Politics & Policy

FBI Showed ‘Double Standard’ in Stopping FISA Warrant against Clinton Campaign, Graham Says

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham attends a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to consider authorization for subpoenas relating to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation on Capitol Hill, June 11, 2020. (Erin Schaff/Pool via Reuters)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) says in light of recently declassified documents that he believes FBI leadership showed a “double standard” in investigating reports of foreign interference in the 2016 presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and now-president Donald Trump.

The chairman unveiled FBI materials on Sunday that show the Bureau’s leadership stopped an FBI field office from pursuing a FISA warrant in 2015 related to an “operative” believed to be connected to a foreign government trying to influence Clinton’s campaign by “illegally” funneling millions of dollars.

FBI leaders demanded Clinton’s team receive a defensive briefing about “the problem so she could fix it” before the office could issue a warrant. Ultimately, a warrant was never issued, Graham said. 

He did not reveal the identity of the Clinton campaign associate and said in a Fox News appearance that he was not at liberty to identify the country the FBI believed was attempting to influence Clinton’s campaign. 

Graham, who is conducting an investigation into the FBI’s Russia inquiry, said the FBI’s decision to brief Clinton’s campaign before issuing a warrant “was the right way to do business.” Yet that was the opposite of the way the bureau treated Trump’s campaign in 2016.

“The FBI did the right thing by briefing Clinton and failed to do the right thing by never specifically briefing President Trump about their concerns,” Graham said in a statement on Sunday.

Rather than giving the Trump campaign the same treatment the next year, the bureau launched the “Crossfire Hurricane” operation, a counterintelligence investigation into alleged ties between Trump associates and Russian officials and whether they worked “wittingly or unwittingly, with the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

During that investigation the FBI pursued FISA warrants against a number of people involved with the Trump campaign but opted not disclose that information during a “generic” defensive briefing, instead using the meeting to gather information about Trump and his adviser Michael Flynn. 

“They never did to Trump,” Graham said. “As a matter of fact, not only did they not tell Trump, they used a generic briefing to spy on Trump.”

Senate Homeland Security Committee chairman Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) subpoenaed the FBI and director Christopher Wray earlier this month demanding that he produce “all records related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation,” as part of the committee’s review of the Russia investigation, Fox News reported. 

The subpoena “includes, but is not limited to, all records provided or made available” to the Department of Justice inspector general Michael Horowitz in his review of abuses related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), as well as “all records related to requests” to the General Services Administration or the Office of the Inspector General for the GSA for “presidential transition records from November 2016 through December 2017.”

The committee has also authorized subpoenas to the State Department for records related to meetings or communications between department officials or employees and former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who authored the dossier that led to the FISA warrant applications to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

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