WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called Monday for the appointment of a special counsel like Robert Mueller to investigate the origin of the probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia.
A day after President Donald Trump called the Russia probe “an illegal takedown that failed” and urged someone to investigate “the other side,” Graham said he would ask Attorney General William Barr to appoint a special counsel.
“By any reasonable standard Mr. Mueller thoroughly investigated the Trump campaign. You cannot say that about the other side of the story,” Graham said at news conference Monday, after spending the weekend in Florida playing golf with the president.
Graham also said he would ask Barr to come testify before the committee, but he would leave it up the attorney general to decide if Mueller should also appear for questions. He said he would urge Barr to release as much of the Mueller report as is legally possible.
Barr later said he would be “glad” to testify, Graham said. But Graham said he would wait for Barr to vet the report. “He needs some reasonable period of time to go through it, working with Mr. Mueller,” Graham told reporters.
The South Carolina Republican said his committee also would conduct its own oversight investigation of the origin of the FBI’s Russia investigation, going over much of the same ground as the House Intelligence Committee did in 2017 and 2018.
Graham took aim at the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele that said Trump was subject to Russian blackmail for an unverified salacious event and the role it played in the FBI’s application for FISA warrants to spy on a Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“I've been calling since the end of 2017 for a special counsel to be appointed to look at whether or not the FISA warrant process was abused for political purposes, whether or not a counterintelligence investigation was opened up regarding the Trump campaign as a backdoor to spy on the campaign,” Graham said.
“I still to this day am at a loss to explain why nobody went to President Trump to tell them they may be some people in your orbit that are connected to the Russians and working with the Russians,” he said.
Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committees battled over the legitimacy of the FISA warrants in early 2018. Trump cleared the release of a heavily redacted copy of the FISA application that showed the FBI did rely on the Steele dossier, but also on other information that said Russian intelligence agents had sought to recruit Page.
Graham also urged an investigation into former FBI Director James Comey — whose firing by Trump led to the appointment of Mueller — and his decision not to charge Hillary Clinton for her emails and his decisions to announce that conclusion during the 2016 campaign.
He urged a Mueller-like special counsel investigation so that “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 was looked at.”
Graham also said he accepted the conclusions Barr summarized from the Mueller report, including Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s decision to not charge Trump with obstruction of justice based on Mueller’s evidence and his own indecision.