Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham opened Wednesday's hearing about the Mueller report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race by announcing his plans to investigate Obama administration law enforcement officials' targeting of President Trump's campaign.
"I can’t say I’ve read it all,” Graham said, holding up a paper copy of the report. "The bottom line is we're about to hear from Mr. Barr the results of a two-year investigation into the Trump campaign, all things Russia, the actions the president took before and after the campaign, $25 million, 40 FBI agents. I appreciate very much what Mr. Mueller did for the country. I have read most of the report. For me, it is over."
"Once the Mueller report is put to bed, and it will be soon, this committee is going to look long and hard at how all of this started," Graham said. "We’re going to look at the FISA warrant process. Did Russia provide Christopher Steele the information about Trump, that turned out to be garbage, that was used to get a warrant on an American citizen and if so, how did the system fail? Was there a real effort between Papadopoulos and anybody in Russia to use the Clinton e-mails stolen by the Russians, or is that thought planted in his mind? I don’t know, but we’re going to look."
Graham also read some of the much-discussed anti-Trump text messages from fired FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok: "August 15th, 2016. Strzok: 'I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office that there is no way he gets elected, but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.' August 26, 2016. 'Just went to the southern Virginia Walmart. I could smell the Trump support.' October the 19th, 2016. 'Trump is a f*cking idiot. He’s unable to provide a coherent answer."
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Thank you. The hearing will come to order, and the first order of business is to try to cool the room down. So we'll see if we can do that. But the attorney general will be testifying here in a bit about the Mueller report. And I want to thank him for coming to the committee and giving us an explanation as to the actions he took and why he took them regarding the Mueller report. And here's the good news; here's the Mueller report. You can read it for yourself. It's about 400 and something pages. I can't say I've read it all, but I've read most of it. There is an unredacted version over in the classified section of the Senate, a room where you can go look at the unredacted version, and I did that, and I found it not to change anything in terms of an outcome.
But a bit about the Mueller report. Who is Mueller? For those who may not know --I don't know where you've been, but you may not know--that Bob Mueller has a reputation in this town and throughout the country as being an outstanding lawyer and a man of the law. He was the FBI director. He was the deputy attorney general. He was in charge of the criminal division at the Department of Justice. He was a United States Marine, and he has served his country in a variety of circumstances long and well.
For those who took time to read the report, I think it was well written, very thorough. And let me tell you what went into this report. There were 19 lawyers employed, approximately 40 FBI agents, intel analysts, forensic--forensic accountants and other staff, 2800 subpoenas issued, 500 witnesses interviewed, 500 search warrants executed, more than 230 orders for communication records so they --records could be obtained, 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, over $25 million spent over two years. We may not agree on much, but I hope we can agree that he had ample resources, took a lot of time and talked to a lot of people. And you can read for yourself what he found. The attorney general will tell us a bit about what his opinion of the report is.
In terms of interacting with the White House, the White House turned over to Mr. Mueller $1.4 million documents and records, never asserted executive privilege one time. Over 20 White House staffers, including eight from the White House Counsel's office, were interviewed voluntarily. Don McGahn, chief counsel for the White House, was interviewed for over 30 hours. Everybody that they wanted to talk to from the Trump campaign on the ground, they were able to talk to. The president submitted himself to written interrogatories.
So to the American people, Mr. Mueller was the right guy to do this job. I always believed that Attorney General Sessions was conflicted out because he was part of the campaign. He was the right guy with ample resources. And the cooperation he needed to find out what happened was given, in my view. But there were two campaigns in 2016, and we'll talk about the second one in a minute.
So what have we learned from this report? After all this time and all this money, Mr. Mueller and his team concluded there was no collusion. I didn't know, like many of you here on the Republican side, we all agreed that Mr. Mueller should be allowed to do his job without interference. I joined with some colleagues on the other side to introduce legislation to protect the special counsel that he could only be removed for cause. He was never removed. He was allowed to do his job. So no collusion, no coordination, no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government regarding the 2016 election.
As to obstruction of justice, Mr. Mueller left it to Mr. Barr to decide. After two years and all this time, he said Mr. Barr, you decide. Mr. Barr did. There are a bunch of lawyers on this committee, and I will tell you the following. You have to have specific intent to obstruct justice. If there is no underlying crime, pretty hard to figure out what intent might be if there was never a crime to begin with. The president never did anything to stop Mueller from doing his job, so I guess the theory goes now, we don't--okay, he didn't collude with the Russians and he didn't specifically do anything to stop Mueller, but attempted obstruction justice of a crime that never occurred I guess is sort of the--the new standard around here. We'll see if that makes any sense. To me it doesn't.
Now there was another campaign. It was the Clinton campaign. What have we learned from this report? The Russians interfered in our election. So can some bipartisanship come out of this? I hope so. I intend to work with my colleagues on the other side to introduce the DETER Act and to introduce legislation to defend the integrity of the voting system. Senator Durbin and I have legislation that would deny anyone admittance into the United States a visa through the immigration system if they were involved in interfering in an American election. Working with Senator Whitehouse and Blumenthal to make sure that if you hack into a state election system, even though it's not tied to their internet, that's a crime. I would like to do more to harden our infrastructure because the Russians did it. It wasn't some 400-pound guy sitting on a bed somewhere. It was the Russians. And they're still doing it. And it could be the Chinese, it could be somebody next, so my takeaway from this report is that we've got a lot of work to do to defend democracy against the Russians and other bad actors. And I promise the committee we will get on with that work, hopefully in a bipartisan fashion.
The other campaign. The other campaign was investigated, not by Mr. Mueller, by people within the Department of Justice. The accusation against the Clinton--Secretary Clinton was that she set a private server up somewhere in her house, and classified information was on it, to avoid the disclosure requirements and the transparency requirements required of being secretary of State. So that was investigated. What do we know? We know that the person in charge of investigating hated Trump's guts. I don't know how Mr. Mueller felt about Trump, but I don't think anybody on our side believes that he had a personal animosity toward the president to the point he couldn't do his job.
This is what Strzok said on February 12, 2016. Now he's in charge of the Clinton email investigation. "Oh he's Trump's abysmal. I keep hoping the charade will end and people will just dump him." February 12, 2016. Page is the Department of Justice lawyer assigned to this case. March 3, 2016. "God, Trump is a loathsome human being." Strzok, "Oh my God, Trump's an idiot." Page, "He's awful." Strzok, "God, Hillary should win 100 million to nothing." Compare those two people to Mueller. March 16, 2016. "I cannot believe Trump is likely to be an actual serious candidate for president." July 21, 2016. "Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be." August 8, 2016, three days before Strzok was made deputy acting--in charge of the counterintelligence division of the FBI, "He's never going to become president, right?" Page to Strzok, "No, no he won't. We'll stop him." These are the people investigating the Clinton email situation and start the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign. Compare them to Mueller.
August 15, 2016. Strzok, "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's (PH) office that there's no way he gets elected, but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40." August 26, 2016. "Just went to the Southern Virginia Wal-Mart. I could smell the Trump support." October 19, 2016, "Trump is a fucking idiot. He's unable to provide a coherent answer." Sorry to the kids out there.
These are the people that made a decision that Clinton didn't do anything wrong and that counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign was warranted. We're going to, in a bipartisan way, I hope deal with Russia, but when the Mueller report is put to bed, and it soon will be, this committee is going to look long and hard at how this all started. We're going to look at the FISA warrant process. Did Russia provide Christopher Steele the information about Trump that turned out to be garbage that was used to get a warrant on American system--citizen, and if so, how did the system fail? Was there a real effort between Papadopoulos and anybody in Russia to use the Clinton emails stolen by--stole by the Russians, or was that thought planted in his mind? I don't know, but we're going to look. And I can tell you this. If you change the names, you all would want to look, too. Everything I just said, just substitute Clinton for Trump and see what all these people with cameras would be saying out here about this.
As to cooperation in the Clinton investigation, I told you what the Trump people did. I'll tell you a little bit about what the Clinton people did. There was a protective order for the server issued by the House, and there was a request by the State Department to preserve all the information on the server. Paul Combetta, after having the protective order, used a software program called BleachBit to wipe the email server clean. Has anybody ever heard of Paul Combetta? No. Under protective order from the House to preserve the information under request from the State Department to preserve the information on the server, he used a BleachBit program to wipe it clean. What happened to him? Nothing. 18 devices possessed by Secretary Clinton she used to do business as secretary, how many of them were turned over to the FBI? None. Two of them couldn't be turned over because Judith Caspar (PH) took a hammer and destroyed two of them. What happened to her? Nothing.
So the bottom line is we're about to hear from Mr. Barr the results of a two-year investigation into the Trump campaign, all things Russia, the actions the president took before and after the campaign, $25 million, 40 FBI agents. I appreciate very much what Mr. Mueller did for the country. I have read most of the report. For me, it is over.