It may not have been as melodramatic as his pivotal moment in the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, but two years later, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, showed he’s still unafraid to call out his colleagues for putting politics ahead of the country’s best interest.
Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had invited former FBI Director James Comey to appear voluntarily as part of a probe following up on the findings of a damning inspector general’s report into the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane sting against the Trump campaign.
Democrats on the committee—including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dick Durbin of Illinois—made it clear that they deemed the hearing to be a waste of time.
“I think it is entirely appropriate that we are meeting today to discuss Russian influence,” Durbin said snidely after asking Comey whether President Donald Trump’s recently leaked financial statements constituted a national security threat due to the president’s loan debt on his vast real estate holdings.
“I can’t think of anything more insidious than Vladimir Putin trying to affect the outcome of an American election and overruling the democracy by the American people,” Durbin continued. “… There’s one problem. Today we’re focusing on the wrong election.”
Durbin rightly noted that other recent reports have suggested Russia may be attempting to interfere in the upcoming election (although he followed a Democratic talking point by ignoring concerns regarding China’s anti-Trump influence).
He then tried to downplay the influence of the Steele dossier in the anti-Trump smear campaign that transpired in 2016 and 2017, enabling Obama officials to spy on their political adversaries.
“The agenda here is all about a dossier written 5 or 6 years ago,” he said, accusing Graham of using the hearings to benefit Trumps—and Graham’s own—re-election campaigns.
But after allowing Comey to respond with a Pollyannish naiveté about criticisms from the current attorney general, William Barr, who denounced the “false and utterly baseless Russia collusion narrative,” Graham used his gavel powers to bring the focus back into perspective.
The concern, he noted, was not the enemies abroad trying to undermine the elections, but the ones within—entrusted with and protected by the duty to uphold the law—who instead did the opposite.
“The committee is trying to save the FISA system,” Graham said.
“The FISA warrant applications against Carter Page should make every American concerned about how off the rails this system got,” he continued. “That the document necessary to get the warrant against an American citizen—the key document—was prepared by somebody on the Democratic payroll who hired a Russian suspected spy, and all the information in the dossier fell apart over time and the court was never informed of the exculpatory evidence that was coming in.”
Graham said it was past time someone in the intelligence community was held accountable for the FISA abuses.
“What astounds me the most is that the director of the FBI in charge of this investigation involving a sitting president is completely clueless about any of the information obtained by his agency to throw suspicion over the document,” Graham said.
“… How is it possible that an investigation at this level, that none of this information that’s damning to the case against Mr. Page never makes it to the top? And you want us to reauthorize this program with a system like that?”