Sen. Charles Grassley asked Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” why FBI officials requested approval from a secret U.S. court in 2016 to spy on volunteer Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page when the bureau had already been watching him for three years.
“I think I’d have to raise the question of what’s the big deal about the dossier and Carter when the FBI was already having him under surveillance since, I think, the year 2013?” Grassley told host Laura Ingraham.
Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“The other thing is … I think that if people needed an excuse and … want[ed] to wiretap people and listen in on them, did they get the FISA thing and use Carter Page as an example to follow Carter Page’s conversations so they could then learn something about the Trump campaign?” Grassley said.
The dossier he mentioned was a collection of unfounded allegations about President Donald Trump, assembled by former British spy and FBI asset Christopher Steele. Steele’s work was paid for by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
The dossier was used to secure the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court’s approval, but the judge wasn’t told of the document’s funding source. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told Congress in December 2017 the FISA application would not have been submitted without the dossier.
Grassley noted that the FISA court “is very, very important” and “there’s a lot of questions to be answered” about the FBI’s potential abuse of the surveillance system.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (DOJIG) is investigating the FISA abuse allegations.
President Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to slam the move, writing, “Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”
Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 28, 2018
But Grassley told Ingraham he has “good faith, great faith” in the DOJIG. “I really think that he is independent, trying to do his job,” Grassley said.
“We should make all of the people’s business public because it is the people’s business, except when it harms national security,” Grassley said. “And sometimes in my many decades in Congress, I felt that national security has been a lame excuse when people just want to cover up things.”
Grassley also addressed Democratic criticism against him for asking questions about the dossier, which was funded by Trump’s political opponents: former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Clinton supporters also criticized him for looking into the Clinton State Department’s and the Clinton Foundation’s ties to the controversial Obama-era Uranium One deal, along with potential pro-Clinton bias during the FBI’s investigation into her use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state.
“A lot of Democrats want to make the case that everything I’m asking about Uranium One or about the Clinton emails is just to distract people’s attention away from [special counsel Robert] Mueller and other congressional investigations,” Grassley said. “What I do all the time is follow the facts.”
“When you get into Trump-Russia, you follow the facts. And if it leads you to Uranium One, if it leads you to the Clinton emails, that’s just the way you investigate,” Grassley said. “And the reason this all started is because we want to make sure there’s not political [interference] and political pressure on the Justice Department and the FBI.”
The senator added that Page “appears to be very harmless. Now I know people that appear to be harmless can be a threat, I suppose. But that’s the way I see him, and I think he takes great pride in the fact that he wants to be transparent.”
But “people that are in his business — if he wanted to hurt America, I don’t think he’d be as transparent as he tends to be.”