Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he intends to grill former special counsel Robert Mueller about alleged flaws in the FBI’s investigation of links between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016.
“He has a lot to account for — and we’ll see how he does” at a potential hearing, Graham (R-S.C.) told former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on a Fox News podcast.
Graham, who described himself as “hellbent” on investigating those who investigated President Donald Trump’s team, said he intends to press Mueller about a raft of developments since the former FBI chief testified to the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees nearly a year ago — from a watchdog’s finding that crucial surveillance warrants were riddled with errors to the discovery that the FBI briefly intended to drop its case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Over the weekend, Graham said he would grant Democrats’ previous request for Mueller to appear before the committee as part of its GOP-led review of the origins of the Russia investigation. Graham’s statement came after Mueller wrote a Washington Post op-ed in which he defended his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and his office’s prosecution of Trump confidant Roger Stone.
Graham went on to preview his intended line of questioning for Mueller — though it’s unclear whether such a hearing will actually take place. A spokesman for the committee did not respond to requests for comment about the panel’s plans. It’s also not certain that Mueller would even be willing to testify; he was reluctant to appear before the two House committees last year, and he agreed to talk only after receiving a subpoena.
“From the first time he testified to now, a lot has changed,” Graham said, noting that a Justice Department inspector general report dinged the FBI over its handling of a warrant application for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
The day before Mueller wrote his op-ed, Trump had commuted Stone’s upcoming 40-month sentence. Mueller noted the former Trump campaign adviser was convicted on seven counts including making false statements, obstructing an investigation and witness-tampering. “He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so,” Mueller wrote.
“Bottom line is, I had no intention of calling Mr. Mueller. He testified before the House. It was not pretty to watch. But at the end of the day, Trey, he decided to interject himself into the Roger Stone case,” Graham added.
Graham was once a strong defender of Mueller and his investigation, even proposing legislation to shield him from a potential Trump firing. But he has since turned on the investigation, citing new revelations that he says call into question the genesis of the probe. He told Gowdy that the Mueller investigation was “probably one of the most corrupt investigations since J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI.”
“I am hellbent on making sure that somebody investigates the investigators,” Graham said. “The time has come for us to look at the other side of the story. Stay tuned. There’s going to be a lot of stuff come out.”
Trump has long urged his GOP allies to be more aggressive in targeting his political enemies; just last week he took a swing at Graham’s committee for not doing enough.
Graham said he plans to ask the intelligence community to declassify a 40-page memo about an interview between the FBI and one of the primary sources relied on by Christopher Steele, a former British spy whose anti-Trump dossier in 2016 helped fuel the FBI’s Russia probe.
But the revelation in 2017 that Steele was conducting his work on behalf of Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — and that some of its most salacious charges were weakly sourced or unverified — led to an uproar among Trump allies.
Graham noted that an inspector general’s report cited the 40-page memo as a crucial weakness in the FBI’s investigation.
“My staff has finally got to look at it. It’s classified. I’m going to try to get it unclassified,” Graham said, adding that he intends to see whether senior FBI officials were told about the source interview and the fact that it undercut the premise of their investigation.