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by Sharon Rondeau

(Apr. 22, 2019) — In his first formal interview since Thursday’s release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible Russia-Trump “collusion,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Sean Hannity on his 9:00 p.m. television show he is convinced the U.S. House of Representatives, now dominated by Democrats, will “impeach” the president.

“There’s going to be a stampede to impeach President Trump,” Graham said in his first statement.

Hannity countered that two former FBI officials who worked on the Trump investigation, the House and Senate Intel Committees and Mueller all said that no verifiable evidence ever came to light that Trump and/or his campaign aides “colluded” with Russia.  As the facts have unfolded, Hannity has called the FBI’s unprecedented probe into a presidential campaign “the biggest con job in U.S. history.”

Unlike some in Congress, Graham supported the Mueller probe and said he accepts its conclusions.  “There was no collusion; there was no obstruction of a crime that never occurred…They’re going to be stampeding to impeach Trump because they hate him so much,”Graham told Hannity.  “And I hate it for the country; I hate it for the president, but it’s going to result in him getting re-elected,” Graham said.

Although at the time embracing Mueller as a highly-qualified individual to assume the FBI’s counterintelligence probe into the campaign in May 2017, congressional Democrats have largely rejected Mueller’s conclusion that the campaign did not coordinate with Russians to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and plan to pursue proving an “obstruction of justice” case along with subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns, financial records belonging to the Trump Organization, and his former White House counsel, Don McGahn.

In the wake of Mueller’s findings, Graham said he has questions about whether or not information about Hillary Clinton’s emails was planted with then-Trump campaign informal advisor George Papadopoulos rather than Papadopoulos’s having acquired the information on his own from Russian sources.

In December 2017, The New York Times reported that Papadopoulos’s meeting with Australian ambassador to the UK Alexander Downer’s in London served as the catalyst for the Trump-Russia “collusion” investigation.

Papadopoulos, who accepted a plea deal in 2017 for lying to the FBI about his alleged contacts with Russians, has in recent months vigorously tweeted about what he says was surveillance and politically-motivated approaches to Trump-campaign aides on the part of individuals dispatched by the governments of U.S. allies such as Italy, the UK, and Australia at the behest of the FBI and larger U.S. intelligence community.

The 31-year-old former energy consultant has said that “exculpatory” information which the FBI knew existed was not presented to him or the court which approved his sentence of 12 days in prison, a $10,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service.  He has recently claimed that “transcripts” exist of conversations arising from those who initiated “bizarre” and “hostile” conversations with him in 2016 because they were allegedly recorded.

Papadopoulos insists that the 20+ pages of FISA warrant applications on then-Trump campaign advisor Carter Page will demonstrate that not only was Page the subject of a warrant, but also Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret), Trump’s first national security advisor; short-term Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort; and Papadopoulos himself.

His claim appears to have been borne out on pages 11 and 12 of the Mueller report, which revealed the contents of a second “scope” memo to Mueller directing him to investigate all four of the aforementioned men.  All except Flynn were said to require investigation for alleged “colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian governments efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”

It was the discredited “dossier,” compiled by British citizen Christopher Steele, which was used to claim that Page in 2016 was acting as an “agent of a foreign government,” namely Russia, in order for the FBI and DOJ to obtain four successive FISA warrants to monitor his communications.

Page was never charged with a crime nor interviewed by the FBI or DOJ.  He has reported death threats and claimed defamation as a result of his name having been connected with wrongdoing involving Russia.

One of the warrant applications was signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who hired Mueller shortly after allegedly meeting with top FBI officials to discuss how Donald Trump might be removed from office following his firing of FBI Director James Comey. While the Justice Department, speaking on Rosenstein’s behalf, has denied the claim, The New York Times has stood by its September 21, 2018 article in which it reported Rosenstein had suggested he might secretly “wear a wire,” meaning a recording device, when speaking with Trump in the Oval Office.

The claim is reflected in transcripts of former FBI General Counsel James Baker’s two days of closed-door testimony last fall to members of Congress.

Rosenstein was expected to leave the DOJ in mid-March but remained in his post to assist the new attorney general, William Barr, to redact classified and other non-releasable information from the Mueller report in preparation for its public release.

Article II, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution states that the nation’s chief executive, the “Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Although Mueller found no evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign, or any American, and Russia, House Democrats argue that it left the door open for an “obstruction of justice” case in the House of Representatives, the chamber which constitutionally begins the impeachment process.

Graham said he intends to “find out about the counterintelligence investigation, about how the FISA warrant was obtained against Carter Page…was there an effort to invoke the 25th Amendment; who’s telling the truth:  [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe or Rosenstein…”

After Hannity suggested the FBI’s probe began sooner than July 31, 2016, the date the agency has officially provided for its opening, Graham notably nodded his head “yes” and verbally agreed.  That opinion is in agreement with claims made by former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, now its ranking member, who has reported that the FBI was actually looking at the Trump campaign in “late 2015” or “early 2016.”

Investigative journalist John Solomon of The Hill has said that the probe had its origins in January 2016 in the Obama White House.

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