WASHINGTON — Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, sent a letter to the Justice Department and FBI today asking them to hand over copies of any existing warrants or court orders related to surveillance of the Trump campaign.
Graham and Whitehouse told Dana Boente, the acting deputy attorney general as Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from Russia-related investigations and the president’s pick for Sessions’ deputy is undergoing the Senate confirmation process, and FBI Director James Comey that Congress “must get to the bottom of President Trump’s recent allegation that President Obama wiretapped President Trump’s phones during the 2016 election,” as the White House itself insisted.
They noted that even though Trump wants the intelligence committees in the House and Senate to investigate his allegations, their Judiciary Committee subcommittee oversees the DOJ criminal division that gets court approval for wiretaps.
“Therefore, we request that the Department of Justice provide us copies of any warrant applications and court orders—redacted as necessary to protect intelligence sources and methods that may be compromised by disclosure, and to protect any ongoing investigations—related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump campaign, or Trump Tower,” the senators wrote. “We will be glad to review any such applications and orders once they are disclosed, and proceed as appropriate with the oversight the president has requested.”
“We would take any abuse of wiretapping authorities for political purposes very seriously,” Whitehouse and Graham wrote. “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.”
Graham later told MSNBC that “there’s no reason for them not to give it to us.”
“All we’re asking for was a warrant issued. And if they don’t give it to us, yes, I’ll subpoena it. I’m not trying to compromise classified information, I’m not going to compromise the investigation,” he said. “The question is, has there been a warrant issued? This is a major deal for the country. I want to get to the bottom of it. And I think DOJ and the FBI director, that’s a reasonable request and I hope they comply.”
“I want to find out was a warrant issued against the Trump campaign for illegal activity. That’s not too much to ask. The answer is either yes or no. If the answer is no, then I think we can move on and say that there was no surveillance by the Obama administration through the warrant process. Then the question is, did they do something illegally? And I highly doubt that.”
Asked at today’s press briefing if the president has proof to present on his claim that President Obama wiretapped him, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said “it’s not a question of new proof or less proof or whatever.”
“I think that there is a concern about what happened in the 2016 election. The House and Senate Intelligence committees have the staff and the capabilities and the processes in place to look at this in a way that’s objective, and that’s where it should be done,” Spicer said. “…So let’s let the Senate do their job and the House, excuse me, intelligence committees, and then report back to the American people.”
He added that Trump has “absolutely” no regrets about tweeting the accusation over the weekend.
Senate privacy advocate Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told CNN today that “given the fact that President Trump said that his predecessor ordered a wiretap, this needs to be resolved, and it shouldn’t just linger for weeks and weeks.”
“The step now is for Mr. Comey to forward and testify in an open intelligence hearing,” Wyden insisted. “…The American people are interested in matters like open hearings. They are interested in subpoenas. They are interested in a path to declassification. They deserve some concrete assurances.”