Sen. Lindsey Graham is challenging President Barack Obama to “clear the air” by demanding he appoint a special counsel to investigate national security leaks that some in the president’s own party believe may have come from the highest ranks of his administration.
“I’m calling on him to do it right now — to do on your watch what you insisted of others!” the South Carolina Republican told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren Tuesday night.
Graham was referring to Obama’s call when he was a U.S. senator from Illinois for an outside investigation of the Valerie Plame case during the George W. Bush presidency.
“You are letting the country down by having an investigation that reasonable people cannot trust. Mr. President, do your job. Clear the air!” Graham said.
Graham’s comments followed a statement Tuesday by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who said, “I think the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from their ranks.”
She later insisted her words had been mischaracterized by Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who called the leaks “contemptible” and a betrayal of “our national interest” in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nev.
“Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished,” Romney told the veterans. “The time for stonewalling is over!”
Rushing to defend the president, Feinstein insisted she did not believe Obama leaked classified information and she did not know the source of the leaks.
Romney has also urged the appointment of a special independent counsel to investigate the leaks involving a foiled al-Qaida plot in Yemen to bring down an airliner, cyber attacks on Iran, and the president’s role in ordering drone hits on suspected terrorists.
Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two federal prosecutors, one a Republican and the other a Democrat, to investigate. But Republicans, including Graham, say Holder cannot be trusted to pursue what amounts to an investigation of the White House.
Graham stopped short of citing the president as a source of the leaks. But he said, “It’s clear to me that the leaks coming out of the White House were orchestrated to create a political advantage for the president. Romney’s right.”
Graham called the leaks “the most devastating event in our national security in decades,” and said they led to intelligence operatives and their families being withdrawn from Yemen, and that U.S. relationships with other nations — such as Israel and Great Britain — had been hurt as well.
But he said Republicans simply don’t trust Holder to get to the bottom of it, and called on Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to allow an independent inquiry.
“I know this, that this was an orchestrated campaign by somebody at the highest levels of government for a political purpose. And we’ll never get the answer having Eric Holder handpick the prosecutors,” he said. “This is a big deal, and you're allowing the — your — attorney general to investigate your administration, where no Republican trusts this guy.
“So step up to the plate and do what you did when you were senators: You questioned Bush’s ability to impartially investigate himself.” Graham said. “I’m questioning your ability to impartially investigate yourself.”
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