Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Thursday that he would renew a call for an independent counsel to investigate Republican allegations of bias at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI.
Graham claimed in an interview with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that a text message exchange between two former FBI officials focused on by House Republicans “is just one of a series of events that scream for a special counsel.”
The South Carolina senator, who has been an ally of President Trump, said he intends to send a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosensteinasking that the Justice Department appoint an independent counsel to investigate alleged bias at the DOJ and the FBI.
The allegations center on communications between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page uncovered by a recent Justice Department inspector general investigation. Republicans say that the messages, which were critical of Trump, are evidence of systemic bias at the bureau during the concurrent investigations into Hillary Clinton’s emails and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“What I can’t get over is how much more has to be uncovered at the Department of Justice regarding a political agenda,” Graham said Thursday on the “The Laura Ingraham Show.”
“The Department of Justice and the FBI were political operatives when it came to Trump, they weren’t investigators. This screams for a special counsel.”
The DOJ declined to comment on Graham’s remarks.
Republicans have launched probes into the allegations, demanding documents from the Justice Department in a feud that has ratcheted up tensions between the GOP and top federal law enforcement officials.
Critics see the effort as a broader push to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, which includes looking at whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow.
Graham was referring to new messages disclosed in letter from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to Rosenstein on Tuesday that the congressman said raised “grave concerns regarding an apparent systemic culture of media leaking by high-ranking officials at FBI and DOJ related to ongoing investigations.”
The letter referenced an April 2017 text message in which Strzok contacted Page to discuss a “media leak strategy” and suggested the officials leaked details about the surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to the media.
Democrats have accused Republicans of mischaracterizing portions of text messages and leaking them to the press. They claim the officials were discussing changes to the department’s media leak rules in order to prevent leaks.
“Republicans in Congress repeatedly cherry-pick, mischaracterize, and then leak bits and pieces of documents to fabricate conspiracy theories to protect President Trump, and this is just the latest example,” Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement this week.
Trump, meanwhile, has seized on the new details, tweeting Thursday, “More text messages between former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page are a disaster and embarrassment to the FBI & DOJ. This should never have happened but we are learning more and more by the hour.”
Graham, who has become a confidante of Trump and frequently golfs with the president, has previously called for a second special counsel to investigate alleged bias at the FBI.
“These new text messages from Sztrok and Page about leaking information about the FISA warrant process to the media is just one of a series of events that scream for a Special Counsel,” Graham told Ingraham.