The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted on June 4 to authorize its chairman to issue subpoenas as part of an inquiry into the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign, which eventually evolved into the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The subpoena authorizations cover an extensive list of people connected to Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI’s code name for the investigation of the Trump campaign. Prior to the vote, the committee canceled authorizations to subpoena the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general (IG). Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Homeland Security panel—the chief oversight committee of the Senate—said those subpoenas were rescinded to ensure that inspectors general can carry out investigations without concern from witnesses that their testimony may eventually be obtained by Congress.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which was scheduled to vote on a separate set of subpoenas as part of its own inquiry into the matter, delayed its vote until next week.
The Judiciary Committee will lead the way in the dual effort, while the oversight committee will call witnesses for follow-up questioning and further inquiries, Johnson has said. The oversight committee will focus on the transition period between the election and inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The Judiciary Committee kicked off its inquiry a day earlier, with the interview of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who played a crucial role in the events that led up to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel. Rosenstein told lawmakers that he wasn’t aware of a number of exculpatory details about the targets of Crossfire Hurricane at the time he authorized the renewal of an application for a warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign associate.
Rosenstein also revealed that then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe kept him in the dark for a week about a series of consequential memoranda drafted by then-recently-fired FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein said that McCabe also failed to brief him about internal FBI discussions regarding the investigation of high-profile officials, an apparent reference to McCabe’s opening a formal investigation into the president himself.
Democrats on both committees opposed the inquiries, arguing that the efforts are a political errand for Trump. The Democrats say the efforts are redundant, considering the extensive inquiry completed by the DOJ’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.
The IG found that the FBI’s applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page contained 17 significant errors or omissions. While Horowitz detailed extensive evidence of bias among the key officials who conducted the investigation, he found insufficient evidence to establish that the bias played a role in any of the investigative decisions.
Horowitz has said that it’s inexplicable that such a large volume of errors or omissions could have been made by three separate, handpicked FBI teams conducting the highest-profile FBI investigation in years.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Page are one part of a broader pattern of questionable activities by senior law enforcement and intelligence officials. The committees will also look into the rampant unmasking requests targeting people affiliated with the Trump campaign. The Director of National Intelligence recently declassified a list of dozens of unmasking requests targeting then-incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn during the transition period.
Those making the requests included top law enforcement and intelligence officials in the Obama administration, including CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, DNI James Clapper, and Vice President Joe Biden.
Lawmakers will also look into the FBI investigation of Flynn. Recently declassified documents show that Comey authorized the closing of the case against Flynn days before the FBI intervened to keep the case open. The intervention took place one day before President Barack Obama personally discussed the Flynn case with key officials in the White House.
“I want to find out why they kept going after Flynn when everybody who’d looked at Flynn said he shouldn’t be part of Crossfire Hurricane,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“We’re going to go where the evidence takes us, and I’m going to try to answer some basic questions about how it got so off the rails and try to explain to the public why the FISA court was so upset.”
“I don’t know if anybody is going to go to jail. People went to jail in the Mueller investigation. Well, I think there are some people who are really good candidates for going to jail for manipulating the FISA application process and abusing the rule of law.”