A Senate committee on Sept. 16 authorized its chairman to issue subpoenas for 40 people, including former FBI Director James Comey and Cambridge professor and informant Stefan Halper, in the committee’s review of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation against Donald Trump’s campaign.
The 8–6 party-line vote took place during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting in Washington.
Committee members authorized Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to issue subpoenas in June, but ranking member Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) argued that the vote didn’t actually grant the authorization, prompting the Sept. 16 action.
The issue had come to a head when Johnson subpoenaed Jonathan Winer, a former State Department official who destroyed his correspondence with former British spy Christopher Steele, author of the unsubstantiated dossier that was funded by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Peters gave Winer cover to ignore the subpoena, Johnson said, despite the earlier vote. What Peters did amounted to “inappropriate meddling,” he told the ranking member and others at the hearing.
The vote also authorized Johnson to issue subpoenas for seven others in addition to the 33 on the original list, based on new information.
Those seven include Halper, one of several informants used by the FBI to spy on Trump campaign associates.
Democrats appear to only be concerned about foreign interference that they didn’t pay for, Johnson charged, noting that Steele relied heavily on Russians for his dossier.
“Apparently Democrats are willing to look the other way when they pay for or use foreign disinformation against Republicans,” he said.
While Peters, who is seeking reelection, declined to respond directly as to whether he communicated with Winer, he railed against what he described as “a partisan investigation” when the COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of so many Americans.
“I’m disappointed that our committee is once again meeting to discuss the authorization of subpoenas instead—let me say again, instead—of the serious challenges facing Americans, and our committee has a responsibility to address with our full focus and resources,” he said.
Referring to the list approved in another party-line vote in June, Peters said the chairman has subpoenaed none of them.
“Yet you now seek authority to depose seven new individuals on the same matters,” he said.
No other senators spoke for or against the subpoenas during the brief meeting.
Peters has repeatedly protested steps that Johnson has taken in the investigation, including the attempt to depose Winer.
In an Aug. 19 letter, he wrote that the subpoena was “in direct and clear violation” of committee rules, making the subpoena “unenforceable.”
The Sept. 16 vote appears to definitively give Johnson subpoena power.
Johnson has said he hasn’t issued more subpoenas because he’s been stymied in efforts to obtain documents about those individuals.
“How can you sit down and conduct a thorough interview when you don’t have, for example, the two documents that were just revealed over the last week?” he said in an interview in August.