Graham set to take over Judiciary

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP mulls speeding up Trump impeachment trial Democratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump MORE (R-S.C.) is poised to become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee after Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate begins preparations for Trump trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat Appeals court skeptical of Trump rule on TV drug ads MORE (R-Iowa) announced Friday that he would step down to take over the chairmanship of the Finance Committee.

The shuffle would put Graham, a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE who made headlines this fall with a forceful denunciation of Democrats during Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment January reminds us why courts matter — and the dangers of 'Trump judges' Planned Parenthood launches M campaign to back Democrats in 2020 MORE's Supreme Court confirmation hearings, in charge of the panel handling judicial nominations.

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Graham is up for reelection in 2020.  

He praised Grassley’s leadership of the committee in a Tweet Friday. 

“I very much appreciate Senate @ChuckGrassley’s leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He chaired the committee with a steady hand, sense of fundamental fairness, and resolve,” Graham tweeted. “His leadership serves as a model to us all.”

In a subsequent statement, Graham said he would make confirming conservative judges a top priority.

“If I am fortunate enough to be selected by my colleagues to serve as chairman, I will push for the appointment and Senate confirmation of highly qualified conservative judges to the federal bench and aggressive oversight of the Department of Justice and FBI,” he said.

Graham’s ascension to chairman must be ratified by his GOP colleagues on Judiciary, but that is considered merely a formality.

The South Carolina Republican will also have jurisdiction over the Department of Justice and special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s investigation into the Trump administration.

Graham met Thursday with Matthew Whitaker, the acting attorney general whom Trump appointed to replace Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report Bottom Line DOJ inquiry tied to Clinton, touted by Trump winds down with no tangible results: report MORE the day after the election.

Whitaker assured the senator that he saw no reason to fire Mueller, something that has been a top concern of Democrats and some Republicans since Sessions’s resignation. 

“As to Mueller investigation, I’m confident that it is not in jeopardy,” Graham said after meeting with Whitaker. 

Whitaker told Graham that he doesn’t think Mueller’s probe has breached any guidelines.

“There’s no reason to fire him. I asked him, ‘Do you have any reason to [fire] Mr. Mueller. He said he has zero reason to believe anything is being done wrong with the Mueller investigation,” Graham said, recounting the conversation. 

Grassley, who was fiercely criticized by Democrats for his handling of Kavanaugh’s nomination, said he’s looking forward to working on economic issues. 

“The economy is better than it’s been in years and there’s a sense of optimism about the future of our country that people haven’t felt in a long time thanks to the pro-growth policies of a Republican President and a Republican majority in Congress,” Grassley said in a statement. “Looking ahead, at the Finance Committee, I want to continue to work to make sure that as many Americans as possible get to experience this good economy for themselves.”

Grassley said he would focus on passing additional tax relief, expanding markets for farmers, manufacturers and service providers, and reforming health care. 

The Senate Finance Committee is one of the most powerful in Congress. It was at the center of the health care and tax reform debates of 2017 and also has jurisdiction over trade and the major entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

-- Updated 1:51 p.m.