Senate Committee Plans to Subpoena Investigators from Mueller Report
WASHINGTON – A Senate committee voted Thursday to reopen the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election with plans to question the investigators.
The Republican-led move responds to allegations by President Trump that his top officials were targeted for the first investigation by his political enemies.
“I am very intent on making sure this never happens again,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Fourteen of Trump’s aides, donors or advisers were indicted or imprisoned because of the investigation. The charges included fraud and lying to investigators.
Trump says Obama administration officials were trying to undercut his credibility and to help the political campaigns of their fellow Democrats.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee deny the accusation. They say Trump’s supporters are trying to help his re-election campaign by seeking to eliminate any image of wrongdoing by his administration.
The motion approved by the committee Thursday authorizes subpoenas for 53 people who participated in the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Graham, who is an ally of Trump, disregarded statements from his committee’s Democrats who called another investigation a waste of taxpayer money. The first investigation cost about $25 million.
“This committee is not going to sit on the sidelines and move on,” Graham said.
The committee plans to subpoena former FBI Director James Comey, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe.
“McCabe … Comey … their day is coming,” Graham said.
The Democrats called the investigation a politically-motivated abuse of authority.
“Furthering Trump’s conspiracy theories is not the job of the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. “This ground has been covered before by the Mueller report.”
Other Democrats said the problem is not the Mueller investigation but the broad law enforcement authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The federal law establishes procedures for physical and electronic surveillance to collect “foreign intelligence information” between “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers” suspected of espionage or terrorism.
The Justice Department invoked authority under FISA to tap phone calls, check financial records and to follow Trump’s advisors. The FBI was trying to determine whether they were cooperating with Russian agents to influence the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.
They included former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Trump political consultant Roger Stone.
All but Flynn are serving prison sentences. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI but later retracted the guilty plea. The Justice Department then dropped charges against him.
Even before the subpoena authorization Thursday, the Justice Department was facing criticism for its handling of the investigation and use of its FISA authority.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report last year found numerous errors and omissions in FBI procedures for conducting surveillance on a former Trump campaign aide. Its application to a federal court for the surveillance authorization contained flimsy or inaccurate evidence, the report said.
Rather than another investigation, “We should fix this broken system,” Sen. Christopher A. Coons, D-Del., said about FISA.