Republican Senators Seek Prosecution Against Crossfire Hurricane Investigators
WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee implied Tuesday that government officials will be fired or prosecuted soon for investigating whether Trump administration officials sought Russian assistance to influence the 2016 election.
He called the Crossfire Hurricane investigation politically motivated by President Donald Trump’s enemies in the FBI and the Democratic Party.
“They were trying to undercut the president,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee complained that it was time to move on rather than dwell on an incident from nearly four years ago.
Graham disagreed, saying, “We will continue this process. People need to be fired. I think the criminality needs to be looked at here.”
Crossfire Hurricane was a code name for a counterintelligence investigation spearheaded by the FBI but with contributions from the CIA and the Defense Department.
It started in July 2016 based on statements from Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos, who told his associates Russians appeared to have information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The investigation progressed within months to focus on Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was accused of misleading Pentagon investigators about his income from Russian companies and his contacts with Russian government officials.
Also implicated were Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and political consultant Rick Gates. All of them were convicted on charges related to deceiving or lying to investigators.
Trump’s Republican allies said Democrats worked behind the scenes to encourage the investigation, primarily to prevent him from getting elected and later to undermine his credibility.
The Republicans continued their accusations Tuesday as they questioned former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was the only witness during the Senate hearing. McCabe was fired in August 2017 based on a Justice Department inspector general report that he improperly released information on Crossfire Hurricane to The Wall Street Journal.
He endured sometimes withering allegations from senators who said he was lying about his role in the investigation.
Sen. Joshua Hawley, R-Mo., called Crossfire Hurricane one of the worst scandals in FBI history.
“We’re looking at the use of the FBI to interfere with a presidential election,” Hawley said.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., asked McCabe, “Do you have any idea how badly you and your colleagues have hurt the FBI?”
McCabe denied the FBI sought to sabotage any politician with Crossfire Hurricane or other investigations.
“We did not open the case because we liked one candidate and did not like the other one,” McCabe said. “We opened the case to find out how the Russians might be undermining our election.”
He said many of the suspicions uncovered by the FBI were verified by the 2019 Mueller Report, which documented efforts by the Russian government to sway the 2016 election in favor of Trump. He added that some of the evidence showed Trump might have tried to obstruct the investigation.
“Our concerns were valid,” McCabe said.
He said his job firing was a political reprisal based on false accusations against him.
Democrats, such as Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, said Congress should turn its attention to the administration of President-Elect Joe Biden rather than Crossfire Hurricane.
“It’s time to stop relitigating issues of the last election,” Durbin said.
During the hearing, Trump sent a Twitter message saying McCabe should not get away with “totally criminal activity. What he did should never be allowed to happen to our Country again. FIGHT FOR JUSTICE!”