The senator leading one of the probes into Russian activities related to the 2016 election says the appointment of a special counsel is likely to restrict public access to information.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee looking into the Russian election interference efforts, has been among the senators seeking testimony from former FBI Director James B. Comey in the aftermath of his firing by President Donald Trump. But now Graham is not expecting to hear much.
“It seems any conversations between Comey and the president may be covered by the special counsel’s order, and we’ve got to be careful about interfering,” the South Carolina Republican said.
Graham said that lawmakers need to speak with the new special counsel, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, about not impeding his investigation.
“He’s a good guy, a good pick,” Graham said of Mueller. “I respect the decision, but it’s going to really limit what Congress can do, and it’s going to really limit what the public will know about this.”
Graham said that the circumstances have changed because the inquiry may be moving to a criminal phase.
“It was a counterintelligence investigation, but now they’ve appointed a special counsel who’s apparently looking at crimes, so what you told Comey is potentially an obstruction of justice charge,” Graham said. “I don’t know if there’s anything to it, but the bottom line is you’ve got a special counsel who has prosecutorial powers now, and I think we in Congress have to be very careful not to interfere in his lane.”
Still, the Senate investigations were sure to continue.
Sen. James Lankford , R-Okla., told reporters he still wanted Comey to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“We still need to get whatever documents that Comey may have or that [Acting FBI Director Andrew] McCabe now has, obviously they were FBI documents,” Lankford said. “Our investigation continues on exactly the same.”
Lankford on that point echoed the sentiment of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who said the bipartisan work of the Intelligence Committee needs to continue
“We should still seek testimony from Mr. Comey in the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees to discuss the events surrounding his dismissal and be given access to his memos and any transcripts or “tapes” of his conversations with President Trump,” the New York Democrat said. “Mr. Comey was central to the events of the past few weeks; we still need to hear from him. I want to thank the bipartisan leadership of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees for requesting both the records and the public testimony of Director Comey.”
— Joe Williams contributed to this report.