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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.”

Democrats, Sanders Blast Trump on Claims Against Obama

Democrats in the United States Senate came out strong today after Donald Trump’s weekend Twitter meltdown in which he accused President Obama of personally ordering wire-tapping against him last year. Trump’s charges were made all the more ridiculous, given that the U.S. president does not have the authority to make such a unilateral request.

“The White House has offered no clear evidence or facts to support this claim,” said Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), in a statement. “The President should stop these absurd attempts to distract from the real oversight needed on Russian interference.”

“The President’s repeated practice of making bizarre and unsubstantiated statements undermines the truth and tarnishes the integrity of our democratic institutions. It is patently clear that and independent special prosecutor is needed to fully investigate Trump Administration and campaign connections to Russia and Russian interference so the American people can learn the truth and regain confidence in our democracy.”

Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) echoed Bennet’s belief that Trump is simply trying to distract the American people from larger issues involving Russia, saying on Twitter “Trump’s tweets are designed to distract from Russian election, possible collusion with Trump officials and potential cover-up.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said that the latest Twitter tantrum only perpetuates the much larger issue of Trump’s inability to tell the truth and to distinguish reality from fantasy.

“President Trump cannot continue to lie, lie, lie. It diminishes the office of the president and our standing in the world,” said Sanders. “Mr. Trump claimed without any evidence that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower last year — a claim which the FBI and intelligence officials have rejected as false.”

Here’s more from Sanders:

“He said that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally. Another lie. He said ‘it looked like a million and a half people’ at his inauguration. Not even close. He said his 2016 victory ‘was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.’ Also a lie.

“And Mr. Trump has been lying long before he was president when he started the ‘birther’ conspiracy against President Obama in an attempt to delegitimize our country’s first black president. The United States will not be respected or taken seriously around the world if Donald Trump continues to shamelessly lie.”

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) agreed that Trump is using his ludicrous allegations against Obama to derail the news cycle from the issue of his administration’s close ties to Russia and the extent to which he now occupies the White House based on that interference.

“I’ll remind you that the big issue here that I think President Trump is trying to distract us from is whether or not there was collusion between the Trump campaign and our last presidential election, and the larger issue that faces all of us is whether we’re going to defend our democracy against Russian aggression,” said Coons.

And, like Sanders, Coons reinforced the notion that Trump wouldn’t recognize the truth if it was as sexy to him as Vladimir Putin praising his intellect.

“Let’s remember the record here. Donald Trump dedicated years of his life to running around our country claiming that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States without a shred of evidence, and immediately after his election claimed millions of people voted illegally and demanded an investigation, which even in this investigation-prone Republican Congress they haven’t taken him up on it because there’s no evidence of that either.”

Schumer Calls for Sessions’ Recusal, Full Investigation

From the Senate floor a little while ago… Here’s Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) making it clear that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions has no choice but to recuse himself from any Justice Department probe of the Trump/Flynn/Russia scandal. (See video below.)

Not seen in this short clip are some other important things Schumer said about how Flynn’s resignation is only the beginning of this story:

“It is now readily apparent that General Flynn’s resignation is not the end of the story, it is merely the beginning of a much longer story. The circumstances of General Flynn’s contact with the Russian ambassador during the transition, the recent reports of potential high-level contact between the Trump Campaign and Russian intelligence, including general Flynn, should raise hairs on the necks of everyone in this body and every American of goodwill, democrat, republican, conservative, liberal, independent.”

On Trump’s Culpability

“Every report that suggests deeper ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government needs to be followed up on and verified. We need to get all the facts.

“The White House knew for weeks that General Flynn misled the Vice President and let General Flynn stay on the job. They knew for weeks that his discussion about sanctions with the Russian government could potentially compromise our national security because he’d be subject to blackmail, and they let him stay on. The president knew for weeks about this and let General Flynn stay on in his full capacity, present at and participating in the highest level of national security discussions until those reports were made public.

“If the reports of General Flynn’s incorrect statements to the Vice President were never made public by the Washington Post, would the president’s trust ever have eroded? Would General Flynn ever have been fired? Would he still be in his job today? We’ll never know now.”

Senate Intelligence Committee to Probe Trump, Russia Connection

In a show of bipartisanship rare in the new 115th Congress, Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA), the Republican and Democratic heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have jointly announced that they will thoroughly investigate “counterintelligence concerns related to Russia and the 2016 U.S. election” and “any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”

“Reports that the White House may have been briefed weeks ago on the nature of Gen. Flynn’s calls raise deeply troubling questions,” said Warner in his own statement. “The American people deserve to know at whose direction Gen. Flynn was acting when he made these calls, and why the White House waited until these reports were public to take action.”

Committee Chairman Burr concurred in the joint statement, which also said that testimony would be taken from senior officials in both the Obama and Trump administrations and that this includes “.. the issuance of subpoenas if necessary to compel testimony.”

“As part of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s oversight responsibilities we believe that it is critical to have a full understanding of the scope of Russian intelligence activities impacting the United States,” said Burr.

And Warner was quick to point out that in no way does Flynn’s resignation eliminate the need for an ongoing investigation.

“Nothing about this resignation, or resignations that could occur in the future, precludes the Senate Intelligence Committee from continuing to investigate Gen. Flynn, or any other campaign official who may have had inappropriate and improper contacts with Russian officials prior to the election.”

Blumenthal Calls for Independent Counsel on Flynn Case

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is demanding a special counsel in the case of Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who resigned yesterday after less than 30 days in the Trump administration. Flynn quit after it was revealed that he lied to the White House about his conversation with a Russian official in which he discussed the sanctions imposed on Russia by Barack Obama, over interference in the November U.S. elections.

“There are very serious questions about who knew what and when,” said Blumenthal today from the Senate floor. “These classic what did they know and when did they know it questions must be answered by an independent counsel or commission, and the reason that it must be independent is the same very profoundly important reason that I gave to then-nominee Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General.”

Blumenthal made it clear that it was Sessions’ closeness with Trump for the entirety of the presidential campaign and during the transition that made him question the new Attorney General’s objectivity.

“I certainly have respect for the office of the Attorney General, but Jeff Sessions was deeply involved in President Trump’s campaign and in the presidential transition, and I expressed to him in the hearing on his nomination that he would have to distance himself from an investigation of exactly these issues to maintain impartiality and objectivity in that investigation.”

Most importantly, the Connecticut Democrat emphasized that this investigation must have an unending reach and that it must include a probe into how soon Trump knew that Flynn was having these discussions with the Russian government.

“The Attorney General must appoint a special counsel in cases where there is reason to question his complete impartiality and objectivity. The reality as well as the appearance mandate here that there be an independent investigation by a special counsel.

“Only a special counsel independent of the Attorney General and of the White House can ask with penetrating, aggressive, unflinching analysis whether the President knew before Michael Flynn made those phone calls to the Russian ambassador and other phone calls to other foreign powers, what the subjects of the conversation were, even whether they were going to be made.”

Indicating that nobody in Congress should be willing to push this critical issue under the carpet, Blumenthal said the topic was much bigger than just this single circumstance.

“This issue is about more than just a phone call to the Russian ambassador. It is about the integrity and honesty of public officials about the protections that we give to our intelligence and about the independence of our justice system.”

Democrats Sounded Alarm on Flynn in November

As I’m sure you have all heard, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigned last night, upon discovery that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and others about his conversations with Russia and the possibility of ending U.S. sanctions over election-related hacking.

This comes as no surprise given Flynn’s close ties to Russia and the fact that he has been under investigation for allegedly receiving money from Russia in 2015, when he attended a celebratory banquet, sitting right next to Vladimir Putin.

Hmmm. If only Democrats had said something about Michael Flynn as Trump’s National Security Advisor when he was nominated… Oh, wait, they did.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR); November 19, 2016

“He has indicated an openness to torture and the destruction of an entire city, both of which are clearly illegal, not to mention immoral and destructive to America’s global leadership. His financial entanglements with Russia and other foreign governments are also cause for concern, particularly given President-elect Trump’s refusal to disclose his own finances.”

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD); November 18, 2016

“As a staunch critic of Russia’s approach to the liberal democratic process, human rights, sovereignty and the rule of law, I am disturbed by General Flynn’s relationships and ties with Russian actors. I am concerned about General Flynn’s relationship with RT, a television network funded by the Russian government and well-known for promoting the Kremlin’s political agenda, but which Flynn has characterized as no different than CNN or MSNBC. General Flynn was paid to attend RT’s 10-year anniversary gala in Russia, where he gave a talk on world affairs and was photographed sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin – a photograph Mr. Putin has used repeatedly to promote his own causes.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD); November 18, 2016

“President-elect Trump promised during his campaign that he would ‘drain the swamp,’ but his top national security adviser is Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, whose firm is reportedly being paid to lobby the U.S. Government by a close ally of Turkey’s president. It is unclear how Lt. Gen. Flynn was reportedly allowed into intelligence briefings during the campaign despite these apparent conflicts of interest.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); November 18, 2016

“I am deeply concerned about his views on Russia, which over the last 12 months have demonstrated the same fondness for the autocratic and belligerent Kremlin which animate President-elect Trump’s praise of Vladimir Putin. Some of the policy positions he’s advocated, a newfound affinity for the Russian and Kremlin, concern me a great deal.”

Stay tuned as the depth of ties between Russia and the Trump administration continue to unfold.

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