Representative Louie Gohmert (R., Texas) argued during a Monday House Judiciary Committee hearing that the FBI’s surveillance of the Trump campaign was similar to the Nixon administration’s crimes during the Watergate scandal, reversing a comparison that many of his Democratic colleagues have used to impugn the conduct of President Trump.
Addressing former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, who was called by House Democrats to serve as the hearing’s first witness, Gohmert agreed with the contention that the current political environment resembles Watergate, but argued that President Trump and his allies resemble the Nixon-era Democrats subjected to illegal surveillance.
“There are similarities, you’re right, with regard to Watergate,” Gohmert said. “In both, an administration was seeking to illegally spy on another candidate. In both, people were hired to attempt to gather evidence that could be used against a candidate. In Watergate, the Committee to Reelect the President hired burglars to break into the DNC headquarters. In Watergate, administration officials tried to find ways to use federal dollars to pay for their criminal spying.”
Gohmert went on to claim that the FBI’s reliance on the unsubstantiated Steele dossier to obtain a warrant to surveil then-Trump campaign national-security adviser Carter Page constituted a “fraud” on the FISA court that granted the warrant, since the judge in the case was unaware that the dossier was initially commissioned by the Clinton campaign.
“In Russiagate, members of the federal government used the intel, DOJ, and FBI communities to attempt to defeat a presidential candidate, then when that failed to have him removed from office,” he continued. “In Russiagate, the Clinton campaign and the FBI paid a foreign agent to collude with Russians to produce opposition research — that turned out completely false, as the Mueller report indicated — that could be used to commit a fraud on the FISA court and get multiple warrants to spy on opposition campaigns.”
Congressional Republicans have long argued that the Obama administration’s FBI improperly targeted the Trump campaign for surveillance for purely partisan reasons. Soon after taking office, Attorney General William Barr opened an investigation into the origins of the FBI counterintelligence probe that gave rise to the Mueller investigation to determine whether it was politically motivated.
Defenders of the intelligence community’s conduct have pushed back on the claim that the Steele dossier served as the pretext for the surveillance, pointing out that the counterintelligence probe officially commenced only after an Australian diplomat told his U.S. counterparts that Trump-campaign adviser George Papadopoulos planned to receive opposition research on Hillary Clinton from the Russians.