Lindsey Graham Previews Tough Questions For Obama Officials About Trump Surveillance

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday previewed questions he plans to ask Obama administration officials about surveillance conducted against the Trump campaign during a hearing next month.

In particular, Graham said he will ask former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about his seemingly inconsistent comments regarding surveillance approved by the Obama administration under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Clapper said last month that the Obama administration did not obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump Tower or the Trump campaign. But it has since been reported that the FBI obtained surveillance approval against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“Here’s my question: did you know about that warrant? Did you not consider Carter Page an operative of the Trump campaign?” Graham told Fox News in a preview of his questions for Clapper.

Graham chairs a Senate Intelligence subcommittee which will hear testimony from Clapper and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates on May 8.

Yates was fired by Trump in late January.

In a “Meet the Press” interview last month, Clapper directly denied Trump’s infamous claim on Twitter that Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower. Clapper also appeared to deny that any surveillance was mounted against the campaign.

“I will say that for the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time as a candidate or against his campaign,” Clapper told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. (RELATED: Obama’s Intelligence Director Strongly Denies Any Secret Warrants Against Trump Or Campaign)

Clapper told Todd that he would “absolutely” be aware of any surveillance warrants obtained by the FBI.

While Trump’s claim about surveillance on Trump Tower has been debunked, Republicans have questioned other surveillance conducted by the Obama administration against Trump advisers.

Graham left open the possibility that Clapper’s statement was technically accurate since Page, an energy consultant, held a negligible role on the campaign. It would also be technically correct given that the FBI obtained the surveillance warrant against Page in September, just after he officially left the campaign.

“Maybe they didn’t consider Carter Page an operative of the Trump campaign because he didn’t really have a job there. So what’s the deal here. Was a FISA warrant issued?” Graham said.

Page joined the campaign as a foreign policy adviser in March. Trump campaign officials say he never met the candidate. He left in September after coming under fire for a speech he made in Moscow in July.

Both Clapper and Yates had been slated to appear in front of the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month, but the hearing was cancelled at the last minute for reasons that are still unknown.

But next week’s hearing will be closely watched. Republicans will zero in on whether the Obama administration improperly monitored the Trump campaign during and after the election. Democrats will be more interested in any information about improper ties between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government.

Graham, a vocal critic of Russia, will likely focus on both issues.

Graham also plans to ask both Clapper and Yates about whether they were asked by White House officials to unmask Trump advisers named in intercepts of communications between foreign nationals. Obama national security adviser Susan Rice was identified earlier this month as the official who requested the names of Trump associates who were mentioned in those conversations.

Some Republicans have said that Rice and other Obama administration officials unmasked the Trump associates for political purposes.

“Did Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes ever ask the DNI, Mr. Clapper, or Sally Yates, to unmask Americans that were part of incidental surveillance of foreign entities? I want to know, did Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes politicize intelligence?” said Graham.

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