Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on Wednesday grew agitated with former FBI Director James Comey as the senator questioned him on the FBI’s handling of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant applications for ex-Trump aide Carter Page and their reliance on the infamous Steele dossier.
Graham, R-S.C., began the hearing with a monotone opening statement expressing his desire to get to the bottom of the issues that have been raised on the use of FISA warrants as the FBI investigated potential coordination between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.
During his questioning of Comey, he prodded the former FBI director on whether he was proud of the investigation into potential Russian links with the Trump campaign, which was called Crossfire Hurricane, and his knowledge about the Steele dossier. Comey said he was largely “proud” of the investigation despite some “concerning” parts. But he said he was unaware at the time of much of the allegedly exculpatory evidence for Page that was not presented to the FISA court in the warrant application, and responded that he did not know the answer to many of Graham’s questions.
The became a source of frustration for Graham, who repeatedly raised his voice with Comey.
In this Dec. 17, 2018, file photo, former FBI Director James Comey speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill Washington. Comey testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
“Was this an important case for the FBI?” Graham asked, to which Comey said the overall investigation was important but the Page applications were “far less.”
“I mean you have a sitting president of the United States by January 2017, you have a dossier that’s salacious as hell that accuses the president of being involved in all kinds of sex escapades in Russia, and a bunch of over stuff, and you keep using that document over and over again to get a warrant,” Graham said. “Every time you found information to put the reliability of the dossier in question everybody seemed to ignore it and just plow forward. So I want to know in January, you’re not aware of the fact that the FBI interviewed the primary sub source [for the dossier]?”
Comey said he was not aware.
“Should you have been told about it?” Graham shot back, raising his voice.
Comey said he could not answer the question. The conversation continued with Comey giving more answers that he was unaware of or did not know things at the time.
“Not only is it inadequate, it is criminally inadequate,” Graham said of the lack of exculpatory information included in the Page FISA applications as he banged his fist on the dais.
“How could the director of the FBI not know all of this? How is it possible the system gathers so much exculpatory information — it’s an internet rumor according to the CIA,” Graham added, shaking his fist. “How could all that happen and not get up to you?’
Graham later became agitated again on the topic of apparent misinformation in the dossier, including the fact it said there was a Russian consulate in Miami when there is not one.
“They know it never happened … and they never told the court …. it was used over and over again and they never told the court about how unreliable it was,” Graham said.
Graham also called the dossier a “bunch of crap” and later expressed frustration with Democrats who said the GOP is too focused on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
“Nobody seems to be as concerned about it as I am,” Graham said. “Is there not checks and balances in the FISA process?”
Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., pushed back against Graham in her opening statement. She said that the FBI investigation, according to the report by Intelligence Community Inspector General David Horowitz, was justified and said that the later criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller did not rely on the Steele dossier.
“We should not ignore or excuse what happened in 2016,” she said. “FBI Director [Christopher] Wray and the Intelligence Community have warned that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election with the aim of denigrating Vice President Biden.”