President Trump's allies are embarking on a new gambit in their long political war over the legacy of the Russia investigation on Wednesday — one that goes beyond simply finding fault with federal law enforcement.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., likely intends to find a great deal of fault with his witness, former FBI Director James Comey, but Graham also has surfaced hotly controversial intelligence material from inside officialdom with the help of political allies in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Its director, John Ratcliffe, supplied Graham's committee with material on Tuesday afternoon that it says it can't verify, but which will put Graham and Republicans in a position of questioning the actions taken by Comey and Democrats' presidential nominee, Joe Biden, at the time he was vice president in the final year of President Obama's administration.
Trump's supporters' core case not only is that the FBI and Justice Department didn't follow proper procedures in pursuing the Russia investigation, but now — supported by the unverified material — that the Comey's former bureau may have acted with bias to help then-nominee Hillary Clinton.
That's an eyebrow-raising thesis; Clinton blamed Comey for her loss in 2016 because of the director's public statements about its investigation into her email practices.
But Graham said on Tuesday the basic facts of the matter aren't the point. He's likely to argue that much of the material in the now-infamous, unverified Russia dossier also has since been debunked.
What's important, he argues, is that the FBI chose to treat seriously the idea that Trump's camp conspired with Russia's attack on the 2016 election but not, evidently, the material supplied by Ratcliffe.
"This latest information provided by DNI Ratcliffe shows there may have been a double standard by the FBI regarding allegations against the Clinton campaign and Russia," Graham said. "Whether these allegations are accurate is not the question. The question is did the FBI investigate the allegations against Clinton like they did Trump? If not, why not? If so, what was the scope of the investigation? If none, why was that?"
Critics on Tuesday blasted Ratcliffe and Graham for causing the new material to be circulated, notwithstanding Ratcliffe's denial that it has been assessed as disinformation.
The former lead counsel in House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, Daniel Goldman, suggested Graham might be reacting to a tightening Senate race in his home state: "Desperate times call for desperate measures," he wrote.
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