In a move that should certainly alarm the White House, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is now calling for an investigation into Donald Trump’s business ties to Russia.
CNN reports that Graham, who chairs Senate committees on armed services, foreign relations, and terrorism, wants to dig into Trump’s finances. Graham’s call comes after testimony from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
During the Senate hearing, Graham asked Clapper if, while investigating Russia, he ever found a “situation where a Trump business interest in Russia gave you concern.” In response, Clapper said, ” I can’t comment on that because that impacts an investigation.”
HARLOW: So this is significant, because this is a Republican senator Lindsey Graham telling you, that because of something – a question – that former DNI James Clapper could not answer yesterday, he wants to know more about the president’s business dealings. Is that right?
RAJU: Yeah, that’s right. It was a question that was late in the hearing yesterday in which Lindsey Graham had asked Mr. Clapper about any connection — if he had any concerns about President Trump’s business interests with Russia at this point. At first Clapper said no, no he did not. Then Graham followed up because Clapper said no, not at the time of the intelligence community’s assessment.
And then Graham said well, what about just more broadly, no time frame at all, did he have any concerns about Russian ties with Trump’s business interests, so then Clapper said “Well, I can’t comment on that, it could be the subject of an ongoing investigation.
And as a result, Lindsey Graham is now more interested himself in learning more about that. When I had a chance to talk to Senator Graham this morning, he said , “Look that’s something that I would like to look into, I want my committee to look into that.
I asked him, “well, how are you going to do that?”
And he said, “well, I’ll just see how the FBI can do its own investigation and see how that may coincide with anything that I am going to look at.”
And I also asked him, “are you interested in President Trump’s tax returns, as part of this, would that be helpful?” He said it would be helpful,” and I said, “Would you subpoena for those tax returns?” And he said, “well we’re not just there yet.”
So that is one area of this investigation that Senator Graham wants to get in to.
Graham’s interest is notable, because Republicans have largely ignored the financial entanglements between Trump and Russia. Democrats have been at the forefront of pushing for a probe of election meddling, as well as the need for an independent investigation while Republicans have slow-walked congressional probes.
Previous reporting has shown that Trump repeatedly conducted business with wealthy Russian oligarchs and underworld figures with ties to Russia over the years.
The Trump White House has been on defense about any connection to Russia. They minimized the testimony of figures like former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who warned about the possibility former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia. Trump has repeatedly dismissed the ongoing investigation as “fake news.”
Yet the story continues to grow and envelop the Trump administration, and now even Republicans appear to realize the serious questions about Trump’s ties to Russia won’t disappear overnight.