The night before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, the New York Times dropped a bombshell: intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been examining intercepted communications and financial transactions in an investigation of possible contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. This report seemed to confirm previous indications that the US government has collected sensitive intelligence about interactions between Trump insiders and Russians. And hours before the inauguration, I ran into Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has been one of the few Republicans to call for a special investigation of the Russian hacking that helped Trump, and I asked him about this latest development.
Graham, a member of the Senate judiciary committee, said that he didn’t know anything about the intelligence intercepts. He remarked, “I want to learn and investigate all things Russian, wherever it leads.” He noted that it was clear that Vladimir Putin’s regime had “tried to undermine our election” and “succeeded in creating discontent and discord.” He added, “I want to know what they did and who they did it with.” He went on: “I want to see all of it…I want to know what Russia did…If there is campaign contacts, I want to know about it.”
Graham said he hoped to examine what the FBI knew about any Trump-Russia contacts and what actions the bureau had taken. (Before the election, FBI Director Jim Comey talked rather publicly about the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email at the State Department. But Comey has declined to say anything in public regarding whether the bureau has probed links between Trump associates and Russians.) “I hope to be able to work with Sen. Grassley [the chair of the judiciary committee] to look into the FBI’s role,” Graham said, “in terms of what they did, what they know, and what they can provide to Congress.”
At the moment, the Senate investigation of the Russian hacking and possible contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign is being conducted by the Senate intelligence committee. So it’s unclear whether Graham will get his wish for a judiciary committee inquiry into the FBI end of this matter.
Before darting off to inauguration business, Graham, who often tussled with Trump during the 2016 campaign, criticized the incoming president for trying to downplay Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “Trump,” he said, “seems to be in the forgive-and-forget mode.” He noted the “biggest mistake” Trump could make would be “forgiving Russia…for what they did in our election.”