Graham’s next move after Mueller report: Investigate Obama’s Department of Justice

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Monday laid out his next steps for dealing with the aftermath of Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

First up: Launch an investigation into whether Hillary Clinton, Trump’s former democratic challenger, got help from President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice.

This move by Graham, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, is sure to set South Carolina’s senior senator on a collision course with Democrats.

At the same time, Graham predicted his GOP colleagues would be “enthusiastic” about the direction in which he planned to take his committee.

Graham spent Monday saying many of the things Democrats want to hear. He reiterated his support for White House special counsel Mueller, and Mueller’s pursuit of answers regarding whether Trump or his associates colluded with the Russians to influence the outcome of his presidential election.

Graham personally received assurances that Attorney General William Barr will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions about Mueller’s report, which — according to a four-page memo from Barr — did not find evidence of collusion or attempts by Trump to obstruct justice. The senator also said he wanted as much of the full report to be released to the public as possible.

But Graham also said he would soon ask Barr to appoint a special counsel to determine whether the Obama administration’s Department of Justice unlawfully obtained a warrant to spy on a Trump associate as a way to help bolster Clinton, Trump’s 2016 Democratic challenger. That special counsel, Graham said, might also look into the Obama-era FBI’s handling of an investigation into Clinton’s use of private emails.

Graham signaled he was prepared to hold Judiciary Committee hearings on these topics, too.

“What makes no sense to me is that all of the abuse by the Department of Justice and the FBI, the unprofessional conduct, the shady behavior — nobody seems to think that’s much important,” Graham said. “Well, that’s gonna change, I hope.”

Predictably, Democrats scoffed at the idea.

“Seriously? Seriously? Seriously?” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a member of the Judiciary Committee, asked repeatedly before snorting with laughter. “That’s great.”

“I don’t understand that, and I don’t quite know what the purpose is or what he’s looking for,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said of Graham’s interest in appointing another special counsel.

Many Republicans offered a full-throated endorsement of Graham’s proposal for a new investigation, including U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who often clashes with Graham on foreign policy.

“I’ve thought that all along,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. “In fact, I thought if they were going to investigate President Trump they ought to be investigating ... Hillary Clinton’s emails. If I were in that position I would have considered it seriously. They ought to be investigating all the allegations.”

Graham, who stressed he’s been saying Congress should investigate these matters since 2017, agreed it’s about fairness, that if a special counsel was appointed to probe potential misconduct surrounding the Trump campaign, the same should be done in regard to the Clinton campaign.

“I want the people who believe that Trump was poorly treated ... to know that somebody looked at it and gave a damn,” Graham said.

On Monday evening, Graham said he had not yet broached the subject with Barr of appointing a new special counsel.

Earlier on Monday, at a press conference on Capitol Hill, Graham defended himself against accusations that it might have been unseemly for him to have spent the weekend at Trump’s estate in Florida as the political world awaited the verdict from the Mueller report — he spoke at a Palm Beach GOP fundraiser on Friday and golfed with the president on Sunday.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Graham said. “I am an elected political official. I am a Republican. I am going all over the country to speak to the Republican Party. I want Trump to win. I’m chairman of the Judiciary Committee ... To suggest (that) if you’re a Republican and you want Trump to win, somehow you can’t do your job, is absurd.”

Lesley Clark and Bryan Lowry of the McClatchy Washington bureau contributed to this report.

Emma Dumain covers Congress and congressional leadership for McClatchy DC and the company’s newspapers around the country. She previously covered South Carolina politics out of McClatchy’s Washington bureau. From 2008-2015, Dumain was a congressional reporter for CQ Roll Call.