‘When it comes to the FISA warrant, the Clinton campaign, the counterintelligence investigation, it’s pretty much been swept under the rug … Those days are over…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, invoked his bipartisan bona fides on Monday to reiterate the conclusiveness of the Mueller report while calling on a special counsel investigation into the other side.
His press conference invoked a firm demand for fairness and equal pursuit of justice that may have been reminiscent to some of his stand during the Brett Kavanaugh hearing last September.
As chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Graham was one of the first to receive Attorney General William Barr‘s summary of the findings of the Mueller report.
On Sunday, he was returning from a golf outing with President Donald Trump when Barr formally announced that the report found no evidence of Russian collusion and insufficient evidence of obstruction of justice to pursue a case.
Graham said he hoped to have Barr appear before the committee in a public hearing to discuss the full Mueller report and his conclusions.
“The truth is, I want you to know as much as you possibly can know. This is a very big deal,” he said. “From my point of view, it was a great day for the president in terms of the underlying allegation, but now I’m hoping some of you will be interested in the other side of the story.”
Despite saying Trump had been deeply scrutinized more than any president since Nixon, Graham emphasized that he had been a vocal supporter of the Mueller probe from the beginning.
“Mr. Mueller has been given a chance to do his job: two years, 19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 2800 subpoenas, 500 people interviewed, 230 orders for communications records, 13 requests to foreign governments, $25 million dollars or more—that is what happened to the Trump campaign, and I’ve been OK with that scrutiny from Day 1,” he said.
He said his support for the rule of law superseded any political considerations—and called on opponents across the aisle, including ranking Senate Judiciary Democrat Dianne Feinstein, to follow the same principles by looking into the “bizarre” and “at a minimum, disturbing” allegations that partisan influences directed the FBI claims of Russian collusion that ultimately triggered the Muller investigation.
“When it comes to the FISA warrant, the Clinton campaign, the counterintelligence investigation, it’s pretty much been swept under the rug except by a few Republicans in the House. Those days are over,” he said. “Going forward, hopefully in a bipartisan fashion, we will begin to unpack the other side of the story.”
Graham said he intended to ask Barr to appoint a special-counsel investigator similar to Mueller to investigate the lingering questions over whether the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee may have colluded with the Justice Department and FBI to interfere with the election.
He said several questions lingered about the false pretenses the FBI used in using the Clinton-commissioned Steele Dossier to justify to the secretive FISA court why it should be allowed to eavesdrop on Trump campaign staffer Carter Page.
He also said he wanted to know what influence the Clintons may have exerted over then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch that caused her to recuse herself from investigating Hillary Clinton, and whether partisan motives may have swayed the decision by then-FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Clinton’s private server and missing emails.
“Am I right to be concerned?” Graham asked. “Seems pretty bad on its face, but [we need] somebody like a Mr. Mueller to look at that so that—if nobody else—those who believe that the FBI and the Department of Justice were playing politics, that they wanted Clinton to win and Trump to lose, that somebody can satisfy them that that was looked at.”
Other lingering questions surrounded the commissioning of the dossier itself, which relied upon information from ex-British spy Christopher Steele, who allegedly used sources close to the Kremlin to supply it, with little vetting from the American intelligence community.
“The salacious material generated [by the dossier]… is just a bunch of garbage,” Graham said, “I think generated by Russians who are trying to undercut our democracy.”
One clear conclusion from the Mueller investigation, though was that the Russians were involved in sowing discord all around.
“There’s things I can’t tell you—they were out to get us all,” Graham said. “… If you just think Russia just likes Trump and hate Clinton, you’re missing the point of what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to divide all of us against each other and done a pretty good job of it.”
Graham also said the Russians were continuing in those efforts, and he hoped that his deep dive into the 2016 campaign would help find ways to prevent future interference.
“Critical infrastructure before this debate was power companies, financial services. Now it’s gotta be the political system,” he said. “Parties need to realize that they’re subject to being attacked, that the vote-tallying process needs to be hardened, that the social-media outlets that we all rely upon and enrich our lives can be co-opted to spread lies, to pit one American against the other.”
Despite his support for the Trump, Graham called on the president to stay out of attempting to direct or interfere with the Senate inquiry.
Instead, said Trump should to use the political capital he received from Mueller’s exoneration to move forward his agenda rather than to settle personal scores with adversaries.
“I don’t need your advice about what I should do,” Graham said. “If I were you, Mr. President, I would focus on what’s next for the country.”
Graham took several questions from reporters during the press conference, with many of them conveying the Left’s refusal to let the investigation drop.
He encouraged Democrats to “learn from our mistakes” referencing Republican’s pursuit of impeachment against former President Bill Clinton, which, despite strong supporting evidence of perjury in a sexual harassment investigation, wound up backfiring politically against Republicans in the public eye.
Graham also dismissed the notion that Mueller and Barr had punted on fully investigating claims of obstruction of justice, which stemmed from Trump’s decision to fire Comey from his FBI post after the innuendo about Russian collusion had already led to partisan investigations of his associates, including short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Graham said the case for obstruction would be very difficult in light of the fact that the collusion never happened to begin with.
“It is important but not dispositive that the underlying crime did not exist,” he said. “You can actually obstruct justice even if there is not a crime, but the intent really does go to whether or not somebody is trying to protect themself—and if they did nothing wrong to being with, it’s pretty hard to prove.”
Putting it all into perspective, Graham said only those with partisan objectives were despairing over the outcome of the Mueller report.
“To those wanting an outcome of removing Trump, you’ve gotta be disappointed,” he said. “To those who wanted somebody to look at Trump without interference, you’ve gotta be pleased. To those that are happy that your president has been cleared of working with a foreign power, I think you’re a good American.”