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Lankford Presses for Accountability in Crossfire Hurricane Oversight Investigation

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing entitled, “Congressional Oversight in the Face of Executive Branch and Media Suppression: The Case Study of Crossfire Hurricane.” Lankford questioned investigative journalists Lee Smith and Sharyl Attkisson and Former Assistant Director for Intelligence at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Kevin Brock.

On June 4, 2020, the Committee held a vote, which Lankford supported, to issue subpoenas for documents and testimony from key individuals and entities related to national security oversight investigations. On September 16, the Committee held a business meeting to issue additional subpoenas. One of those areas of oversight is the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation that targeted members of the Trump campaign beginning in July 2016. The Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz’s report regarding the Mueller probe outlined outrageous errors made in this investigation. In December, shortly after he released his report, IG Horowitz testified before the Committee

Excerpts

On the importance of accurate reporting and local news

Lankford: …Mr. Smith, now I want to go back to that last statement that you made that journalism and media has become a platform for disinformation in many ways. How does that get turned around in your perspective? You’ve been around media your whole life. How do we get accurate information out? This is one of the top questions that I get asked by people in my state in Oklahoma is: how do I find out the facts?

Mr. Smith: …If you’re talking about what people ask you back in Oklahoma, I would say that one of the central things is local news is very important. I’m not sure that anyone needs to be competing entirely with The Post or The Times or CNN. Local news is very important for people to make those decisions right there…

On the lack of accountability for the Obama Administration’s tactics against the media

Lankford: What should be done to an entity or agency to hold them to account because they were never held to account for literally intimidating the press and for tracking the press and for investigating journalists through this process, tapping cell phones and such? What should be done in that situation to be able to hold an administration to account?

Ms. Attkisson: Well, at a minimum one would think there would be an apology, and the people who took part in these actions would no longer be in a position that they could work in the government again and do these types of things, but people see that nothing happened to them. Why should anybody change they way they operate? In my case this was illegal action so obviously they should be prosecuted. But who’s the prosecutorial authority? The Department of Justice and FBI, who are the ones implicated. And since they’re not going to do the job. You have people like me, just a citizen, trying to bring a case in court to force what the Department of Justice is supposed to do criminally because they’re not, and then they spend all this taxpayer money just dragging it out, fighting it, trying to get the court to dismiss the case… 

Lankford: Mr. Brock let me ask you a question that’s a follow up to that. You’ve been around the FBI and in the FBI and now retired from it. You still know a lot of agents and know the process. What could and should be done to an agency or leadership or individuals when they have an abuse of power. How should the investigation be handled? What is missing, and why can’t we seem to close the loop on these investigations?

Mr. Brock: Some of what we’re talking about today may not rise to criminal activity, certainly violations of departmental policy, violations of the attorney general guidelines. The executives that were involved were all fired—with good reason, with cause—so there was some accountability there. What this Committee is doing, shedding light on the abuses that took place by this small kind of rogue band of executives at the FBI headquarters is vitally important. This is not the FBI I knew or worked in. It’s not the FBI agents who worked tirelessly and support personnel who work tireless every day for the good reasons that the FBI exists. This was a hijacking of the FBI. 

On James Comey’s remarks on the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane Investigation 

Lankford: …I do want to ask you one quick follow up statement, and I think I know you’re answer on this. But I want to get clarification. James Comey said in his September 30th testimony before Judiciary that he was ‘proud of the work done by Crossfire Hurricane’ that was the investigation on President Trump, at that time candidate Trump, ‘and for the most part it was done by the book’ was his word. And I think for a lot of us, we were most shocked by his two words: ‘proud of it’ and it was ‘by the book.’ Would you agree with either of those statements?

Mr. Brock: Well, I wouldn’t be proud of Crossfire Hurricane; I’m proud of our FBI agents. But, no, this was not done by the book, not even remotely.

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