Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham on Sunday advised caution before accepting the evidence that President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has claimed to have amassed in Ukraine against former Vice President Joe Biden.
Graham said Attorney General William Barr told him in a phone call Sunday that the Department of Justice had created a process to verify the documents Giuliani obtained in Ukraine.
The South Carolina Republican said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that there are legitimate questions about whether Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company, posed a conflict of interest for his father, whom former President Barack Obama had tasked with tackling corruption in Ukraine.
“But if Rudy Giuliani has any information coming out of the Ukraine, he needs to turn it over to the Department of Justice because it could be Russian propaganda,” Graham said.
In Fox News appearances on Saturday and Sunday, Giuliani claimed to have evidence he described as a “smoking gun” proving the Bidens were complicit in bribery and money laundering relating to Burisma.
But Graham said, “any documents coming out of the Ukraine against any American –Republican or Democrat – need to be looked at by the intelligence services.”
“Because Russia is playing us all like a fiddle.”
Last week, Trump was acquitted on two articles of impeachment stemming from allegations that he conducted a pressure campaign, with Giuliani as point man, to get Ukraine to announce investigations in Burisma and a conspiracy theory related to the 2016 election, which said Ukraine and not Russia was behind the theft of Democratic National Committee emails.
During her testimony in the impeachment inquiry, former National Security Council official Fiona Hill said the latter theory was a “fictional narrative” that had been created and promoted by Russian intelligence operatives.
“I called the attorney general this morning and Richard Burr, the chairman of the Intel Committee, and they told me, ‘Take very cautiously anything coming out of the Ukraine against anybody,'” Graham said.
In a tweet ahead of Graham’s appearance on the CBS News show, which he referred to as, “DeFace the Nation,” Trump said Graham “must start up Judiciary and not stop until the job is done. Clean up D.C. now, last chance!”
“I think what he’s talking about is oversight of the FISA warrant system that failed,” Graham said when asked about the president’s tweet. He repeated his previous pledge to hold hearings on the FBI applications for surveillance warrants related to the 2016 campaign under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
In December, a report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz identified 17 inaccuracies in requests to wiretap former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page in 2016 and 2017. Among those inaccuracies were exaggerations of the reliability of a dossier compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.
“How could you issue four warrants against an American citizen based on information that was unreliable?” Graham wondered.
“But here’s what I want to tell the president: I’m not going to be the Republican Christopher Steele,” Graham added. “Christopher Steele was played by the Russians that started the Russian investigation against President Trump. It was all garbage. I don’t want to do the same thing.”
Graham said he wanted to tell Trump that “that the Russians are still up to it,” in terms of election interference and spreading disinformation. “Deterrence is not working.”
“If he’s watching the show, here’s what I would tell the president: I’m going to get to the bottom of the FISA work process because it was an abuse of power of the Department of Justice, the FBI. And we’re to make sure that Hunter Biden’s conflict of interest is explored because it’s legitimate,” he said. “But when it comes to documents coming out of the Ukraine – to Republicans and Democrats – be very cautious.”
Graham did not always advocate such caution when it came to Giuliani’s allegations. Graham and other lawmakers who defended Trump’s actions have said evidence like that acquired by Giuliani gave the president legitimate reasons to be concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
In October, when the impeachment inquiry was just getting underway, Graham invited Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his “disturbing allegations.”
Graham repeated his invitation during a Dec. 15 appearance on “Face the Nation,” saying, “If Rudy wants to come to the Judiciary Committee and testify about what he found, he’s welcome to do so.”
But by the end of December, Graham was less enthusiastic,
“He has not shared any of that information with me,” Graham told The Daily Beast regarding Giuliania’s purported evidence. Graham said then that his advice to Giuliani was to take what he had to the intelligence community “to make sure it’s not Russia propaganda.”
“I’m very suspicious of what the Russians are up to all over the world,” he said.
Since then, Graham has said hearings related to Burisma and the 2016 election would be under the purview of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or Intelligence Committee rather than the Judiciary Committee which he heads.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson and Kristine Phillips
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