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House Republicans plan to question former special counsel Robert Mueller about the origins of the Russia investigation, according to House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia).
Democrats and Republicans have a long list of questions they plan to pose to Mueller when he testifies before a joint committee hearing on July 17. The testimony, which will be open to the public, will mark the first time Mueller addresses questions about his 22-month investigation.
Republicans began probing the roots of the Russia investigation long before Mueller concluded his work. An investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee revealed last year that the FBI used an opposition research dossier funded by the Clinton campaign as the basis for a warrant to surveil the Trump campaign.
Meanwhile, the lead agent and key attorney working the Trump investigation exchanged text messages expressing their hatred toward Trump and preference for Hillary Clinton. The agent, Peter Strzok, and the attorney, Lisa Page, also played key roles in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of an unauthorized email server.
“What we’re going to find out is the dark underbelly of the corrupt cabal that started it all,” Collins told Fox News.
The FBI obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Trump-campaign associate Carter Page in October 2016 and monitored him for a year. While the scope of the spying authorized by the judge is still classified, FISA warrants typically allow for some of the most intrusive surveillance. For example, the warrant on Page could grant the investigators access to all communications of all the people Page was in contact with—as well as the people those contacts were in contact with—for the past five years.
“They got caught and they’re running around going wild trying to do everything they can, but they spied on my campaign,” Trump told Fox News on June 26. “It’s as simple as that. It’s so illegal, it’s probably the biggest political scandal in history and they got caught doing it.”
Mueller concluded his investigation in March, finding there was insufficient evidence to establish that anyone colluded with Russia. The special counsel also did not bring an obstruction of justice charge against President Donald Trump.
Democrats in Congress have shown intense interest in why Mueller did not make a decision on obstruction charges. In addition to probing the origins of the Russia investigation, Republican lawmakers plan to delve into how Mueller assembled his team and composed the final report.
“I think the interesting thing here is where did he start?” Collins said. “How did he assemble his team? Why did they assemble the team that they did?”
Trump and his allies have often pointed to the composition of Mueller’s team to question the integrity of the special counsel investigation. The team was dominated by lawyers who donated to Democrats. Mueller also initially hired Strzok and Page, only to remove them after news of their text messages was revealed. Republicans also want to know when Mueller decided there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“Bob Mueller better be prepared,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C) told Fox News. “Because I can tell you, he will be cross-examined for the first time and the American people will start to see the flaws in his report.”
Republicans will also probe the extent to which Mueller scrutinized the opposition research dossier. Christopher Steele, a former British spy, compiled the dossier by paying second- and third-hand sources with ties to the Kremlin.
The FBI was aware that Steele was biased against Trump and wanted to stop Trump from being elected. Despite the dossier’s ties to Moscow and foreign intelligence, the Mueller report only briefly mentions the document and does not describe any efforts to investigate how the dossier came about and why the FBI used it to spy on the Trump campaign without due verification.
“Why did they decide to put part of the dossier and discuss it in the Mueller report and then not discuss the other parts?” Collins asked.