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Graham delays vote on authorizing subpoenas in Russia investigation

Flynn, Kislyak transcripts released
Flynn, Kislyak transcripts released 11:52

Washington — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday postponed a vote on authorizing subpoenas for dozens of Obama-era officials regarding the origins of the FBI's Russia investigation, known as Crossfire Hurricane. Chairman Lindsey Graham delayed a vote until next week to allow amendments from Democrats.

"We're going to get the subpoena debate behind us, but I think it's best to carry it over so we can talk. This is an important issue," Graham said during a committee meeting.

The motion as written would authorize subpoenas for testimony and documents to 55 individuals, most of whom are former officials in the Obama administration. The list includes former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former national security adviser Susan Rice and current FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Under the motion, Graham could issued the subpoenas "after consulting" with Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein. Committee rules typically allow for subpoenas to be issued with an agreement with the ranking member or with a majority of the committee.

Senate Democrats oppose the motion, arguing that it grants the Republican majority too much power. Democrats have argued the committee's investigation is a distraction aimed to help President Trump's reelection efforts, and have questioned why the subpoenas focus on former Obama administration officials.

Republicans and Democrats sparred over the motion during the committee meeting Thursday. Feinstein called the motion a "dragnet authority to conduct politically motivated investigations." Republican Senator Ben Sasse hit back by accusing Democrats complaining about the vote of "trolling for soundbytes."

The debate over the motion came one day after a contentious hearing with former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the Russia probe in 2017. Rosenstein said that, in retrospect, he would not have signed an application to renew the FBI's surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, given recent revelations about inaccuracies in the application.

Graham said during the hearing with Rosenstein that Republicans are concerned that the investigation launched into the Trump campaign in 2016 was "one of the most corrupt, biased, criminal investigations in the history of the FBI, and we would like to see something done about it."

The Senate Homeland Security Committee has also launched a similar investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, as well as an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden and his ties to a Ukrainian energy firm.

Senate Democrats have argued the committees should be focused on other issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests that have erupted after the death of George Floyd.

Senator Kamala Harris proposed an amendment that no subpoenas would be approved until the committee investigates Attorney General William Barr's involvement in efforts to clear protesters from outside the White House on Monday. Graham noted that the committee would be holding a hearing on police brutality later this month, telling his Democratic colleagues to "count me in for solutions."

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