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Senator Whitehouse Rejects Comey Offer of Private Briefing on Trump Wiretapping Claims

When Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter to FBI Director James Comey on March 8 demanding answers on “… possible wiretapping of President Trump, the Trump campaign, or Trump Tower” they were promised a response by today.

At the opening of a Judiciary Subcommittee meeting this afternoon, Graham announced that Comey had responded to his office today and that the FBI Director committed to providing an answer — but only via a classified, private briefing in the near future.

While Graham did not comment on Comey’s offer of only private information, Whitehouse, the committee’s ranking Democrat, was quick to say it is unacceptable under the circumstances.

“I think one of the things we have tried to do here is to proceed outside of a classified setting,” said Whitehouse. “The Intelligence committees are working in a classified setting and I think the added value this subcommittee provides is to be able to have a public discussion.”

“We are entitled to investigate under the Constitution. They have Executive responsibilities and if we are only connecting with one another in a classified fashion, I don’t think that serves the public interest. So we will pursue this further.”

While not addressing Whitehouse’s belief that Comey should provide answers in a non-classified setting, Graham has been working closely with Whitehouse and has stuck with the Rhode Island Democrat in trying to get answers.

“A lot of Americans are wondering what is going on here,” said Graham. “What I’m trying to do is get answers to the questions raised by President Trump. He’s asked us to investigate and we will.”

“And to me it’s very reasonable to ask the FBI and the Department of Justice, did you ever seek a warrant, was a warrant obtained from any court anywhere about the Trump campaign? And if the answer is no, we’ll know it didn’t happen. If the answer is yes, that would be pretty stunning to me because they would have to have probable cause. I don’t know what the answer is but I know it’s the right question to ask.”

Here’s more of Whitehouse in the committee meeting today:

Senators Graham and Whitehouse Demand Proof of Trump’s Wiretapping Claim

I’m sure by this point Donald Trump has started to believe that he can just accuse former President Obama of committing the felony of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election and walk away from that outrageous action unscathed.

But now, Republic and Democratic Senators, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are throwing a wrench into those works by formally asking the Justice Department to prove Trump’s claims.

Graham and Whitehouse sent a letter yesterday to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente requesting copies of warrants and court orders “… related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower.”

The letter was sent to Boente, who will conduct any such investigations, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any probes that involve Russia or the Trump campaign.

“As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, we would take any abuse of wiretapping authorities for political purposes very seriously,” wrote Whitehouse and Graham in the letter. “We would be equally alarmed to learn that a court found enough evidence of criminal activity or contact with a foreign power to legally authorize a wiretap of President Trump, the Trump Campaign, or Trump Tower.”

Whitehouse and Graham are really only doing what Trump asked when he requested that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees look into his fabricated claims against Obama. And Trump was clearly comforted by the fact that the chairs of those committees, Republicans Richard Burr (Senate) and Devin Nunes (House) don’t seem inclined to do anything to rock the Trump-Putin boat.

But then Graham screwed that up for Trump by asserting jurisdiction for his committee, the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, saying that because his group has purview over “… the Department of Justice’s criminal division that obtains warrants for wiretaps” he has authority to make the request.

While it appears that, so far, Trump has managed to escape consequences for all of his words and deeds, this may end up being a good example of that old saying “be careful what you wish for.”

GOP’s Collins Wants Flynn Testimony, Maybe Trump Tax Returns

I hear a lot from people these days that Senate Republicans will do nothing to derail the disaster-bound Trump Train and, while I agree with that to a large extent, I think it’s important that we leave room for a few of them to surprise us. We saw hints of that in the cabinet confirmations when Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) went against the GOP by voting ‘nay’ on Betsy DeVos’s nomination as Education Secretary.

Collins was also the lone Republican voting against Scott Pruitt’s confirmation to head the EPA and she’s doing good things again as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee — this time saying that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn must be forced to appear at upcoming committee hearings on Russia corrupting the 2016 presidential election.

(Flynn resigned as Trump’s senior security advisor on February 13 after lying to Mike Pence about discussions he had with Russian officials in December.)

The Maine senator said in a radio interview that she and “many of the members” of the Intelligence Committee will make a formal request compelling Flynn to testify under oath, adding that “We’ve asked all of the agencies and campaign officials involved to preserve all documents, all emails, all text messages that could be in any way relevant to the investigation.”

Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and the senior Democrat on the panel, Mark Warner (D-VA), issued a joint statement last month saying that a full investigation will be done.

Collins also suggested that if it had probative value the committee would subpoena Trump’s tax returns.

“I don’t know whether we will need to do that,” said Collins. “If it’s necessary to get to the answers, then I suspect we would.”

While this is all good news, the Intelligence Committee conducts many of its hearings behind closed doors and we may never know what actually happens in those meetings. This is where we can only count on Democrats to make sure nothing is swept under the carpet. Joe Manchin (D-WV) won’t do much, but I think we can count on Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

But from Collins’ point of view, things are full speed ahead and she says she is committed to getting to the bottom of what happened with Team Trump and Russia.

“This is a broad investigation, and I am confident that since it is a completely bipartisan investigation with full-time staff, that we will get to the bottom of this.”

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