- Lindsey Graham pledged Saturday to continue an investigation into the FBI’s alleged abuse of the federal surveillance court
- Graham is poised to take over as Senate Judiciary Committee, where he will have oversight of the FBI, Justice Department and federal court system
- Republicans have accused the FBI of mishandling the infamous Steele dossier to obtain warrants to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Saturday that if he he takes over as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as is expected, he will “get to the bottom” of whether the FBI misled the federal surveillance court to obtain spy warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“In my view the process used to obtain a FISA warrant – and its multiple renewals – against Carter Page should disturb every American,” Graham tweeted.
“I intend to get to the bottom of what happened if I am Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
Graham, who is the favorite to replace Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley as chairman of the all-powerful Judiciary panel, was responding to a statement that former FBI Director James Comey issued Friday after leaving a closed-door deposition before two House committees investigating possible FISA abuse.
“I have total confidence that the FISA process was followed and that the entire case was handled in a thoughtful, responsible way by DOJ and the FBI,” Comey said after his interview. “I think the notion that FISA was abused here is nonsense.”
Republicans have accused the FBI and Justice Department of misleading FISA Court judges by relying heavily on the Steele dossier in applications for four warrants to spy on Page. They assert that the dossier was unverified when the FBI cited it extensively in its warrant applications and that the bureau failed to fully disclose that the dossier was the product of an opposition research project funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign.
The dossier, authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, accuses the Trump campaign of conspiring with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. Page is featured prominently in the 35-page document but vehemently denies its allegations.
“I look forward to having an in-depth discussion with former FBI Director Comey about his assertion that challenges against the FISA warrant process – based on the Steele dossier – are ‘nonsense,’” Graham said Saturday in response to Comey’s statement.
House Republicans, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and several members of the Judiciary and Oversight Committees, have led the push to investigate the FBI and Justice Department over their handling of the dossier and the FISA applications.
GOP senators have mostly laid low, with the exception of Graham and Grassley. The pair submitted a criminal referral to the Justice Department on Jan. 5 calling for an investigation into whether Steele lied to the FBI about his contacts with the media.
Steele, a former MI6 officer, met with numerous reporters in September and October 2016 to discuss his investigation into Trump. Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele, helped arrange the briefings.
Steele at one point told the FBI that he had not had contact with reporters. The bureau cut ties with Steele on Nov. 1, 2016 after he served as a source for a Mother Jones article published the day before. It is still unclear when Steele told the FBI that he had not had contact with reporters.
On Thursday, Nunes, a California Republican, called for the declassification of an email chain which he claims shows FBI and Justice Department officials raising questions about the dossier before the FBI submitted its first FISA application against Page. The email thread, on which Comey was included, also showed that government officials were aware of Steele’s contacts with the press.
Nunes claimed on Fox News that the email thread shows that the FBI and DOJ knew of “really bad and nefarious” activity on the part of Steele and his associates.