By Wayne Gates –
Last week was a very busy one for Congressman Brad Wenstrup.
The week began with the State of the Union address from President Donald Trump.
“I thought (the speech) was very optimistic. I thought it was presidential. I thought that it was a restoration of hope. He also extended some olive branches to the other side of the aisle,” Wenstrup said.
He also said that he didn’t expect Democrats to refuse to applaud certain universal American ideas that were stated by Trump.
“I was surprised. I thought that there were several things that we should all be celebrating, and some people were sitting on their hands. There were a few that stood up from the other side, sometimes or certain things, sometimes on just about everything,” Wenstrup said.
He added that the President addressed an area that he is high concerned about.
“I was very pleased that he was hammering home our need for defense. I was just with Secretary (of Defense James) Mattis this morning. He was saying that if we find ourselves at war, I know Congress will approve the funding for our military in a heartbeat, but by then it’s going to be too late,” Wenstrup said.
“Last year, we had eighty deaths in training and we had 21 combat deaths. I don’t really like using deaths as a statistic, but these are facts…The number of training accidents is uncalled for, and we can do something about that. The reason for them is that (the military) is underfunded, undertrained, underready. We’ve got to make that change. It’s not fair to our troops training in the field and it’s not fair to the country from a security standpoint.”
As a member of the House Select Intelligence Committee, Wenstrup is also at the center of the latest political storm in Washington, D.C….the memo that Republicans have written that spell out alleged policy abuses at the FBI.
(The memo had not been released at the time of the interview.)
“I think it’s something of tremendous interest. I think the American people should know how their government is processing things, how they go about their business,” Wenstrup said.
“Since we are a government of the people, by the people and for the people, there are national security risks to be concerned about. We’ve had that scrubbed in my opinion. I think a greater national security risk that we face as a nation is when we have a lack of trust in those that are serving in our government. That’s why I think it needs to come forward and people can judge for themselves.”
Wenstrup said that great care has been taken to keep from giving away classified information and to make sure the memo is factually correct.
“We took the memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray and he said it was factual. We also took it to a senior analyst and someone who is an expert in the FISA court system and they said it was factual,” Wenstrup said.
“We made a couple of changes before we sent it to the White House, but they were grammatical changes and we didn’t want to reveal a person’s specific job. We have followed a process by the rules of the house.”
Wenstrup said that his committee has been trying to investigate the issue for months, but has been prevented from doing its job of congressional oversight.
“Keep in mind that the DOJ and FBI were ignoring congressional subpoenas. We have oversight over them, not the other way around. They were refusing to give us information. They stalled us for months, so it’s a little bit disingenuous to suggest that they should be able to ignore our subpoenas when it’s them we are looking at.”
He added that his concern is with people at the top of the agencies, not those on the front lines.
“I have tremendous respect for the many patriots that serve as FBI agents and in the Department of Justice. But there can be any agency where you have some people that are abusing power…We are going to present facts at every step of the way and do this professionally. We will see what comes out in the wash.”
On January 31, Wenstrup was on his way by train to a congressional retreat when disaster struck.
“It felt like we had gone over a boulder. I checked to see if my wife and son were OK, and we could see out the window that we had hit a truck. I heard someone say that there were two people laying on the ground, so I started to make my way to the exit of the train.”
Wenstrup said that he was trying to see if anyone needed help.
“I had seen from the train that a gentleman, probably a neighbor, who was putting his hand on the neck to check for a pulse, so I got off the train and started running toward him. I asked him if he got a pulse and he said ‘Not on that one.”
He continued, “Dr. Phil Roe from Tennessee was right behind me and so we kind of split up and he went to the gentleman that unfortunately passed away. I went to the other gentleman and started trying to protect his airway so he could continue to breathe. Dr. Mike Burgess of Texas joined me right after that. We had about eight doctors out there at one point.”
When asked about the partisan atmosphere in Washington, D.C., Wenstrup remained hopeful that progress could be made.
“When I look at some of the issues that we face here in Washington, D.C., I think between Republicans and Democrats that we all have the same common goal. We all want people to have access to health care, for example. What we disagree on is how to get there.”