On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, kicked off a hearing about the Trump-Russia probe by bewailing government surveillance.
He sounded like a downright radical.
He likened what the FBI did to poor Russia-connected Trump advisor Carter Page in 2016 to what J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI did to Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.
Reminder: In 1964, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI sent King an anonymous letter, calling him “sexually psychotic” and urging him to commit suicide.
Graham, of course, has long been a passionate supporter of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program and the Patriot Act. So not only was his comparison of Page to King invidious, but his fakey concern for people’s privacy was also pathetic.
And then Graham launched into a dramatic reading of private texts.
Wanna guess whose texts? Yep: those exchanges between former FBI lawyer Lisa Page and former FBI agent Peter Strzok, in which they criticize Trump.
As the public well knows, Trump has harbored a prurient obsession with these texts for years. At a Minnesota rally in October, he even did an impression of Page and Strzok writing texts, during which the president of the United States, in front of a crowd of thousands, panted through a fake orgasm.
And now Graham reintroduced the Page-Stzrok texts in the hearing room Wednesday to push back on the findings of the report that was the occasion for the day’s hearing.
The hearing was convened to discuss the “Review of Four FISA Applications and Other Aspects of the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” issued by the office of the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz.
Somehow, Graham neglected to read other texts quoted in Horowitz’s review — the ones that show how pro-Trump FBI agents worked in tandem with the Trump-Russia investigators.
“Trump!” one of the texts exulted right after the 2016 election; a respondent shoots back, using expletives, that things “just got real.” He goes on to suggest that heads will roll during Trump’s presidency. “Start looking for new jobs fellas,” he says, obscurely.
But here’s the truth: None of this SMS prattle — for or against Trump — matters.
Because Horowitz’s thorough review showed that no political bias informed the FBI’s actions in the 2016-19 Trump-Russia probe.
“There was no bias,” Horowitz told the committee. Repeatedly. Unmistakably.
His review also found that the FBI was amply justified in opening the Trump-Russia investigation.
But the American public knows all this, or should. The Trump-Russia investigation, which was eventually led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, produced 34 indictments, including against members of the Trump campaign and the Russian military who also worked to get him elected.
On behalf of the American people, the Trump-Russia investigation chronicled and penalized interference into American elections by foreign powers.
And certainly the Mueller report, which we now know was justified and unbiased, made lawmakers more vigilant about such interference.
The reason we know that Trump asked Ukraine in July for dirt on a rival — for which he is now likely to be impeached by the House — is that many members of Congress, including Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), had made it clear they had zero tolerance for Trump’s hospitality to foreign interference. Concerned civil servants flagged that phone call and offered testimony in Congress about how dangerous it was.
But at the same time as it clears the Mueller investigation of bias, the Horowitz review also shows missteps, some grievous, by the FBI. This gets bureaucratic, but much of it has to do with how the FBI went about surveilling Carter Page, Trump’s former foreign policy advisor. Horowitz’s report spells out 17 problems with the applications for FISA warrants, which are warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
Graham, who in earlier days used to champion the FISA courts, now believes the courts need thorough reform.
This switcheroo recalls how, in Graham’s anti-Trump days, he warned the GOP would “get destroyed” if it nominated Trump. He now supports Trump blindly.
When and if the Senate holds a trial on impeachment, Graham will no doubt return to the Page-Strzok texts and preach against the American surveillance state.
Trump, meanwhile, will just keep spinning and panting and disgracing himself.
On the same day the inspector general’s report came out, the president did three things.
He railed against the FBI on Twitter, hinting that he might fire yet another FBI director, Christopher Wray.
He held a private meeting, closed to the media, with Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of the Russian Federation.
Then he stumbled and slurred through a rally in Pennsylvania, where, in what might be his nastiest performance yet, he threatened a woman in the crowd, peddled no end of lies and slagged off the FBI for not being his lapdogs.
We have a president who prefers the lies to truth, violence to civility and the Kremlin to the FBI.
But we knew that. Will the Senate ever get wise?