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Senate Judiciary Committee To Hear Testimony About IG Report

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There will be a couple of high-profile guests on Capitol Hill today. FBI Director Christopher Wray and the inspector general of the Justice Department Michael Horowitz will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where they will almost certainly face tough questions over the FBI's conduct leading up to the 2016 election. The two were asked to come to the Hill after the inspector general released that report last week looking at allegations of political bias within the FBI.

Many Republicans have been focusing on these text messages sent by one FBI agent, Peter Strzok, which demonstrated bias against Donald Trump. The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CBS that the revelation might keep President Trump from sitting for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

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RUDY GIULIANI: I'm not sure we can possibly recommend being questioned until we know how badly is this investigation infected by what Strzok did at the beginning when he was with Mueller for so long.

MARTIN: For a preview of what we can expect from today's testimony from Wray and Horowitz, we are joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator, thanks for being with us.

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Wonderful to be with you. Thank you.

MARTIN: The president and his legal team are using the inspector general's report to impugn the integrity of the special counsel's investigation. What's wrong with that?

BLUMENTHAL: They are seeking to distort and discredit the special counsel investigation by in effect weaponizing this report unfairly and inaccurately. The clear finding in the report, and it's very explicit, is that there was no impact, none, on either the Clinton investigation and certainly not on the special counsel investigation.

MARTIN: Although the optics don't look good.

BLUMENTHAL: Well, the optics are the statement, we'll stop it, when Strzok referred to the Trump campaign. But there was a clear finding that in fact Strzok and Page, the counsel who's also involved in those texts...

MARTIN: Lisa Page.

BLUMENTHAL: ...Those texts, sought even more aggressive measures in the course of the Clinton investigation - search warrants and grand jury subpoenas. So their views and any bias they held had no impact whatsoever on that investigation. Certainly none on the special counsel investigation. And keep in mind, Rachel, Giuliani's statements are absolutely preposterous because the president has an obligation to cooperate with the special counsel. If he refuses to be interviewed, he ought to be subpoenaed. And I have every confidence that the special counsel will fairly and impartially issue a subpoena if it's warranted.

MARTIN: Let me ask you. The inspector general report also condemned former FBI Director James Comey for his behavior, his actions in the run-up to the election, criticizing him for insubordinate behavior related to the Clinton email investigation. Did the IG report change your opinion of President Trump's decision to fire James Comey?

BLUMENTHAL: Not at all because clearly, from President Trump's own mouth, the purpose of firing Comey was clear - the Russian thing, as he said to the Russian foreign minister literally the day after he fired Comey, as he said to Lester Holt in that now-famous NBC interview, as he said to his lawyers and his lawyers have repeated, in fact, most prominently Rudy Giuliani. So the intention and purpose of firing Comey was simply to stop the Russia investigation.

MARTIN: In seconds we have remaining, what is the top question that you will pose today to Director Comey and Inspector General Horowitz?

BLUMENTHAL: I want to know where they are going with the effort to uncover what happened with leaks that in fact were designed to harm the Clinton campaign, leaks from the New York office that went to Rudolph Giuliani, and what is being done to stop leaks going forward in the future.

MARTIN: Richard Blumenthal is a Democratic senator from the state of Connecticut. He sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which we'll hear testimony today from director of the FBI Christopher Wray and the Inspector General Mike Horowitz. Thanks for your time this morning, Senator. We appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.