Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pauses while speaking to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after his meeting with President Donald Trump, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In the midst of the impeachment vote last night, another big piece of news came across the wire.
Lindsey Graham is apparently donning his cape and shifting into 2.0 mode, because he’s publicly saying that he’s going to hold hearings on the Carter Page FISA abuse. This will mean a laundry list of witnesses who’ve so far (outside of James Comey getting roasted on Fox once) sat in silence or only appeared on friendly outlets.
NEW: Lindsey Graham says he plans on calling all of the signers of the Carter Page FISA applications & renewals to testify early next year. That means: James Comey, Sally Yates, Andrew McCabe, Dana Boente, & Rod Rosenstein. He plans to call Chris Wray too.https://t.co/AZ0kN2f4fv
— JERRY DUNLEAVY (@JerryDunleavy) December 18, 2019
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham announced that he wants all the signers of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications and renewals targeting Carter Page to testify in January.
The October 2016 FISA application and January 2017 FISA renewal to surveil the Trump campaign associate were both approved by officials at the highest levels — then-FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. The April 2017 FISA renewal was approved by Comey and acting Attorney General Dana Boente, the only signatory still remaining in active government service. Boente began working as the Trump administration’s top lawyer at the FBI starting in January 2018. The June 2017 FISA renewal was approved by FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who also appointed special counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017.
Graham has been promising for a while that once the IG report dropped, that he’d crank things up. The question is how serious he is. Wanting these people to testify and actually issuing subpoenas is a different matter. He needs to be ready to play hardball and make a spectacle of any lack of cooperation. Others will show up with lawyers and clever strategies to skirt the issue. Just as Republicans did during the impeachment hearings, the normally more collegial GOP Senators are going to have to actually press these witnesses and pin them down.
This also needs to go beyond just the signatories of the warrant. John Brennan and James Clapper need to answer for their roles in the Trump-Russia fiasco as well, including their use of the Steele Dossier.
Current FBI Director Christopher Wray is also on the docket.
Graham said he also plans to call in FBI Director Christopher Wray, who took over in August 2017 — after the FISA approvals but whose bureau has come under harsh criticism not just from the inspector general but also from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court itself.
That will be a big one, because as I wrote several days ago, Wray’s response to the scandal has been woefully understated and unacceptable. Senators need to grill him on why no one has been fired or reprimanded. Changing procedures is not enough and if Wray won’t take the necessary steps to change the culture, he needs to go. A public showing of Wray’s laxness could provide the cover needed for the President to make a move.
I don’t expect anyone to admit wrongdoing in these coming hearings, but it’s still important for the American people to see these people squirm and obfuscate. What was done in 2016 has left a legacy of damage that isn’t easily repaired. Exposing all of it to the sunlight is a good start though.