Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said it was “at least unethical” for a Department of Justice official to be investigating Donald Trump while his wife was working for the opposition research firm that produced a controversial dossier on the then-candidate.
During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” the South Carolina lawmaker also called for a special counsel to be named to investigate the Justice Department and the FBI.
Graham took issue with Bruce Ohr for being involved in the Trump-Russia probe before it was turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller because his wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election cycle.
“Mr. Ohr should not have had any role in investigating the Trump campaign,” Graham said. “We need a special counsel to look at all things Department of Justice and FBI when it came to the Trump investigation.”
Republicans have been keen to point out any unsavory links between the Justice Department and Fusion GPS, the firm that hired former British spy Christopher Steele to produce a dossier of material on Trump’s relationship with Russia.
The dossier, which contains salacious but unsubstantiated claims about Trump, was first financed by a conservative online news site to gather information on Republican primary candidates and was taken over later by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Ohr was in touch with Steele and with GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, notes, emails and text messages show.
Graham described the dossier as a “bunch of political garbage.”
“Here’s what I would tell the American people. Both campaigns were investigated by the FBI and the Department of Justice in 2016. When it came to the Clinton campaign, she got a pass. The criminal investigation of the Clinton campaign was a joke,” Graham said. “When it came to the Trump campaign, it [the investigation] was corrupt, it was biased and I think unethical.”
Graham suggested that Bruce Ohr was biased against Trump because his wife worked at Fusion GPS.
The Republican senator also pointed out how Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) had been told by the FBI that a person working for her had been recruited by the Chinese government to spy on her.
Trump, Graham argued, wasn’t given the same courtesy because he wasn’t warned about Russia.
“They never did the same for Trump,” Graham argued. “So these investigations against Trump were corrupt at the core.”
On Thursday, the Hill newspaper reported that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) was preparing subpoenas for individuals linked to the Steele dossier, including Bruce and Nellie Ohr, as well as Simpson.
(ENTIRE TRANSCRIPT & FULL INTERVIEW BELOW)
Key members of the Senate Armed Services Committee weighed in on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ Full transcript:
MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS: Senator, welcome back to “FOX News Sunday”. Good to have you with us here today.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Thank you.
MACCALLUM: In a “New York Times” editorial, Erdogan went on to say that the United States starts respect — until the United States starts respecting Turkey sovereignty and proves that it understands the dangers that our nation faces, our partnership could be in jeopardy.
Which leads to the question, I mean, is this still a working relationship at all with Turkey?
GRAHAM: Well, we have an airbase in Turkey. They’re a NATO ally. It needs to be a working relationship. We need Turkey to help us in Syria. We need turkey to help us in Iraq. They are our NATO ally.
But they have not just Pastor Brunson in jail, five or six other Americans who worked for the — excuse me, Turkish citizens who work for the American embassy. We’re not going to have a normal relationship with Turkey until they let the Pastor Brunson out.
The chargers against him are complete shams. It’s a bogus event regarding Pastor Brunson and others who work for the American embassy. They had nothing to do with trying to topple the government.
MACCALLUM: You know, I think in terms of the Pastor Brunson question, and, you know, this back and forth between Turkey and the United States over —
MACCALLUM: — operation to overthrow the government in Turkey, which is what Erdogan is so angry about —
MACCALLUM: — it’s interesting to see that relationship, that these are pinned on a return of these individuals —
MCCALLUM: Which is a way that we haven’t really seen presidents work in the past.
Do you think this is going to be successful? Is Brunson going to come back and is there a possibility to repair this relationship?
We also know that Turkey wants to buy defense weaponry from Russia. That’s also something we don’t want them to do.
GRAHAM: Yes, this relationship needs to be repaired (ph). It’s in Turkey’s interest to have a good relationship with the United States and its and in our interest to have a good relationship with Turkey.
I’d like to one day do a free trade agreement with Turkey. I’d like to get them out of Russia’s orbit, pull them away from Iran and back in — back into our sphere of influence, where they should be. But they’ll never be a normal relationship until Pastor Brunson is out of jail.
He pastored a church of 50 people in Izmir, Turkey. He had nothing to do with the uprising in 2016. The employees at the American embassy have — are not golonas (ph) trying to overthrow the Turkish government.
In 2016, the military turned on the Turkish president. I can understand his concerns. But the S-400 being bought from Turkey — excuse me, from Russia, the Russia’s premiere missile defense system, you can’t have the F-35 and the S-400 both.
So we need to reset this relationship. And the best way to do it is let Pastor Brunson come home and start over.
MACCALLUM: All right.
When the president left for Helsinki, he talked about all of the meetings that were ahead of him. And at that point he said Putin might be the easiest of all of them.
MCCALLUM: That he wanted to find some common ground with the leader of Russia.
Now, we’ve got a situation where there are sanctions due to the poisoning that happened in the U.K. and Medvedev is saying that he thinks that they’re in economic warfare at this point. So is it fair to say that the president has put the goal of finding common ground with Russia to the back burner at this point?
GRAHAM: Yes, I think Russian behavior has dominated the relationship here. I don’t mind trying to have a better relationship with Russia. They just need to act better to achieve that goal.
They did. They’re directly involved in killing the British citizen, the poison that was used in Britain to kill this former Soviet spy — Soviet member who became a spy, came from Russia. They are meddling in the 2018 election. I’m 100 percent certain that they are continuing to meddle in our election. They intend to disrupt the 2018 election.
So I’ve introduced hard-hitting sanctions. I applaud the administration for hitting Russia based on what they did in Britain. So you’ll never have a better relationship with Putin as long as he behaves the way he does. And I appreciate the president pushing back.
MACCALLUM: All right.
I want to ask you before I let you go a non-foreign policy question with regards to Bruce Ohr, who is a Department of Justice official —
MCCALLUM: Who worked under Sally Yates and just a few offices down from the head of the Justice Department. He’s becoming a much more central figure in what looks to be the initiation of this Russia investigation. What do you know about that?
GRAHAM: Well, he was the number four guy at the Department of Justice. His wife worked for Fusion GPS, the firm hired by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to get — to find dirt on Trump. They hired Christopher Steele, a former British agent, who went to Russia to gather a dossier that I think is a bunch of political garbage.
Here’s what I would tell the American people. Both campaigns were investigated by the FBI and the Department of Justice in 2016. When it came to the Clinton campaign, she got a pass. The criminal investigation of the Clinton campaign was a joke. When it came to the Trump campaign, it was corrupt, it was biased and I think unethical. Mr. Ohr should not have had any role in investigating the Trump campaign because his wife worked at Fusion GPS. The two — the FBI agent in charge of the Clinton campaign hated Trump, liked Clinton, and also started the counterintelligence investigation against Trump.
When it came to Dianne Feinstein, they went to her and said, hey, there’s a Chinese person working on your staff that we think may be tied to the Chinese government. When it came time to — they never did the same for Trump. So these investigations against Trump were corrupt at the core. They gave Clinton a pass. Bruce Ohr was at least unethical.
We need a special counsel to look at all things Department of Justice and FBI when it came to the Trump investigation, particularly the counterintelligence investigation.
MACCALLUM: And we’re going to talk more about that in a moment.
I’ve got one more minute with you so I’m going to circle back to North Korea for a moment because the White House has really never explained the discrepancy between the president’s tweet which says that there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea —
MCCALLUM: And John Bolton’s assessment that the Singapore agreement really has not yielded any progress at all. You said at one point that the president could potentially receive a Nobel Prize for what he was doing in North Korea. So what do you say now?
GRAHAM: Well, I think we need to be patient. North Korea is going to do the — going to respond appropriately, or they’ll go back to the same old way of doing business. And I can tell you this, President Trump has no place to kick the can when it comes to North Korea. If he had to, as a last resort, he would use military force to stop their missile programs, their nuclear program. And to the Iranians, watch what’s going on with Iran. Do you want to be next? I appreciate the president withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran and trying to break the ayatollah’s back economically. This is a religious theocracy. This dismembering the Mideast. To North Korea, if you don’t think Trump will turn on you if you try to play him, watch what’s going on in North Korea.
MACCALLUM: Senator Lindsay Graham, always good to talk to, sir, thank you very much.
GRAHAM: Excuse me, Iran.
MACCALLUM: So joining me now from Rhode Island, Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee.
Senator, thank you very much for being with us.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: As we look around the world, you know, what we see is sort of a very broad spectrum of tariffs, of sanctions that have been leveled against, as we were just discussing, against Turkey, against Iran, against Russia, also China. You said that you felt that the tariffs against China were the right move when President Trump put them in place. Now China is pushing back with punitive tariffs against the United States as well, which some people are concerned could, down the road, put a dent in the positive GDP growth that we’ve seen.
Here’s the president talking about what’s going on with China at Bedminster this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are in a little bit of a fight with China right now. We want them to do well, but we want them to treat us fairly. They have not treated us fairly for many decades.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Where do you think this is heading, senator?
REED: Well, I think the president’s approach has been dis-coordinated. He has imposed sanctions on a range of countries. I don’t think he has a strategic plan. I think he’s essentially just lashing out. And when he doesn’t get his way, he will invoke more sanctions.
He’s got sanctions against some of our closest allies, like the Canadians. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
I think if he had a more focused approach to China, if he indicated what he wanted changed specifically rather than just generically, we’re going to punish you until you stop doing everything you’re doing, I think, again, he has to be much more focused.
MACCALLUM: But you — you did say that it was a good idea for him to put those sanctions in place. And I think a lot of people who look at the trade imbalance have a similar reaction, you know, that he’s not wrong about how the United States has been mistreated in these deals. So doesn’t that require a bit of patience at the table?
REED: Well, it requires patience, but it also requires a consistent plan. And it also requires cooperation with our trading partners. Rather than going in with a concerted effort, unified effort, he has created issues among all our major trading partners. And, as a result, China is able to sort of, in a way, isolate us and diminish the effect of our sanctions, the effect of our policies.
And the tariffs, I think, are less critical in terms of Chinese tariffs and our tariffs. I think the real issue at stake here is the way that the Chinese do not allow our companies to participate fairly in China, to own companies, to protect their intellectual property. A more focused approach by President Trump on those efforts, I think, would be helpful.
MACCALLUM: But, I mean, that’s clearly what the president is going for here. He’s talked about it quite a bit in terms of intellectual property. So, again, you know, doesn’t it require patience in the — in the midst of the deal-making to sort of wait out the tough part of this because that’s a negotiation? And do you think ultimately that it will draw them to the table?
REED: Well, I think it requires patience, obviously. But I think it will also require sort of a more systematic and calculated and calibrated approach. It’s been sort of a wild ride with the president in terms of sanctions he’s imposed.
And, again, it’s not just with respect to China. Think he’d be in a much stronger position if he had a unified trading block, the western (ph) trading block, working with him against China. He doesn’t have that.
And then, again, the question is, in terms of patience, who has the patience? I think the Chinese are — seem to be indicating that they are not going to quickly succumb to these tariffs, or these protectionist measures that the United States is imposing. It could a long, long process and they might have the ability to wait us out. Again, this is going to show effects in our economy eventually and those effects, I think, will take away from the growth we’re seeing.
MACCALLUM: So let me switch to Iran right now. Obviously the snapback sanctions are now in place. The deal is not something that the United States is participating in anymore and, as a result of that, we saw some fairly aggressive moving up of the timetable for Iran to carry out its military exercises that it does in the Strait of Hormuz over the course of this week. Your reaction to that and where you think that situation goes next.
REED: Well, first, you’re right, exactly, they’ve moved up their annual exercises. They’ve conducted a ballistic missile exercise in conjunction with those exercises. The one thing they haven’t done, which I think is appropriate and I think we cannot ever allow, is they have not been interfering with the passenger ships through the Strait of Hormuz. That has to be something that is absolutely nonnegotiable.
I think a problem we have is after withdrawing from the JCPOA, we’ve lost the support of our European allies, particularly. In fact, the Europeans are going to lengths to try to cushion the blow to the Iranians.
And then, again, you’re into a situation where what’s going to happen within Tehran. I think there is a strong feeling that the hardliners will take more and more power, that they will begin to marginalize those people. And I think using the term moderate in Iran is not particularly accurate.
REED: But those who much more sensitive to world opinion will be marginalized and the hardliners will take over.
And the Iranians have the ability to, through proxies particularly, to interrupt, interfere and, in fact, indeed cause us harm in Iraq and Syria and throughout the region. So I, again, I think the biggest problem here is that we do not once again have a concerted (ph) world standing with us against the Iranians. And they will try to divide and conquer, separate the Europeans from us and continue to do that.
MACCALLUM: All right, before I let you go, I want to ask you about the Space Force, which got a lot of attention, even some ribbing this week. But it’s a serious proposal on the part of the president, that he wants to start this sixth branch of the military.
Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, told me the other night that he thinks it’s a bad idea, that it’s a waste of money and that it’s redundant. Buzz Aldrin also weighed in and said that he thought it was a huge, giant leap for mankind. He’s very in favor of it. How about you, Senator Reed?
REED: I think we have to reorganize our space forces because our threats are now in multiple dimensions. But I think creating a separate service with all of the infrastructure and the bureaucracy is not the way to go.
We, in the National Defense Authorization Act, authorized a sub unified command for space that I think would begin to pull together these different strands. Every service has some sort of connection to space. If you’re a — and I was a paratrooper for several years. If you’re on the ground, you need GPS to give you directions and guidance. That’s a space asset. If you’re at sea, you need space assets.
So, this is not a one service dimension and I think creating a separate service would just add bureaucracy without effect. What we have to do is unify our current efforts.
One of the good models for this is a joint special operations command, which is multiple services, SEALs, Rangers, Green Berets, Air Force, special operators, they operate very unified, but there’s no new service with all the paraphernalia and bureaucracy of a new service. That’s the direction we should head.
MACCALLUM: All right, Senator Jack Reed, thank you, sir. Good to see you today. Thanks for joining us.
REED: Thank you very much, Martha.
MACCALLUM: So, coming up, we will bring back the panel undiscussed why Bruce Ohr, who worked for Sally Yates, is now becoming a more central figure in how the Russia investigation got its legs in the first place. And Rudy Giuliani speaks out.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 14th, 2018