Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday released interview transcripts from an inquiry into the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, claiming the documents show incompetence and corruption at the heart of the investigation.
Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, released hundreds of pages of transcripts from the committee’s inquiry into the origins of the Crossfire Hurricane probe, saying in a statement that he believes the effort “was one of the most incompetent and corrupt investigations in the history of the FBI and DOJ.”
The transcripts come from 11 closed-door hearings that the Graham-led committee carried out between March and October of 2020, including interviews with Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI officials.
One of the transcripts relates to an interview with an unnamed FBI agent who once headed one of the FBI’s field office’s investigations into Russian organized crime and later became British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s primary contact and handler. The transcript shows the agent believed that Steele’s infamous dossier, which was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, was “political.”
“I mean, it was obvious,” the FBI agent said when asked whether he believed the dossier was political in nature.
“It was completely obvious to all of us, whoever was involved in these conversations, what the purpose was of the information was—to be used by one political party or another,” the agent said.
He was asked whether concerns were raised about whether the dossier may have been tainted by Russian disinformation.
“That’s always a concern, particularly dealing in that universe,” he said, adding that he had no knowledge of how the Crossfire Hurricane team was corroborating the information in the dossier.
According to earlier reporting by The Epoch Times, the FBI relied heavily on news articles and open sources in its efforts to corroborate claims in the Steele dossier.
The agent insisted that “in no way, shape, or form” were any of his decisions relating to Steele or the connections he made between Steele and the Crossfire Hurricane team political, adding that he had not seen any evidence that political bias impacted the Trump-Russia probe.
While he said he couldn’t “speak to the purpose of the investigation,” he said he had seen no evidence suggesting that the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was part of a campaign to damage President Donald Trump politically or that the FBI “waged a coup against President Trump.”
In a report released in December 2019 (pdf), Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that the FBI had sufficient cause to justify opening the probe and he did not find evidence of political bias in the agency’s decision to launch the investigation.
“We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced” the decision to open the Crossfire Hurricane probe, the report says. “We found that Crossfire Hurricane was opened for an authorized investigative purpose and with sufficient factual predication,” it added.
At the same time, Horowitz found “at least 17 significant errors and omissions” in the FBI’s case for surveilling former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Although Horowitz said in the report that his team didn’t find evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of case agents who applied for the surveillance warrants, “we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified.”
While Horowitz found that Steele’s questionable dossier played a “central and essential role in the decision to seek a FISA application for Carter Page,” he also said his investigative team found the dossier “played no role” in launching the Crossfire Hurricane probe.
Following the release of Horowitz’s report, then-Attorney General William Barr disputed his findings that the investigation was properly predicated, as did U.S. Attorney John Durham, who has been appointed as a special counsel to pursue a separate investigation into whether Crossfire Hurricane was launched correctly and lawfully.
Graham criticized the leadership of the FBI under former Director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, arguing it was “either grossly incompetent” or said “they knowingly allowed tremendous misdeeds.”
“There was a blind eye turned toward any explanation other than the Trump campaign was colluding with foreign powers,” Graham said. “At every turn the FBI and DOJ ran stop signs that were in abundance regarding exculpatory information.”
Graham contended the Crossfire Hurricane “investigation was pushed when it should have been stopped and the only logical explanation is that the investigators wanted an outcome because of their bias.”
Comey and McCabe have repeatedly rejected the allegations that the Crossfire Hurricane probe was improperly predicated, although McCabe acknowledged “unacceptable” failures in surveillance warrant applications and Comey admitted to “real sloppiness” in the conduct of the probe.
The South Carolina senator said he would continue to push for reforms of counterintelligence investigations and warrant applications, and said he hopes for bipartisan backing on these matters. He also urged FBI Director Christopher Wray to “continue the reforms he has started.”
“It is hard to believe that something like Crossfire Hurricane could have happened in America,” Graham said. “The bottom line is that going forward we must have more checks and balances when it comes to political investigations. We must have more meaningful sign-offs on warrant applications, and we need to restore the trust to the American people in this system.”
The Crossfire Hurricane probe, which morphed into former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, found no evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the results of the 2016 election.