GOP senators are fed up with DOJ’s silence about Trump’s wiretapping accusation

They’re vowing to block a Trump appointment until they get some answers from the FBI.

Sens. Grassley (left) and Graham, pictured in 2007. CREDIT: AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke
Sens. Grassley (left) and Graham, pictured in 2007. CREDIT: AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke

During a Today interview on Wednesday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) vowed that the Senate Judiciary Committee will obstruct the nomination of Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general until the FBI provides some answers about President Trump’s baseless accusation that President Obama wiretapped him.

Graham also reiterated a threat he first made last week, pledging to use to subpoena power to get the information if necessary.

“Congress is going to flex its muscle and you see that all over the place,” Graham said. “We’ll issue a subpoena to get the information. We’ll hold the deputy attorney general’s nomination until Congress is provided with information to finally clear the air as to whether or not there was ever a warrant issued against the Trump campaign.”

Trump first made the wiretapping allegation on March 4. The next day, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied that a warrant was ever issued to electronically monitor communications from Trump Tower. Obama’s spokesperson also denied the allegations.

If a warrant was issued, that means the intelligence community had probable cause to believe that someone in Trump Tower was acting as a Russian agent.

FBI Director James Comey reportedly asked the Department of Justice to publicly knock down Trump’s accusation with a statement, but nearly two weeks later, the DOJ still hasn’t done that. Graham, who wrote a letter to the FBI and DOJ demanding evidence on March 8, expressed frustration with DOJ’s silence during Wednesday’s interview.

“If it’s not true, just tell me it’s not true,” Graham said. “Why is it taking so long to get the answer? So I have no evidence of it, I’m suspicious of it, but now I’m getting concerned because it’s taking so long to answer my letter.”

As Graham alluded to during the interview, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is also growing frustrated with how long it’s taking to get to the bottom of Trump’s accusation.

On Tuesday, Grassley vowed to hold up Rosenstein’s nomination until the judiciary committee gets a briefing from Comey about what the FBI knows regarding the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia.

“I’m not going to schedule a hearing on the deputy attorney general until we get a briefing from Comey,” Grassley said, according to the Washington Post.

The Post notes that “Rosenstein is a particularly critical figure as far as the Justice Department’s investigations into alleged Russian ties to the Trump team go. If confirmed, he would assume the attorney general’s responsibilities for any probe related to the Trump campaign, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said Comey told him earlier this month that the FBI would disclose by Wednesday whether an investigation is ongoing into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism is scheduled to hold a hearing on “The Modus Operandi and Toolbox of Russia and Other Autocracies for Undermining Democracies Throughout the World” on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., with Graham presiding.

Though Trump initially framed his allegation as a fact when he first made it on March 4, Press Secretary Sean Spicer subtly tried to walk it back the next day by framing it as based on media reports. A couple days later, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested Trump’s claim might actually have been based on classified intelligence.

On Sunday, Conway went as far as to suggest Obama might’ve used “microwaves that turn into cameras” to surveil Trump. But she provided no support for her widely-mocked claim and walked it back the next day, saying, “I’m not in the job of having evidence.”

This week, Spicer has returned to citing “numerous reports from a variety of outlets” as the basis for Trump’s claim. But the reports he’s alluding to actually don’t support Trump’s accusation, meaning that nearly two weeks after Trump first made it, the White House still hasn’t providing any evidence for Trump’s claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.