Double efforts show Congressional Republicans marching through their rooms to the origins of the investigation and appointment of former Special Adviser Robert Mueller, while Congress faces a coronavirus pandemic and police reform efforts sparked by protests across the country following the assassination of George Floyd.
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday on party provisions to approve courtrooms of more than 50 officials who served in the Obama administration, including senior officials such as former CIA Director John Brennan, former National Intelligence Director James Clapper and former FBI Director. and James Comey.
The subpoenas are part of Senate Justice Judge Lindsey Graham’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into Russia and abuses uncovered by the Justice Department’s inspector general regarding foreign surveillance warrants obtained from former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Homeland Security and Government Senate President Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, is conducting a similar investigation, and his committee voted last week, along party lines, to authorize summons in the courtroom of many of the same Obama administration officials.
Senate Republican investigations were prompted by a series of documents first dismissed by former acting director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, and now Ratcliffe, who succeeded Grenel last month after confirmation by his Senate.
The documents also focused on the investigation and prosecution of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn – who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in 2017, before the Justice Department dismissed the charges last month – and compiled an opposition investigative dossier. former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.
Johnson and Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, released on Thursday a classified supplement to the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment that concluded that Russia was interfering in the 2016 election and tried to help Trump’s campaign. Ratcliffe declassified a document with some editions on Wednesday and submitted it to Congress.
The two-page document, which Comey introduced to Trump when he was elected president in January 2017, contained a summary of the reports Steele provided to the FBI. While Steele is not mentioned by name, the document says the “FBI source” collected the data on behalf of private clients. It was added as a classified contribution to the Intelligence Community Assessment following an internal discussion on what to do with it, the Senate Intelligence Committee found in its review.
This material largely summarizes what is already known about Steele’s file: that Steele concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin had directed his efforts to interfere, supported by an intelligence assessment, and that he made unverified claims that Trump’s advisers were negotiating with the Russians. and the Kremlin had a “compromise” on Trump.
The declassified document states that the FBI had “only limited support” for the report and that the information was not used in an assessment that detailed Russian electoral interference and the Kremlin’s propensity for Trump.
The Justice Department inspector general blamed the FBI for using Steele’s file to obtain an order on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on the Page page, although the inspector general said the file was not part of a decision to open a counterintelligence investigation by the Trump team and Russia.
The inspector’s general report, released in December, is the starting point for the investigations Graham and Grassley are now conducting. Both said they could release reports outlining the conclusions of their committees before the November election.
At a Justice Committee hearing Thursday, Republicans rejected a series of amendments offered by Democrats to also issue a subpoena to key Trump officials from Mueller’s investigation, including Flynn, former Trump campaign president Paul Manafort, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Attorney General Jeff S Trump entrusted Roger Stone.
Democrats said that committee was not heard from the officials they were looking for, and that their testimony was important for understanding why the FBI and Mueller’s team were conducting their investigations. The votes failed along party lines.
Graham claimed that the officials in question had already spoken to Mueller’s team and that Mueller had been allowed to complete his work without interference. Graham said his investigation was designed to examine why members of Trump’s team began a counterintelligence investigation and “why they continued every time they were supposed to stop.”
“If there’s nothing, then I’ll have an egg on my face, but I’ll promise the American people that we’ll get to the question of why everyone was constantly running stop signs,” Graham said.
Graham said he was willing to agree to Democrat demands to bring Mueller or members of his team to testify about the investigation, and he planned to hold a hearing with Justice Department officials to explain their decisions on the Flynn case once it is completed. That included, Graham said, allowing the testimony of a former court-appointed judge who wrote Wednesday that the Justice Department’s treatment of Flynn’s prosecution was a “gross abuse of prosecutorial power” and argued that Flynn should be convicted of lying.
Graham plans to hold a police hearing next week as lawmakers consider police reforms. However, Democrats on Thursday questioned the committee’s focus on the Russian investigation instead of on police issues.
“If we turn our attention to this investigation, the calls sought today by the Committee and the powers to issue those courtrooms, we will turn away from that commitment and the opportunity to really reform our criminal justice system,” said Sen Richard Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut.