Graham mocks Nunes over ‘Inspector Clouseau investigation’

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday mocked House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes’s (R-Calif.) investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, likening him to the bumbling fictional character played by Peter Sellers in the “Pink Panther” movies.

Graham was asked on NBC’s “Today” about Nunes’s secret trip to the White House, where he said he met with a source to review classified documents purported to back up his claim that the U.S. intelligence community incidentally collected information on members of President Trump's transition team.

“I think it’s a little bizarre. There’s nothing been revealed to suggest the Obama administration surveilled the Trump campaign. That’s not even what Nunes is saying. He’s saying there’s incidental collection outside of Russia,” Graham said. 

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“The problem he’s created is he’s gone out on a lark by himself, sort of an Inspector Clouseau investigation here, trying to find some unmasking information about collection incidental with the Trump campaign and some foreign agent outside of Russia. I think the only way this can be repaired is if he tells his colleagues on the House Intelligence committee who he met with and what he saw.”

Nunes has been under fire for secretly visiting the White House grounds a day before he briefed President Trump and held a press conference to announce the incidental surveillance of Trump’s transition team.

There is speculation that the White House provided Nunes with the new intelligence, although the chairman has refused to reveal his sources or provide further details about what he has found.

Nunes has also not allowed anyone else on the committee to view what he has obtained. That has angered Democrats on the committee, including ranking member Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSenate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump DOJ lawyers resign en masse over Roger Stone sentencing MORE (D-Calif.), who has called on Nunes to step aside.

“He put his objectivity in question at the very least,” Graham said. “Here’s what I would suggest — that Devin go to his Democratic colleagues and share the information that he was given by this unknown person so they’d all know exactly what he’s talking about. If he’s not willing to tell the Democrats and Republicans on the committee who he met with and what he was told, then I think he’s lost his ability to lead.”

Graham worried that the House investigation has been permanently spoiled and said the focus should turn to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation.

“I think he has to repair the damage,” Graham said. “My belief is that the House is off track and probably can’t get back on track. Burr and Warner are doing a great job in the Senate. I’m working with the White House. But as to whether or not he should step down, I’ll leave that to the House leadership, but I think most Americans want to know who did he meet with and what did he see?

“I have no idea [who his source is] and I think you should know that and I should know that,” Graham continued. “I think he owes that to his fellow committee members, that if he went down to the White House and was given classified information about some impropriety about surveilling the Trump campaign he needs to share that with his fellow committee members at the very minimum.”