U.S. Senate judiciary panel head wants special counsel to investigate Trump probe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Monday he will ask Attorney General William Barr to appoint a special counsel to look into the origins of the investigation of whether President Donald Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

A day after the attorney general said the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found that nobody from Trump’s campaign conspired with Russia, Senator Lindsey Graham said, “We will begin to unpack the other side of the story.”

He said it was time to look at the Clinton campaign and the origins of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant for former Trump adviser Carter Page, which was based in part on information in a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who co-founded a private intelligence firm.

Graham said he would look into these matters as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, using subpoena power if necessary, whether or not a special counsel is appointed.

Republicans lawmakers have contended the FBI made serious missteps when it sought the warrant to monitor Page in October 2016 shortly after he left the Trump campaign.

Republicans said the FBI failed to disclose that Steele was hired by a firm funded by Democrats to do opposition research on Trump’s business dealings.

However, Steele was initially contracted by FusionGPS, a Washington-based political research firm, to investigate Trump on behalf of unidentified Republicans who wanted to stop Trump’s bid for the party’s nomination.

Page, a foreign policy adviser during Trump’s campaign, drew scrutiny from the FBI, which said in legal filings in 2016 that it believed he had been “collaborating and conspiring” with the Kremlin. Page met with several Russian government officials during a trip to Moscow in July 2016. He was not charged.

Graham said he planned to ask Barr when they talk on Monday to appoint a special counsel to investigate the FISA matter, which is already being probed by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.

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“What I want to do is see if he’ll appoint a special counsel,” Graham said at a news conference. “I’d like to find somebody like a Mr. Mueller that could look into what happened with the FISA warrant, what happened with the counterintelligence investigation.”

Graham said he wants Barr to appear before the Judiciary Committee to discuss Mueller’s report, which concluded Russia did attempt to intervene in the election on Trump’s behalf.

On Sunday, Barr said in a four-page summary that Mueller’s team had not found evidence of criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia in the 2016 election and had left unresolved the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice.

Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Tim Ahmann and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Trott and Jeffrey Benkoe

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