During a debate on the Senate floor May 12, Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) launched an assault on appellate court nominee Henry Saad, who is awaiting confirmation to the 6th Circuit. Reid’s attack included the suggestion that senators review Saad’s confidential FBI report to understand why Democrats oppose his confirmation.
“Henry Saad would have been filibustered anyway,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “He’s one of those nominees. All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree there is a problem there.” (Congressional Record, page S5030.)
Saad, a judge on Michigan’s Court of Appeals, was first nominated Nov. 8, 2001, and subsequently blocked—along with three other 6th Circuit nominees—by the state’s two Democrat senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. They were angered by the lack of action on former President Bill Clinton’s 6th Circuit nominees, including one who was a cousin to Levin’s wife.
Democrats have offered to confirm three of the four 6th Circuit nominees as part of compromise with Republicans. Saad would be sacrificed.
Reid’s remark prompted an ethics complaint from the Center for Individual Freedom, whose president, Jeffrey Mazzella, declared: “Sen. Reid should be ashamed of himself. It’s the obligation of the Senate Ethics Committee to impose disciplinary action immediately. Sen. Reid’s deplorable conduct must not go unpunished.”
The ethics complaint cites Section 5 of Rule XXIX of the Standing Rules of the Senate: “Any senator, officer, or employee of the Senate who shall disclose the secret or confidential business or proceedings of the Senate, including the business and proceedings of the committees, subcommittees, and offices of the Senate, shall be liable, if a senator, to suffer expulsion from the body; and if an officer or employee, to dismissal from the service of the Senate, and to punishment for contempt.”
Yesterday, I asked members of both parties if Reid should be censured. Their answers are below.
Last week during debate on 6th Circuit nominees, Minority Leader Harry Reid took the floor and claimed there is negative information in Judge Henry Saad’s confidential FBI file. Do you think he should be censured or an Ethics Committee investigation conducted?
Sen. Tim Johnson (D.-S.D.): I’m the vice chairman of the Ethics Committee, and I don’t comment about issues other than those that are directly before the committee, and even then the end result. So, I’ve got no comment about it
Now, once an ethics complaint is filed, what happens?
Johnson: Filing does automatically set off a preliminary investigation, which is usually staff-driven.
Sen. Reid last week took the floor and was talking about Judge Henry Saad, a nominee for the 6th Circuit, and during that time he made reference to a confidential FBI report. I’m wondering if you think he should be censured for revealing that information?
Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.): I have to confess that I am not familiar—having just gotten here—with the rules with respect to FBI reports and files. I couldn’t pronounce specifically how egregious it was. I’m sure, to the extent there were problems there, I’m sure that Sen. Reid probably regrets it.
There was an ethics complaint filed. Do you support an investigation? Sen. Johnson said it would be automatically trigger a staff investigation.
Obama: And then I’m sure that the appropriate procedures will be followed. As I’ve said, to the extent that whatever was said was not within the confines of what is normally prescribed, I’m sure Sen. Reid regrets it.
Last week on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid referred to Judge Henry Saad’s confidential FBI file, implying there was negative information in it. Do you think he should be censured?
Sen. James Inhofe (R.-Okla.): I don’t know. I guess I missed that, probably because of the highway bill, I didn’t hear that. Now, in the event that he did, in some way, disclose something that was in a confidential file, then that is something that needs to be addressed. But I don’t know that he did.
Actually, he just implied there was negative information in the confidential FBI file. He said if senators took a look at it, they would understand why the Democrats are filibustering him. Is that something you think the Ethics Committee should investigate?
Inhofe: I’m probably the wrong one to ask because I’d have to hear exactly what he said before I would say that. I’d probably be the first one to attack, but not until I knew exactly what he said and what the circumstances were.
Minority Leader Harry Reid last week implied there was negative information in Judge Henry Saad’s confidential FBI report. Do you think he should be censured for disclosing that information?
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R.-Tex.): I think that is unfair to the nominee to say something like that. And I have not seen the file, of course, but I think we need to really be aware of what we can do to a nominee, who is in good faith putting himself forward. I think that all senators should be very careful about what we would say that would injure those people. And I don’t think it is necessary for someone to have the information to be able to vote to make any kind of disparaging remark that really hurt someone.
An ethics complaint was filed, which triggers an automatic investigation. Would you support a look into how this all came about?
Hutchison: I’ve said everything that I have enough information to say.
When Sen. Reid was on the floor last week, he referred to a confidential FBI file on Judge Henry Saad for the 6th Circuit. Would you support censuring him for disclosing that on the Senate floor?
Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Mont.): I don’t know what the information is. I’d have to know first. Some information should be disclosed. Not all information should be disclosed. I’d have to look at the information.
You issued a critical statement of Sen. Reid last week after he made remarks about Judge Henry Saad’s confidential FBI file. Do you think the Senate should censure him for making those remarks?
Sen. George Allen (R.-Va.): That would be up to the Ethics Committee. He has been censured in the form of public opinion for this because it was so underhanded and below-the-belt punching to make such aspersions that cannot be rebutted. No senator can actually bring up a confidential FBI report, which may not have anything other than hearsay in it. If we did, it would be a violation of Senate rules. It shows how desperate the Democrats have become in this whole matter to be resorting to this kind of character assassination.
An ethics complaint was filed by the Center for Individual Freedom.
Allen: It was? I didn’t know that. Thank you.
Do you support the committee looking into this?
Allen: Let me get the details first. I’m learning it while you’re telling me.
Sen. Allen and some of your other Republican colleagues have suggested Minority Leader Harry Reid went too far when he claimed on the Senate floor there’s negative information in Judge Henry Saad’s confidential FBI report. Do you think he should be censured?
Sen. Judd Gregg (R.-N.H.): No.
Gregg: It’s overkill.
As a member of the Ethics Committee, do you think Sen. Reid should be censured for the remarks he made last week about Judge Henry Saad and the confidential FBI report he urged other senators to look at?
Sen. Mark Pryor (D.-Ark.): No, I don’t. I don’t want to pre-judge that. I am on the Ethics Committee, but as far as what I know, he encouraged senators to go look at it in private, right?
Pryor: He didn’t release any sensitive information, right?
He said, basically, if you looked at his FBI report, you would understand why Democrats filibustered him.
Pryor: I think, as far as I know, every single nominee has a confidential FBI report, and they’re available for all senators to look at.
But suggesting there was negative information in it?
Pryor: You could probably say that about any of the controversial nominees. Some of the information is more public than others and some of it should remain less public, just for their own privacy. I’ll have to look at what Sen. Reid did. I don’t know if there will be an ethics issue on it, but if there is, we’ll look at it and handle it in due course.
Last week on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid referenced a confidential FBI file on Judge Henry Saad. Would you support censuring Sen. Reid for what he did?
Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.): As I understand, there has been a complaint filed with the Ethics Committee, and I think that would be the appropriate body to handle that. That would be my only comment.
Last week on the floor, Sen. Harry Reid, when he was talking about Judge Henry Saad for the 6th Circuit, told senators that if they went upstairs and read his confidential FBI report they might understand why Democrats are opposing him. Do you think he should be censured for what he did?
Sen. Larry Craig (R.-Idaho): Clearly, many of us have the responsibility of looking at FBI background reports. And with that responsibility comes the commitment to not disclose. Even to imply there is something wrong in an FBI report, in my opinion, is stepping across the line of responsibility.
I’ve looked at a lot of FBI reports. There isn’t a one of them I couldn’t have found a negative in it. They are open to anybody. They ask everybody, including the dog, whether they’ve like something. And the last I heard, almost everybody, at some time in their life, has kicked their dog. My point is Harry Reid stepped across the line. He shouldn’t have done that.
Should the Ethics Committee look into it?
Craig: I’m not sure it is an ethical violation issue. I think Harry Reid is learning a public lesson today he shouldn’t have had to learn. We all know those FBI reports are confidential.
Last week on the floor, Minority Leader Harry Reid was talking about Judge Henry Saad for the 6th Circuit, at which time he disclosed there was negative information in his confidential FBI file. Do you think the Senate should censure him?
Sen. Wayne Allard (R.-Colo.): I don’t know anything about that FBI file, and the only ones who are privileged to that are members of the Judiciary Committee. There’s some very personal comments that come in those FBI files. Some are from your best friends and others are from your worst enemies. Somebody who reviews those files would have to look at them pretty closely with an unbiased eye.
What about the fact that Sen. Reid brought that up on the floor and encouraged members to look at it?
Allard: The members can’t look at it, except those on the Judiciary Committee.
Did he go too far by saying that?
Allard: I haven’t heard his full comment, so I can’t make a statement on that.
Sen. Harry Reid was talking about Judge Henry Saad last week when he revealed there was a confidential FBI report that he encouraged other members to look at. Would you support censuring him for disclosing that information?
Sen. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.): I’m really not going to discuss it. We’re not to discuss FBI reports, nor do we discuss ethics matters, so I’m not going to discuss it.