chairman held on this issue at this point in his tenure as Chairman, despite the D.C. Sniper attacks, the Virginia Tech shooting, and other attacks during that time period.

As for markups, I’ve had discussions with Senate Leadership and members of this Committee on both sides of the aisle on how we can enact legislation that will help prevent violent attacks. Often, as my Democratic colleagues well know, legislation on controversial issues such as Second Amendment issues are of concern to the entire Senate. It’s common for bills on these issues to bypass Committee, and to be brought straight to the floor. This is the strategy the Democrats used when they brought up Senator Manchin and Senator Toomey’s bill on universal background checks when they were in charge. That bill went straight to the floor without a hearing or markup, where it was debated by the full Senate.

It’s possible that a similar approach may be used now as the Senate works together to consider what should be done about school safety and preventing mass violence. In the meantime, we’re holding this hearing, which I believe is of great importance for the entire Senate, and indeed, the country.

I hope today’s hearing can shed light on what government can do better to prevent future attacks.

Since the shooting, I instructed my staff to investigate what went wrong. Officials from the FBI have briefed the Committee’s majority and minority staff.

We also heard from representatives from Facebook, Instagram, Google, and YouTube. They outlined their efforts to work closely with law enforcement and to quickly respond to inquiries in the Parkland case and similar cases. In briefings to the Committee, Google and Facebook officials noted that the FBI didn’t reach out to them to help identify and locate the shooter. If the FBI had done so, both companies said that they would’ve been able to provide detailed information, including IP addresses.

That information likely would’ve provided the FBI with a physical address. 

They also highlighted their efforts to use technology and user feedback to identify alarming content that should be referred to law enforcement for further investigation. I want to thank them for their willingness to meet and discuss these very important issues and for sending their representative to the hearing today.

I also want to thank Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who was a victim of the Parkland attack, and Katharine Posada, a language arts teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for being with us today. We mourn your loss and look forward to your testimony and your perspective on this issue.

The Committee also invited Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel to testify. He declined. 

I’ve seen the Sheriff all over television discussing the shooting, so it is disappointing the he has refused to speak before Congress.

Michael Carroll, Secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, was also invited. His Department investigated and interviewed the shooter before the attack. And, then appears to have dropped the ball. He, too, has refused to appear, even though Governor Scott didn’t oppose his attendance.

By thumbing their noses at Congress, Sheriff Israel and Secretary Carroll have let the American people down and also the citizens of Florida they serve. 

As we will discuss during the hearing, the Broward County Sheriff and Department of Children and Families are integral to the Parkland fact pattern.

And that fact pattern is very disturbing.

In September 2017, the shooter posted a comment on a YouTube video that read, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The creator of the video flagged the comment and reported it to the FBI. The September 2017 tip was routed to the FBI’s West Virginia call center. According to what the FBI has told the Committee, the responsible FBI agents did not believe they had enough information to identify the shooter who made the YouTube post. 

The FBI closed the case.

Then, on January 5, 2018, the FBI received a call from a woman who knew the shooter well. She described a troubled young man who posted disturbing statements and pictures of mutilated animals and guns on social media. The caller described the shooter as suicidal and with homicidal ideas. The caller also provided the FBI with the usernames to four of his social media accounts. In one account he wrote, “I want to kill people.” The caller also explicitly mentioned her concern that he may get into a school and “shoot the place up.”

The call taker concluded that there was no imminent threat because the tip did not provide a target date or a target location. 

If the FBI had followed up on that tip, it would most likely have sent agents to interview the shooter. Either way, it appears that the FBI did not communicate with local law enforcement.

In addition to the FBI, the State of Florida has a tremendous responsibility too.

On September 28, 2016, Florida’s Department of Children and Families opened an investigation into the shooter. In that investigation, DCF concluded that he is a “vulnerable adult due to mental illness.” DCF’s investigation also mentioned that a mobile crisis unit was deployed by Henderson Health and determined that the shooter wasn’t a risk to himself or others. On November 12, 2016, DCF closed the investigation.

It appears that the State of Florida and its governmental subdivisions, including the Broward County Sheriff, may not have taken the necessary steps to involuntarily commit him. If he’d been involuntarily committed to a mental institution for treatment, he would’ve been entered into the NICS and prohibited from purchasing firearms.

At all levels, law enforcement must explain what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what steps it is taking to make sure these failures never happen again.

And we must determine the best, evidence-based approach to improving school safety.


Grassley Joins Ernst, Senators to Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Rural Economies through Conservation Reform

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley joined Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, along with fellow members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, including Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Penn.), today to introduce the Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act of 2018. This bipartisan legislation refocuses conservation spending on marginal cropland to benefit soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat, while protecting rural economies and ensuring greater farmland access for beginning young farmers and ranchers.

“Conservation of America’s natural resources is critical for successful farming operations, increased agricultural productivity and quality food and energy production,” Grassley said. “Healthier farmland equals a healthier America. The next Farm Bill must address preserving our soil and water and ensure that farm programs accomplish the goals we give them. I’m happy to join this effort by Senator Ernst to make sure we spend our conservation dollars in the most efficient way to maximize the goals of programs like CRP while minimizing distortions in land markets.”

“As I travel across Iowa each year, I hear concerns from producers about how the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has strayed from its congressional intent of targeting and removing environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production,” Ernst said. “Rather, large parcels, sometimes whole farms, of productive farmland are being enrolled into CRP as a result of low commodity prices and high yearly rental payments. As a result, many beginning young farmers are having difficulty accessing farmable acres, which is hampering our efforts to engage the next generation. By revising and strengthening the current provisions of CRP, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the GROW Act will restore the intent of these programs while helping farmers and ranchers protect soil and water resources.”

“This bipartisan bill is good for farmers, it’s good for taxpayers, and it’s good for water quality and the environment,” Brown said.

“The next Farm Bill must focus our limited conservation dollars on the most environmentally sensitive lands, help farmers and ranchers achieve better soil health and water quality and improve access to land and USDA resources for young and beginning farmers,” Casey said. “This bill does just that. I’m pleased to join with my colleagues from Iowa and Ohio on a bipartisan bill that will strengthen the farm economy while improving the health of the environment.”

Specifically, the GROW Act:

·         Makes most prime farmland and class I, II, III land ineligible for CRP enrollment

·         Maintains CRP right-sized at 24 million acres and precludes whole farm enrollment into the program.

·         Levels the playing field for beginning farmers looking to access farmland by limiting general sign-up CRP rental rates.

·         Protects rural economies by reforming how much county cropland can be enrolled in CRP.

·         Establishes a new CLEAR (Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers) option within continuous CRP (CCRP) to better promote water quality.

·         Maintains annual enrollment for CSP and funding for EQIP.

·         Directs USDA to submit a report on land access, tenure and transition

The full text of the GROW Act can be found here.


Grassley Statement on Nominations, Oversight Investigations and School Safety

Prepared Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee

Executive Business Meeting March 15, 2018


Today, we will consider several nominations. We have a nominee to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, three district court nominees, a nominee to chair the Administrative Conference of the United States, a nominee to the Court of Federal Claims, one U.S. Attorney nominee, and four U.S. Marshal nominees.

I’d also like to address some of my colleagues regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Some of my friends on the Judiciary Committee last week made accusations–and they were pretty aggressive and outspoken about it–that I was not doing enough in this Committee to address Russian meddling in the election.

First, I am extremely disappointed in my colleagues for not taking the simple step of talking to me. No one approached me about this topic before with any request, suggestion or recommendation.

Second, and more importantly, the claims that my colleagues have made simply aren’t true. We had a subcommittee hearing on October 27, 2017.  We invited Facebook, Twitter and Google to address this very topic. We asked very tough questions of those tech companies about how their platforms were penetrated by foreign interests to help sow discord in American society in the lead up to the election. We questioned them aggressively to find out what the companies were doing to prevent it from happening again.

Every Democrat on the Committee–with the exception of our newest members who weren’t on Committee at the time–was at that hearing.  Several Senators, including myself, asked even more questions in writing for the record.  In response to some of those questions, I asked Facebook to come in to provide Committee staff a follow-up briefing where all of your offices were given a forum to ask additional questions.  Facebook did that for us in January. 

In July I held a hearing on FARA.  The title of that hearing was “Oversight of the Foreign Agents Registration Act and Attempts to Influence U.S. Elections: Lessons Learned from Current and Prior Administrations.”  I think the title speaks for itself.

I introduced a bill that was a direct result of that very hearing–S.2039, the “Disclosing Foreign Influence Act.”  That bill will help DOJ go after those who represent foreign interests and aren’t abiding by their obligations to follow the law.

We held another subcommittee hearing in May entitled “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.”  Again, the title speaks for itself.  The subcommittee held another hearing in March on the toolbox of Russia and other autocracies for undermining democracies throughout the world.

My colleagues have also complained about the lack of legislation before our Committee.  I looked at every single bill that’s been introduced in the Senate on this topic.  Not one of them has been referred to Judiciary.  Even my FARA bill is in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

And still no one has identified for me any Title 18 provision–or any other law that would be in our jurisdiction–that could be added or supplemented to address election meddling.

Nevertheless, I’m planning on having a hearing to explore that very topic.  We’ll see if law enforcement needs any other tools to prosecute people who want to interfere with our elections.

I also want to comment on a letter I received last night from three members on the other side trying to criticize me for not doing enough regarding the President’s son and Jared Kushner. I’ve made it clear that I’m willing to look into all sides of the controversy.

But, the other side is well aware of the non-cooperation I’ve received from them regarding Fusion GPS, the DNC and the Clinton campaign. All of these entities have dirty fingers if not whole hands involved in the Russian collusion matter.

If the Republican Party had hired a cut-out law firm and opposition research firm, who then hired a former spy, who worked with Russian officials and sources in order to dig up dirt on the Democrat candidate, we’d never hear the end of it over here.

Before we move on to the agenda today, I’d also like to take a moment and comment on the hearing the Committee held yesterday.

Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, who died in the Parkland shooting, testified before this committee. In his testimony, Mr. Petty urged this committee to put aside its partisan differences and to come together to support legislation that enjoys consensus support and that will make our schools safer and prevent mass shootings. Ms. Posada, a teacher for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, made a similar plea.

The committee has before it a number of bills that fit this description. Fix NICS and the STOP School Violence Act enjoy broad bipartisan support. Senator Cruz and I recently reintroduced the Protecting Communities and Preserving the Second Amendment Act, which members from both parties have supported previously. And I announced yesterday that I will be introducing the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Memorial Act of 2018.

This bill will provide funding to support the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center’s efforts to conduct cutting edge research into the prevention of school violence. It will also enable the National Threat Assessment Center to train more of our nation’s schools in how to conduct threat assessments and early interventions. I hope all of my colleagues on this Committee will support this bill as cosponsors.

These are bills that should advance to the floor for the consideration of the entire Senate. I am willing to consider other bills, and am working with Senator Feinstein to discuss how we can proceed on a bipartisan basis. If we are to make progress on this issue, we must focus on what unites us, not what divides us. I look forward to the discussion.

I’ll now turn to Senator Feinstein for her remarks.


Dodd-Frank Reforms Help Farms, Small Businesses and Improve Local Communities

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today issued the following statement on the passage of the bipartisan Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act in the United States Senate.

“Big banks on Wall Street caused the Great Recession, not community banks or credit unions. Regulatory demands coming from Washington are crushing these local lenders, making it harder for family farms and small businesses to open and grow. This bill will help businesses access resources necessary to invest, hire and succeed,” Grassley said. “It will also deliver a significant economic benefit for Main Street businesses and improve local communities in Iowa and nationwide.”


Grassley, Senators Welcome Agreement to Address Tax Inequity for Agricultural Businesses

Senators say resolution “will level the playing field and ensure America’s farmers and ranchers can fully reap the benefits of pro-growth tax reform.”

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member and former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, today joined Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) in issuing the following joint statement regarding an agreement to provide fair tax treatment for all agricultural businesses.

“The new, pro-growth tax law was designed to lift hard-working, middle-class families – whether they are farmers, ranchers or entrepreneurs – and the economy as a whole. After discovering an unintended consequence that created an inequity within the agricultural business community, we’ve worked extensively with stakeholders, our colleagues and the administration to develop a solution that will level the playing field and ensure the nation’s cooperatives, independent small businesses and publicly traded firms can fairly benefit from pro-growth tax reform. The stakeholder-driven agreement announced today achieves this goal and restores balanced competition within the marketplace. We’re committed to working with our colleagues to act swiftly on the measure and get it signed into law as soon as possible.”

A summary of the agreement reached by stakeholders and lawmakers in the Senate and House can be found here.


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