By David Morgan and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A second U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday sought to examine the motives of federal agents and investigators who launched the Trump-Russia probe as a Republican effort gathered momentum to seek retribution on behalf of President Donald Trump.
Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson told Reuters he planned to join Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a fellow Republican, in a review of what motivated an investigation that led to U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
“How was this pushed by members of the FBI, Department of Justice and the intelligence community? We’re fully aware of the bias that existed in those agencies under the Obama administration,” Johnson said, referring to Democratic President Barack Obama, who preceded Trump.
“I’ve been talking to Senator Graham. I want to work hand-in-glove, our two committees, to try and get that information and make it public for the American people,” he told Reuters.
Trump, whose political stature has surged with the disclosure that Mueller did not find his campaign conspired with Russia to meddle in the election, has been calling for investigations into how the probe got started.
“He is on fire. Anybody who thinks this is going to go by the wayside does not understand the issue of retribution,” said a Trump confidant who speaks to the president regularly. “Hell hath no fury like a president scorned.”
Trump advisers predict Trump will make much of the matter at a rally for supporters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday, his first major appearance since the Mueller investigation concluded.
A Trump ally, Graham laid out plans for his own investigation this week and urged U.S. Attorney General William Barr to name a special counsel to look into the matter separately.
Trump still faces congressional investigations into his personal and business affairs. But Republicans are hoping Mueller’s findings will help Trump’s 2020 re-election prospects and rebound against his Democratic accusers.
A focus of Republican inquiries is a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant for former Trump adviser Carter Page, based in part on information in a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who co-founded a private intelligence firm.
Page, a foreign policy adviser during Trump’s campaign, drew scrutiny from the FBI, which said in legal filings in 2016 that it believed he had been “collaborating and conspiring” with the Kremlin. Page met with several Russian government officials during a trip to Moscow in July 2016. He was not charged.
Johnson also hopes to unearth facts about alleged discussions at the Justice Department both to surreptitiously record conversations with Trump and to approach Cabinet members about replacing him under the U.S. Constitution’s 25th amendment.
Johnson said federal law enforcement officials would have done better to approach Trump quietly about concerns they had involving members of his campaign.
Democrats have been calling for the release of Mueller’s full report, submitted on Friday to Barr, who issued a summary. Trump said he had been completely exonerated even though the report did not clear him on the question of obstructing justice.
During his investigation Mueller brought charges against 34 people, including Russian agents and former key Trump allies.
Asked about the Republican push to investigate the investigators, Democrat Jamie Raskin of the House Judiciary Committee said:
“There is a scramble to obscure the reality that nobody has seen the Mueller report yet. So, it was perfectly predictable that once they declared the president completely and totally exonerated by a report no one has read, they would turn in vindictive fashion to try to go after the people whoever raised questions about the president’s conduct.”
(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Steve Holland; Editing by Howard Goller)