Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham on Tuesday vowed to press former special counsel Robert Mueller about new developments that raised issues with the FBI’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s team and Russia when the South Carolina Republican calls Mueller to testify before the Senate.
Graham reiterated his intention to seek Mueller’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of his investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation and the special counsel probe. He said Mueller’s op-ed this past weekend — which defended the special counsel investigation after Trump commuted his friend Roger Stone’s sentence — convinced Graham that Mueller should testify, too.
“He has a lot to account for. And we’ll see how he does,” Graham said of Mueller on former South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy’s Fox News podcast.
Graham had discussed calling Mueller and members of the special counsel’s team to testify even before Mueller finally broke his silence in the face of attacks on the special counsel investigation following Stone’s commutation. But Mueller’s public comments have accelerated Graham’s desire to hear directly from the former special counsel and FBI director.
Mueller’s potential testimony, if he agrees to appear, creates the potential for a high-stakes congressional hearing in the heat of the 2020 presidential election, where Senate Republicans would have their first chance to try to directly undercut to leader of the nearly two-year investigation into Trump and his 2016 campaign — while Mueller and Senate Democrats would look to rebut attacks from Trump and his allies that have amplified in recent months.
Mueller has reiterated that the investigation he conducted, including into several top Trump advisers and their contacts with Russians, was merited, and several Trump associates were convicted of obstructive acts.
Since Mueller testified before two House committees last year — in stilted testimony that did not go beyond the contents of the special counsel’s report — the Justice Department watered down prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation for Stone and sought to drop charges secured by Mueller’s team against Flynn for lying to the FBI. Days before he was set to report to prison, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence, which the White House announced in an inflammatory statement riddled with errors.
In Congress, Graham is leading one of two Senate Republican investigations into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation, along with Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Graham’s committee already heard from former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller, and both chairmen have been granted broad subpoena power to haul in top officials from the Obama administration.
“I’m hellbent on making sure that somebody investigates the investigators,” Graham said on Gowdy’s podcast Tuesday.
Graham said he wanted to question Mueller on the problems that Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz identified with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, as well as what evidence his investigators had related to collusion with Russia in August 2017, when Rosenstein issued a memo outlining the scope of the special counsel investigation.
“At the end of the day Trey, he decided to interject himself into the Roger Stone case,” Graham said of Mueller. “So, if Mr. Mueller wants to comment on that aspect of the investigation, I want him to comment on the Carter Page warrant application.”
Horowitz’s report detailed numerous problems related to the FISA application for Page, while finding the FBI had sufficient reason to open the Russia investigation. Horowitz also concluded the most salacious allegations in the opposition research dossier from ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele were not proven, but the dossier played no role in the opening of the probe.
Graham also said he would request the Trump administration declassify the FBI’s interview 2017 notes with one of Steele’s sources for the dossier, which Republicans charge raised critical doubts about the validity of Steele’s allegations the FBI failed to consider.
“My staff has finally got to look at it, it’s classified,” Graham said. “I’m going to try to get it unclassified.”
Congressional Republicans have already been provided a stream of documents declassified by the Trump administration, which have raised questions about the FBI’s handling of the Steele dossier and included a list of three-dozen officials who made “unmasking” requests related– a routine intelligence practice to identify Americans in intelligence reports whose identities are hidden — related to Flynn during the Trump transition.