Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is running far and wide with the investigative wishes of President Donald Trump and his allies, although one might hope that the leading Senator would at least pretend to work separate from Trump’s partisan animosity. This Tuesday, Graham revealed that his committee had started closed-door depositions in their investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, which is focusing on surveillance of one-time Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Graham’s revelation that they’d begun depositions comes just weeks after he released a list of witnesses he was after, including high profile figures like former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. For this first deposition, it’s unclear who the committee actually talked to, because Graham said he didn’t immediately remember — in case you needed another confirmation of just how unserious all these proceedings really are.
CNN’s Manu Raju reports:
‘Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says that his panel’s FISA investigation started today with one witness deposed behind closed doors. “We had one – I don’t really remember who it was,” he told me Graham had previously said they would start with lower level officials’
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham says that his panel’s FISA investigation started today with one witness deposed behind closed doors.
“We had one – I don’t really remember who it was,” he told me
Graham had previously said they would start with lower level officials
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) March 3, 2020
The deposition was revealed on the same day that President Trump himself planned a meeting with top Republican lawmakers to discuss what to do with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that authorized the Page surveillance in the first place, since the time to renew related surveillance legislation is coming up fast. “Trump signaled last week that he wanted to overhaul the program,” CNN notes, meaning that the Tuesday meeting was poised to prove “dire for advocates of the surveillance powers.”
Those trying to upend the surveillance powers include — besides Trump — far-right conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who told reporters shortly before the meeting:
‘I think that we should absolutely not reauthorize the Patriot Act without FISA reforms on it and the reforms that I’ll put forward I’ll present to the President this afternoon.’
Graham, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and others were all also set to participate in that same meeting. Although the specific legal provisions up for renewal aren’t even the exact ones used to target Page, figures like Paul have leaped at the opportunity to enact some change anyway. The Justice Department’s Inspector General Michael Horowitz concluded that there were more than a dozen errors in the surveillance applications targeting Page — although none of those errors detract from the credibility of the Russia investigation as a whole, just to be clear.
Graham has supported extending the surveillance provisions in question for the time being, as has Attorney General Bill Barr. Nevertheless, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman’s newly underway investigation into the usage of that surveillance program is likely to thrill Trump, who’s spent years winding himself up into a rage over the supposed conspiracies against him on the part of investigators. Although he’s claimed that the Russia investigation as a whole was started “illegally” — that’s just not true.