Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced Thursday that his Judiciary Committee is about to launch an investigation into the FBI probe of booted national security adviser Michael Flynn — and take a new look at Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The hearings could end up targeting Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden.
The Judiciary Committee, which Graham chairs, plans to hold the Flynn hearings next month, the senator said in a statement.
Trump fired Flynn in 2017 for lying about secret talks he was having with a former Russian ambassador and reputed Kremlin spymaster Sergey Kislyak. But the Justice Department moved last week to drop charges against Flynn, even though Flynn had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. In a turnaround, Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday called Flynn a “patriot” and said he would be “happy” to see him back in the Trump administration, even though the basis of Flynn’s firing was that he had lied to Pence.
Flynn’s future is now in the hands of U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who on Wednesday appointed former Judge John Gleeson to present arguments in opposition to the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the Flynn case before Sullivan will determine what action to take.
As part of the Flynn probe, Graham’s committee will first look into actions by Obama administration officials to view Flynn’s name in intelligence reports during the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the senator said.
“We must determine if these requests were legitimate,” Graham said, referring to requests by top Obama administration officials to “unmask” Flynn’s name. Biden’s name was revealed Wednesday on a list of officials who reportedly unmasked Flynn’s identity in redacted intelligence documents related to special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Such “unmasking” requests are common, including during Trump’s administration.
As for Trump urging him to call Obama to testify in the hearings, Graham indicated that would be an overreach of executive power and that it could backfire by putting Trump in jeopardy after his time in the White House is over.
Trump has been saying that “Obamagate” is the “biggest political crime” in American history — but has yet to explain what crime he’s talking about. Asked early this week at a press briefing what specific crime he was referring to, Trump insisted that the “crime is very obvious to everybody”— but still did not say what it might be.
“I am greatly concerned about the precedent that would be set by calling a former president for oversight,” Graham said in his statement. “No president is above the law. However, the presidency has executive privilege claims against other branches of government.”
He also told Politico in an interview: “I don’t think now’s the time for me to do that. I don’t know if that’s even possible. I have grave concerns about the role of executive privilege and all kinds of issues.”
He added: “I understand President Trump’s frustration, but be careful what you wish for. Just be careful what you wish for.”
Graham said that “both presidents” would be welcome to “share their concerns about each other before the committee.”
While Trump is accusing Obama “of being part of a treasonous conspiracy to undermine his presidency,” Obama is suggesting that Trump is “destroying the rule of law” by moving to dismiss the case against Flynn, Graham noted.
If “nothing else,” having both men testify “would make for great television,” he flippantly added. “However, I have great doubts about whether it would be wise for the country.”