In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) demanded answers into the high-profile militant raid of longtime Trump associate Roger Stone, including who may have tipped off CNN.
Decrying the “media circus” surrounding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Graham also denounced the tactics the FBI used to arrest Stone at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home last Friday.
The political operative was arrested as part of Mueller’s never-ending probe that began with allegations that the 2016 Trump campaign criminally “colluded” with Russia. For his part, Stone was indicted on charges of obstruction, lying to Congress, and witness tampering regarding commments he made and actions taken in relation to the release of information by WikiLeaks in 2016.
That information related to emails from the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee that was allegedly hacked by Russian operatives. The FBI’s cyber-forensic teams never verified that because the DNC refused to allow them to inspect their computers.
During his arrest, Stone encountered some 29 agents, many dressed in SWAT gear and carrying automatic weapons, though Stone had no weapons in his home. CNN was the only news network on hand for to video the arrest.
“I am concerned about the manner in which the arrest was effectuated, especially the number of agents involved, the tactics employed, the timing of the arrest, and whether the FBI released details of the arrest and the indictment to the press prior to providing this information to Mr. Stone’s attorneys,” Graham wrote in his letter to Wray, which Graham tweeted.
My questions and full letter to the FBI Director about the tactics used in the arrest of Roger Stone. pic.twitter.com/y1s67DF3Yu
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 30, 2019
While the South Carolina Republican noted that, in the past, he has supported Mueller’s investigatory independence, he nevertheless told Wray he’s “leery” of the manner in which Stone was apprehended.
“I am leery that a subject of the Special Counsel’s investigation, who had retained counsel, had publicly stated that he believed that he would at some point be indicted, and was apparently willing to surrender voluntarily, was arrested in a pre-dawn raid at his home,” Graham wrote.
“Although I am sure these tactics would be standard procedure for the arrest of a violent offender, I have questions regarding their necessity in this case.”
Graham then suggested that the SWAT-style, pre-dawn raid was publicity for Mueller and to send a message to others in his crosshairs.
“The American public has had enough of the media circus that surrounds the Special Counsel’s investigation. Yet, the manner of this arrest appears to have only added to the spectacle,” he wrote, adding that he would like his committee briefed on the arrest, as well as specific questions answered.
“Did the Special Counsel’s office issue a press release and release the indictment to the press prior to informing Mr. Stone’s attorneys of the arrest?” he asked.
“Did anyone at the FBI, DOJ, or the Special Counsel’s office alert CNN, any other media outlet, or anyone outside of law enforcement that the arrest was going to occur on the morning of January 25, 2019?” Graham wrote.
On Friday, CNN producer David Shortell told “New Day’s” Alisyn Camerota that it was just “reporter’s instinct” that a crew was present, a claim that Graham did not appear willing to accept.
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