The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump takes gamble on new China tariffs Did senators forget that Trump Jr. answered the questions already? McConnell: Trump shouldn’t worry about Trump Jr. subpoena MORE is putting a spotlight on a split within the GOP conference between it and another key panel investigating the 2016 election — the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Intelligence Committee has long been seen as the last bipartisan investigation into the 2016 election on Capitol Hill. Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrThe Hill’s 12: 30 Report: Trump takes gamble on new China tariffs McConnell: Trump shouldn’t worry about Trump Jr. subpoena History will judge sycophantic Republicans harshly MORE (R-N.C.) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerMcConnell: Trump shouldn’t worry about Trump Jr. subpoena Trump Jr. subpoena sparks internal GOP battle Warner: Campaigns should start reporting foreign contacts to FBI MORE (Va.), have worked closely together and generally avoided partisan fights.
News of the Trump Jr. subpoena provoked GOP criticism of Barr, with Warner coming to his defense.
The Judiciary Committee has been seen as a more partisan panel, and its chairman, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP lawmaker: Mueller should ‘come to Congress’ Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Trump nominates Shanahan as Pentagon chief | House panel advances bill to block military funds for border wall | Trump defends Bolton despite differences Graham to support Defense pick he previously declared his ‘adversary’ MORE (R-S.C.), is now plotting an investigation into the handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem strategist says some voters took their vote for granted in 2016 Dem strategist says Midwest voters were upset Clinton spent little time there in 2016 Former FBI lawyer defends agency’s probe into Trump campaign officials MORE’s email probe and GOP concerns that the Obama-era FBI “spied” on Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump and his allies have accused the issue of being “swept under the rug.”
Graham, who took over the Judiciary Committee in January, distanced himself from the Trump Jr. subpoena, the first known instance of a subpoena directed toward one of the president’s children.
“I’m not his lawyer, so it’s up to him, but if I were his lawyer I’d be reluctant to put him back in this circus,” Graham told reporters.
Graham avoided any criticism of Burr, but said of the investigation into Trump’s campaign: “for me, it’s over.”
The two panels engaged in a turf battle in the early days of the Trump administration, and have since traveled down different paths, with wildly different scopes of interest.
They initially locked horns over competing requests to hear from key figures like former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyCNN’s Comey town hall comes in third in cable news race Trump rips Comey after CNN town hall: ‘He brought the FBI down’ Comey slams Sarah Sanders’s ‘slip of the tongue’ about his firing MORE.
Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: House chairman issues subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns | Trump touts trade talks as China, US fail to reach deal | Five things to know about Trump’s trade war with China | GOP offers support for Trump on tariffs GOP offers support for Trump on China tariffs The Hill’s Morning Report – Barr held in contempt after Trump invokes executive privilege, angering Dems MORE (R-Iowa), the Judiciary chairman from 2015 through 2018, kvetched at the time that his requests were being “stonewalled,” after Comey declined to appear before his panel but testified publicly before Burr’s committee.
“We’ve each got a piece of this, but they’re all distinct,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill’s Morning Report — Trump escalates trade war with China as talks continue Trump Jr. subpoena sparks internal GOP battle Ted Cruz: There’s no need for another subpoena for Donald Trump Jr. MORE (R-Texas), who is one two senators who serves on both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.
Asked about the tension between the two panels during the previous Congress, he added: “I think there’s less now.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee is 28 months into its investigation of Russia’s election interference. Senators predict their report will go even further than special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE in detailing Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential race.
“The primary goal of our endeavor is to look at how the intelligence community performed facing the threat from Russia, describe what the threat from Russia was and continues to be, and outline suggestions for how to posture against it and protect us in the future. That’s our focus,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioUS imposes sanctions on shipping firms, tankers tied to Venezuela The Hill’s Morning Report — Trump escalates trade war with China as talks continue Trump Jr. subpoena sparks internal GOP battle MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the panel.
Meanwhile, Graham is laying the groundwork for “investigating the investigators,” including the origins of the Obama FBI’s decision to open an investigation into the Trump campaign, the so-called Steele dossier and if the FBI under Comey mishandled the Clinton investigation.
He’s being joined in his plans by Grassley and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill’s Morning Report – Lawmakers split over Mueller findings: ‘case closed’ vs. ‘cover-up’ GOP senators push for probe of ‘apparent leaks’ in Russia investigation Trump’s pursuit of infrastructure deal hits GOP roadblock MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who have requested a briefing from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrNadler accuses Trump of ‘direct assault on the constitutional order’ in letter to DOJ Nadler says Mueller will not testify next week Former FBI lawyer defends agency’s probe into Trump campaign officials MORE after he told lawmakers he was reviewing “spying” on the Trump campaign.
Grassley, during his time as Judiciary chairman, sent a flurry of letters during the previous Congress pressing for information on the Steele dossier and Clinton’s email server, after an effort to have a bipartisan investigation derailed amid differences with Democrats on the panel.
Graham sent out new letters on Friday requesting Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUyghurs are being persecuted in China — US must protect them North Korea’s explosive again, but Trump can still defuse it Pompeo to travel to Russia, meet with Putin next week MORE make a department employee, who allegedly spoke with former MI6 agent and dossier author Christopher Steele, available for an interview.
Both Graham and Burr vote with Trump more than 90 percent of the time, according to tracking by FiveThirtyEight. But, in some ways, the two chairmen are opposites.
Burr is known for eschewing the press. He dodged reporters around the Capitol on Thursday, including escaping up a set of senators-only stairs after one pack followed him outside.
During the 2016 election, his campaign got in-state criticism for being cagey about his schedule.
Graham embraces the media. He frequently speaks with reporters as he walks from the Capitol basement to his office, stopping to give soundbites to TV cameras along the way.
Burr has said he won’t run for reelection in 2022, giving him more political freedom as he pursues his investigation. He’s also made a public point of avoiding meetings with Trump during the probe, stretching back to July 2017 when reporters noticed he was skipping a healthcare meeting at the White House.
Graham, by comparison, is up for reelection in 2020 and has aligned himself closely with the White House, including having Vice President Pence help kick off his campaign.
He dismissed a question earlier this year about if his close ties to Trump made him too conflicted, telling a reporter: “you’ve got to be kidding.”
But Graham’s plans are rankling Democrats, who complain he is chasing conspiracy theories with his plan to relitigate Obama-era scandals.
Warner, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, argued that even conservative members of the Senate Intelligence Committee aren’t leading the charge to “investigate the investigators” because they’ve “seen the evidence.”
“I think it’s curious that the folks who are yelling the loudest about the origins of this investigation are generally folks who have the least information on this investigation,” he said.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are clamoring for Graham to bring Mueller before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham has asked Mueller if he wants to testify about any “misrepresentations” of a phone call he had with Attorney General William Barr but indicated otherwise that he’s ready to move on from the Russia probe.
Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to border wall | Dems blast move | House Dem pushes Pelosi to sue over Trump’s Yemen veto Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to Trump border wall from Afghan forces, other accounts Senators sound alarm over looming budget, shutdown battles MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Burr’s willingness to subpoena Trump Jr. underscored the differences between the two panels.
“It’s a sharp contrast here,” Durbin said, referring to the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. “I don’t understand Senator Graham’s position. Clearly Bob Mueller’s testimony would clarify a lot of things brought up in the Barr hearing. And I think that Lindsey’s making a big mistake.”