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Sharp partisan turn in fight over Obama national security leaks

Sharp partisan turn in fight over Obama national security leaks

The fight over national security leaks in the Obama administration took a sharply partisan turn Tuesday with the introduction of a Senate resolution by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLawmakers worry about rise of fake video technology Democrats put Dreamers and their party in danger by playing hardball Trump set a good defense budget, but here is how to make it better MORE (R-Ariz.) calling for an independent investigation. 

Republicans also sharply attacked President Obama and Vice President Biden, with Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress punts fight over Dreamers to March Pence tours Rio Grande between US and Mexico GOP looks for Plan B after failure of immigration measures MORE (R-S.C.) accusing the two of hypocrisy for calling for a special counsel during the Bush administration when they were serving as senators.

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"It's the height of hypocrisy for them to oppose it," McCain told reporters. "They all supported the appointment of a special counsel when the issue was far less serious than this one."

“All we’re asking for is what Senator Obama and Senator Biden asked for in previous national security events involving corruption of the government,” Graham said, referring to the Valerie Plame and Jack Abramoff cases.

“I guess the difference is we’re supposed to trust Democratic administrations and you can’t trust Republican administrations,” Graham said.

McCain and Graham said on the Senate floor that a special counsel is necessary because of possible conflicts of interest from sources of the leaks within the Obama administration.

Graham also accused Democrats of having a double standard at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday at which Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Pennsylvania Supreme Court releases new congressional map 36 people who could challenge Trump in 2020 MORE testified.

“There’s no doubt in my mind if the shoe was on the other foot, you and everybody on that side would be screaming,” Graham told Judiciary Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyGrassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Popular bill to fight drug prices left out of budget deal Judiciary Dems want public hearings with Kushner, Trump Jr. MORE (D-Vt.) after Graham had urged Holder to appoint a special counsel.

That comment sparked protests from both Leahy and Majority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinAmerica’s waning commitment to the promise of the First Amendment Senate rejects Trump immigration plan What to watch for in the Senate immigration votes MORE (D-Ill.), who said that Graham had gone “over the line.”

Senate Democrats blocked McCain's resolution Tuesday afternoon. Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenOvernight Health Care: Trump eases rules on insurance outside ObamaCare | HHS office on religious rights gets 300 complaints in a month | GOP chair eyes opioid bill vote by Memorial Day Trump eases rules on insurance sold outside of ObamaCare Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees MORE (D-Ore.) objected after McCain asked for unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to consideration of his resolution.


Criticisms of the leaks last week were notable for their bipartisanship, with members of both parties objecting to some of the worst national security leaks they said they had ever seen. 

But McCain ran into opposition from Democrats with his Tuesday measure, and the hearing included new partisan sniping. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers feel pressure on guns Feinstein: Trump must urge GOP to pass bump stock ban Florida lawmakers reject motion to consider bill that would ban assault rifles MORE (D-Calif.), who has fiercely criticized the leaks, said she opposes the appointment of a special counsel. Just last week she had said she was undecided. 

“To have a fight over how we do this now will set back any leak investigation,” Feinstein said the Judiciary hearing.

Holder defended the independence of the two U.S. attorneys he appointed to investigate the leaks in the face of Republican criticism at the hearing.

“This committee and the American people can have great faith in the two people I've asked to lead this investigation,” Holder said.

But Graham and other Republicans said that Holder’s record raises red flags about his own ability to remain independent.

A House panel has scheduled a vote next week to hold Holder in contempt for not providing documents to lawmakers related to a controversial gun-tracking operation known as "Fast and Furious," and the attorney general has become a punching bag for Republicans. 

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLawmakers feel pressure on guns Kasich’s campaign website tones down gun language after Florida shooting Murphy: Trump’s support for background check bill shows gun politics ‘shifting rapidly’ MORE (R-Texas), who on Tuesday said Holder should resign, said he was not satisfied by Holder’s claim that his U.S. attorneys would conduct an independent investigation.

“The question that’s raised by your answer is whether you have the independence when all of this comes back through you, and given your track record,” Cornyn said.

Updated at 1:58 p.m.