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Former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, as part of the panel’s review of the Russia investigation.
Things got interesting when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, began his time by asking Yates when she was aware “the Obama administration was surveilling” President Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Yates engaged in a game of words, saying that when the FBI began spying on Carter Page, he was a former member of the campaign — with an emphasis on former.
“The Obama administration was not surveilling the Donald Trump campaign at that point,” Yates said, matter-of-factly.
Cruz informed Yates “you don’t get it both ways,” asking the question again.
“Carter Page was a former member of the Trump campaign at the time that the FISA was initiated,” she repeated, as if the campaign had never been spied on.
When asked for the reason to target Page, Yates said that there were “a number of reasons.”
“First, we had gotten the information that I was trying to find out about here, that Russia had made overtures that they wanted to be able to assist the Trump campaign,” she said.
Cruz highlighted the obvious contradiction at play here, before asking her in her time at the DOJ if she was aware of “any other political opponent of President Obama that were being surveilled?”
Yates pushed back to say that Page was the target, prompting the senator to further clarify if any other candidates running in 2016 were surveilled, pointing out that this would include himself and Chairman Lindsey Graham.
“The answer to that is no, and I think there also was no information that the Russians were interested in any other candidates,” she said.
“So your testimony is that no other candidate in 2016 was being surveilled other than Carter Page and the Trump campaign, is that right?
“Other than Carter Page,” she replied, having no intention of agreeing that the Trump campaign was being spied on.
Sen. Graham would soon interrupt to ask, “Wasn’t [George] Papadopoulos also being taped?
(Papadopoulos was a member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.)
Yates tried to dance around the question — he was being recorded — and said that she wasn’t aware of the surveillance at the time.
“We know that the government orchestrated a recording of conversations of Papadopoulos and got a warrant against Carter Page,” Graham said. “That seems to me, surveillance.”
Cruz shifted his focus to Yates’ actions as deputy attorney general.
“What due diligence did you do before signing off on what we now have reason to believe was a profound politicization of law enforcement and intelligence?” he asked.
“Did you inquire if it was opposition research funded by the DNC or Hillary Clinton?” he further inquired.
Yates said that she did have a conversation with a DOJ lawyer about that in her office, and when Cruz pressed on whether that was Bruce Ohr, she said it was not.
The GOP senator pointed out that Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS and that he was actively involved in this investigation.
“Did you know that, did anybody inquire about that?” he asked.
She said she learned of that from the inspector general’s investigation, stressing that Ohr did not work on the FISA applications.
After a long pause, Cruz changed gears.
“You said earlier that nobody was trying to get President Trump. Have you read the Horowitz inspector general report?”
Yates used the question to stress that Horowitz “did not find any evidence of bias or political leaning.”
“With all due respect, Inspector General Horwitz found 17 material misstatements in those FISA applications, including a lawyer from the FBI who fraudulently altered a document and submitted it,” Cruz replied, noting that this lawyer did so to hide the fact that Carter Page was a CIA asset.
“You are telling me that nobody wanted to get Trump?” he asked. “How about that lawyer that fraudulently altered a document to get the surveillance?”
Yates evaded the question by falling back on Horowitz determining that there was no bias.
Cruz closed out his time with a damning statement, saying the integrity of the Justice Department and the FBI has been called into question “by the profound politicization of the leadership of the department and of the bureau.”
“To sign off on turning the FBI and CIA into a tool of opposition research and attacking your political opponents, to go all the way to the Oval Office as you did on January 5 with President Obama and Joe Biden, going after their political opponents, it’s wrong and it has done immeasurable damage to the professional men and women of integrity at the Department of Justice and the bureau,” he concluded.
Graham chimed in again to note that Horowitz found no bias “in the opening of the investigation” and that he found it hard to explain some of the behavior that would follow.
SEE HIGHLIGHTS OF SALLY YATES’ HEARING