Graham wants special counsel to turn focus on investigators
Testimony suggests bias
Sen. Lindsey Graham called Thursday for Congress to create a special counsel to probe the FBI and Justice Department, saying evidence is mounting that they treated Hillary Clinton more leniently than they did President Trump during the 2016 election campaign.
Mr. Graham made the call as newly released documents show the extent of anti-Trump sentiment among FBI employees who were instrumental in handling the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s secret email server and in launching the Russia investigation that turned into Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe.
The documents released this week — transcripts of interviews from fired FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page — show they were determined to prevent Mr. Trump from becoming president and had impeachment on their minds once he did take office.
Mr. Graham took to the Senate floor to say Mr. Mueller has had his chance to deal with Mr. Trump
and now it’s time to turn the microscope the other way. He said he will introduce legislation to create another special counsel for that purpose.
“There’s more than smoking guns here. There’s overwhelming evidence that somebody outside the political system should look into,” the South Carolina Republican said.
The Mueller investigation appears to be coming to an end, and Democrats are trying to make sure the findings are public.
The Democrat-led House approved a resolution Thursday morning urging Attorney General William Barr to release Mr. Mueller’s final report. The resolution passed on a 420-0 vote.
But when Senate Democrats tried to raise it in the upper chamber, Mr. Graham objected. He said he would have allowed it if Democrats, in exchange, supported the special counsel he wants. But Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, refused.
“We let [Robert] Mueller look at all things Trump related to collusion and otherwise. Somebody needs to look at what happened on the other side and find out whether the FBI and the DOJ had two systems — one supporting the person they wanted to win, and one out to get the person they wanted to lose,” he said.
In remarks to The Heritage Foundation, Mr. Graham said his committee will hold hearings on bias at the FBI and the Justice Department.
“Did they take what was apparently a molehill of evidence against Trump to open up an investigation as an insurance policy in case he won? I don’t know, but what I’ve heard bothers the hell out of me,” he said.
Mr. Graham said the Senate specifically will get to the bottom of whether the bureau misled judges when it obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to spy on Trump campaign figure Carter Page.
“I promise everybody in the country that in the Senate, we’re going to have hearings about the FISA process,” he said.
Mr. Graham said the hearings will focus on how the FBI obtained the warrant using a salacious, unverified dossier written by former British spy Christopher Steele. The dossier is full of unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia.
The FBI used the dossier as part of its argument to the court to obtain the surveillance warrant on Mr. Page, and used it in subsequent renewals of the warrant.
The dossier claims Mr. Page met with Russian officials with ties to Kremlin strongman Vladimir Putin during the 2016 campaign. Mr. Page has vehemently denied the claim. It also claims longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen met with Russians in the Czech Republic to coordinate plans — a charge he has denied even since turning against Mr. Trump.
Republicans have claimed the FBI has failed to disclose that the dossier’s author was being funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign as opposition research.
The dossier, along with texts between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, are among the Republicans’ top evidence for misconduct at the FBI and Justice Department.
The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, when they were controlled last year by Republicans, called in Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page to give testimony about their own behavior.
Those transcripts were secret until this week, when Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, now the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, inserted them into the Congressional Record.
In a transcript released Thursday, Mr. Strzok said his favorable opinion of Mrs. Clinton did not influence the investigation into her use of her home server to send classified emails.
But he acknowledged that Mrs. Clinton was not a target, subject or suspect during the investigation. Instead, investigators viewed her as “a critical player.”
He also disputed assertions that his texts to Ms. Page showed animus toward Mr. Trump — though his memory didn’t jibe with that of Ms. Page, with whom he was having an adulterous affair at the time.
She testified that a text she sent to Mr. Strzok telling him the Trump investigation would save the country from a “menace” referred to Mr. Trump. Mr. Strzok told the committee that he thought the menace was Russia.
Mr. Strzok also disputed the meaning of the now-famous text in which Ms. Page fretted Mr. Trump would win the election. The former G-man responded “No. No he won’t We’ll stop it.”
This has been widely taken to mean the FBI would do what it had to do to prevent a Trump victory. Mr. Strzok said in his testimony that he didn’t recall writing the text, but he added that he believes the “we” he meant were the American voters.
“My answer ‘no’ was my personal belief that I did not think he would be,” the fired agent said. He later added, “My best sense looking at this text that I didn’t recall until I read it very recently was that ‘we’ is my belief that the American people — there is no way that they’re going to elect him.
“What it is not is any statement that I would ever consider, let alone take any official action, to impact the presidency of the United States,” he said.
Transcripts of interviews from fired FBI agent Peter Strzok show the FBI and Justice Department treated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump much differently.