CBS: Hey, Graham's serious about holding hearings into FISA abuse in Crossfire Hurricane, but ...

CBS: Hey, Graham's serious about holding hearings into FISA abuse in Crossfire Hurricane, but ...

One would certainly hope so, after Michael Horowitz’ devastating Inspector General report. Yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation, Margaret Brennan asked Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham to decode a Donald Trump tweet urging Graham to “start up Judiciary” to “clean up D.C. now, last chance!” Graham chuckled and answered, “I think what he’s talking about is oversight of the FISA warrant system that failed,” and on that subject Graham promised Trump some good news, but not perhaps precisely what Trump is hoping to get:

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President’s up. He’s watching, apparently, because he sent out a tweet this morning about you appearing on this program. He said, “DeFace the nation will tell Lindsey Graham they must start up the Judiciary and not stop.” I’m not exactly sure quite what that means, but it sounds like he’s giving you marching orders.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think what he’s talking about is oversight of the FISA warrant system that failed. I can promise the President and your viewers that I’m going to call witnesses about–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Foreign surveillance warrants–the Horowitz report.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah. The Horowitz report. You know, McCabe, Comey, Rosenstein, Yates. How did you miss it so badly? How could you issue four warrants against an American citizen based on information that was unreliable? But here’s what I want to tell the President. I’m not going to be the Republican Christopher Steele.

Trump clearly wants a probe that will produce evidence of a conspiracy to target his campaign. Graham’s warning about not being a GOP Steele is a bit of a brushback to those expectations. He’s less interested in constructing a counter-narrative than in determining what to do with the FISA process post-Crossfire Hurricane, he tells Catherine Herridge this morning. Graham has already taken steps to call witnesses for private depositions into Horowitz’ findings, and that process could begin as soon as two weeks from now:

Speaking exclusively to CBS News Monday, Senator Graham said he plans to deliver his FISA witness list to the Department of Justice as early as this week, with the goal of beginning private depositions and public hearings shortly after. Graham said he is moving “methodically” adding the timing looks to be end of February or early March.

Graham said the process will last “several weeks” until the public understands how the surveillance process went wrong, who within the FBI and DOJ were supposed to keep it on track, and how it can be reformed so that it will not be restricted or down away with in the future. …

There remains deep concern among Justice Department officials that lawmakers will move to restrict the surveillance court’s power or do away with it all together, after the inspector general report found widespread errors, omissions by FBI personnel and anemic oversight.

Graham wants to fix the process, not the narrative. That doesn’t mean Graham won’t be open to a counter-narrative, but he’s getting veeerrrry careful about it. Just after the end of the clip above, Graham told Brennan that everyone’s very “cautious” about Rudy Giuliani’s credibility, for whom the “Republican Christopher Steele” line was apparently meant:

GRAHAM: So, Rudy Giuliani last night said he’s got the goods on Hunter Biden. I called the attorney general this morning and Richard Burr, the chairman of the Intel Committee, and they told me take very cautiously anything coming out of the Ukraine against anybody. So what I will do is I will get to the bottom of how the FISA warrant system failed and make sure we reform it, doesn’t happen again. I think questions about the conflict of interest regarding Hunter Biden in the Ukraine need to be asked. The State Department had warnings and they ignored the conflict of interest. The whistleblower episode needs to be investigated by Richard Burr. But if Rudy Giuliani has any information coming out of the Ukraine, he needs to turn over the Department of Justice because it could be Russian propaganda.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You last time you’re on this program, though, in December, you said Giuliani should come to the Judiciary Committee with what he said was a suitcase full of documents he picked up in Ukraine–


MARGARET BRENNAN: –on the Bidens. Are you saying you don’t want any part of this anymore?

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: After talking to the attorney general and the intelligence chairman that any documents coming out of the Ukraine against any American, Republican or Democrat, need to be looked at by the intelligence services, who has expertise I don’t because Russia is playing us all like a fiddle. And Christopher Steele was played by the Russians that started the Russian investigation against President Trump.

Graham’s not the only senior Republican putting Giuliani at arm’s length of late. Attorney General William Barr sounded very skeptical today that Giuliani had anything reliable about Ukraine and corruption, although he encouraged Giuliani to share it with the DoJ:

Attorney General Bill Barr went out of his way Monday to express skepticism about information President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is offering on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, but Barr also made clear the Justice Department is open to receiving whatever Giuliani wants to share.

Addressing comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that he’d arranged for Giuliani to present Justice officials with fruits of his on-the-ground research into the Bidens and Ukraine, Barr said information originating in Ukraine must be treated with caution.

“The Department of Justice has the obligation to have an open door to anybody who wishes to provide us information that they think is relevant,” Barr said in response to a reporter’s question at a news conference on unrelated database hacking charges. “I did say to Sen. Graham, we have to be very careful with respect to any information coming from the Ukraine.” …

“There are a lot of agendas in the Ukraine. There are a lot of cross currents, and we can’t take anything we receive from the Ukraine at face value,” Barr said. He said the department’s stance on accounts or evidence emerging from the former Soviet republic is a broad one, but he emphasized it would apply to “any information Giuliani might provide.”

The skepticism is coming from inside the house! Barr’s comments seem especially notable considering Trump’s repeated push on Ukraine and Giuliani’s investigation. The message might be for Trump not to expect much out of Giuliani’s efforts, or it might be another kind of brushback pitch, to wit: the next time Trump wants a corruption investigation, he should ask the DoJ to conduct it rather than his private attorney. The references to “getting played by Russia” from Republicans in this context are likely a form of a backhand over Ukraine-Gate and a reminder that Trump owes them something for their defense. Namely, don’t ever do this again.

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