(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump and a key ally, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, said Monday that after Robert Mueller closed his Russia probe, they want an investigation of the investigators.
Graham said at a news conference that Attorney General William Barr should appoint a new special counsel to examine why the U.S. government, under President Barack Obama, decided to open an investigation into Russian election interference in 2016, and whether it was an excuse to spy on Trump’s campaign.
“Was it a ruse to get into the Trump campaign?” Graham said at the news conference. “I don’t know but I’m going to try to find out.”
Trump told reporters at the White House that unspecified “people” behind the Russia probe would “be looked at.”
The remarks show that Trump and some of his allies have retribution and score-settling on their minds after Mueller found no evidence that the president or his campaign colluded with the Kremlin’s election interference. It’s unclear whom Trump wants investigated, but possibilities include former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired in May 2017; Obama’s CIA Director John Brennan, whom Trump stripped of his security clearance last year; and other former intelligence and Justice Department officials who have vocally criticized the president.
The stage is also set for dueling and contradictory congressional investigations. In the House, controlled by Democrats, several committees have opened investigations into the president’s financial and business affairs, and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said Sunday he wants Barr to testify soon on his finding that Mueller didn’t produce sufficient evidence that Trump obstructed justice by interfering in the Russia inquiry.
The Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, on Monday blocked a vote on a measure by the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, calling for Mueller’s report to be made public. McConnell said Barr should have time to consider which portions of the report can be publicly released given concerns about classified information, ongoing investigations and other information protected by law.
Several other Republicans backed Graham and Trump on Monday. Senate Oversight Committee Chairman Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he’d like to work with Graham “to get those answers for the American public.”
“We need to find out what happened,” he said in an interview.
Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, tweeted: “Time to investigate the Obama officials who concocted and spread the Russian conspiracy hoax!”
Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican, said “underlying documents” supporting what became Mueller’s probe should be released to the public.
“Let them decide for themselves whether this investigation was warranted -- or whether it was a two-year long episode of political targeting, driven by FBI and DOJ executives who wanted to retaliate against a legitimately elected president,” Meadows said in an interview.
Graham said his committee would also look into the FBI’s handling of the inquiry into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying that Comey’s actions in that investigation “did affect” the 2016 election. Comey held a news conference in July 2016 to announce that Clinton wouldn’t be charged with a crime, and then announced less than two weeks before the election that the investigation had been re-opened after additional emails were discovered.
Trump’s indication that unnamed people responsible for the probe would be investigated was vague. He didn’t name anyone, and after he made similar remarks on Sunday, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told reporters that Barr hadn’t been directed to open any investigations of Democrats.
“People that have done such harm to our country,” Trump complained on Monday. “We’ve gone through a period of really bad things happening. Those people will certainly be looked at. I’ve been looking at them for a long time and I’m saying, why haven’t they been looked at. They lied to Congress. Many of them. You know who they are. They’ve done so many evil things.”
Trump added that he hasn’t considered pardoning anyone convicted in connection to Mueller’s probe.
Barr sent a four-page letter to Congress on Sunday summarizing Mueller’s findings, which have not been publicly released.
Both Trump and Graham said they support Barr publicly releasing as much of Mueller’s report as possible. The investigation turned out “100 percent” as it should have, Trump told reporters.
Trump has previously singled out individuals over their role in the probe, calling for an investigation into the “other side” of the investigation. He’s mentioned Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and Justice Department attorney Bruce Ohr.
Graham also said he advised his friend and Senate colleague John McCain to give the FBI the so-called Steele dossier on Trump, rebutting the president’s accusations that McCain tried to hinder his 2016 election.
Graham told reporters that McCain, an Arizona Republican who died last year, had shown him the unverified collection of intelligence reports on Trump’s links to Russia that was put together by a former British spy, Christopher Steele. Steele was commissioned to compile the information by an opposition research firm hired by Democrats.
McCain put the dossier in his safe and handed it over to the FBI the next day, Graham said.
A McCain associate, David Kramer, acknowledged in a deposition in a libel case that he spread word of the dossier to several news organizations.
Separately on Monday, Trump’s campaign sent a memo to television news producers with a list of past guests the campaign accused of making “false claims” about the investigation. Included in the list were Adam Schiff of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and John Brennan, the former director of the CIA; and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s director of communications, said that the producers should think twice about having the Trump critics on again: “At this point, there must be introspection from the media who facilitated the reckless statements and a serious evaluation of how such guests are considered and handled in the future.”
(Updates with Trump campaign memo, in final two paragraphs.)
--With assistance from Billy House.
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