Senate GOP eyes probes into 2016 issues 'swept under the rug'

Senate Republicans are preparing to relitigate some of the biggest controversies of the 2016 election as they look to turn the page from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s probe.

After a two-year investigation into Russia’s election interference and the Trump campaign, Republicans say there are still lingering, unanswered questions about the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigation and the origins of the probe of President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE and his aides.


As House Democrats eye follow-up investigations to pick up where Mueller left off, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump shares Graham quote calling Ocasio-Cortez 'anti-America' Graham: Trump should focus on policy, not personal attacks The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke MORE (R-S.C.) is signaling that he’ll use his high-profile panel to dig into areas he believes his colleagues have largely “swept under the rug” in the wake of the 2016 election.

“When it comes to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant, the Clinton campaign, the counterintelligence investigation has pretty much been swept under the rug except by a few Republicans in the House. Those days are over,” Graham told reporters during a press conference on Monday.

Graham wants bipartisan support for his investigative plans, but his probes are likely to only widen the already growing partisan gap on the Judiciary Committee. He warned on Monday that he is willing to subpoena officials as part of his investigation.

The panel’s initially bipartisan Russia probe derailed during the last Congress amid a break between then-chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyAdvocates frustrated over pace of drug price reform Trump drug pricing setbacks put pressure on Congress Hillicon Valley: Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at White House social media summit | Twitter hit by hour-long outage | Google admits workers listen to smart device recordings MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip Senate confirms Trump's 9th Circuit pick despite missing blue slips MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, about the scope and direction of the investigation.

Grassley said on Monday that he would “absolutely” support Graham’s investigation and suggested that Democrats could be more amiable now that Mueller’s probe has concluded.

“I believe that now that the Mueller report is done it’s going to be a lot different,” he said. “Any effort to do it while I was chairman, the excuse I would have gotten was it looks like we’re interfering in the Mueller investigation.”

But tensions on the panel have grown since then, over an intense fight over Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic infighting threatens 2020 unity Ex-DCCC official: McGrath comments on Kavanaugh vote not 'a death sentence' Kentucky Democrat says primary challenge to McGrath 'might be helpful' MORE’s Supreme Court nomination and Republicans moving appeals court nominations in spite of the objections of Democratic home-state senators, including circuit nominees from Feinstein’s state who got a hearing earlier this month.

Asked if Graham’s plans threatened to make the Judiciary Committee more partisan, Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinProblem Solvers Caucus co-chair calls Trump comments about progressive congresswomen 'totally unacceptable' Trump's tweets unify a fractured Democratic Party Sunday shows - Immigration raids dominate MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a member of the panel, started laughing before adding, “yes.”

“If this is all we’re going to do, it might serve some campaign purpose but there are a lot of things we should be doing as a Judiciary committee,” Durbin said. “In all seriousness, and you can quote me, I hope Lindsey calms down, thinks this over, gets us back on track to do substantive things … rather than political scorekeeping.”

Trump and his allies have argued for months that high-profile officials within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI were working to undermine his campaign and used kid gloves on the probe of former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton responds to Trump tweets telling Dem lawmakers to 'go back' to their countries The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur: Here's how to choose a president MORE’s emails, a story that loomed over the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump, who repeatedly called Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt,” said from the White House that some people “have done some very, very evil things” and suggested on Monday that those who perpetrated the investigation should “certainly be looked at.”

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonEx-Wisconsin governor Scott Walker takes job as president of conservative group, won't seek office soon Democratic Senate hopes hinge on Trump tide GOP senator presses Instagram, Facebook over alleged bias in content recommendations MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, didn’t rule out that his panel could also probe allegations of misconduct by the DOJ and FBI officials during the Obama administration and 2016 campaign either on its own or by teaming up with Graham’s panel.

“I want to work very closely with Sen. Graham and his committee to get those answers,” Johnson said. “I think it would make an awful lot of sense to have the Senate oversight committee work with the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

Graham was long a target of ire from conservatives because of his work with Democrats on immigration and support for legislation that would have protected Mueller from being fired.

But his stock skyrocketed among conservatives after he exploded at Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearing and accused them of trying to “destroy this guy’s life” after sexual assault allegations surfaced against Kavanaugh.

Graham, who is up for reelection in 2020 in a state where Trump remains popular, has emerged as a close ally of the president. Graham has stuck by Trump even as the president publicly lashed out at the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain argues with Andrew Yang about free marriage counseling proposal Veterans groups hand out USS John McCain shirts on National Mall during Trump speech Trump is still on track to win reelection MORE (R-Ariz.), who was friends with the South Carolina senator.

Graham appeared incredulous when asked Monday if his close relationship with Trump made him biased in his role of overseeing the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is charged with oversight of the Justice Department.

“You’ve got to be kidding … I am an elected political official. I’m a Republican. I am going all over the country to speak to the Republican Party. I want Trump to win. I am chairman of the Judiciary Committee. I do my job very responsibly,” he said. “To suggest that if you are a Republican and that you want Trump to win, somehow you can’t do your job is absurd.”

His investigative plans will put him at stark odds with House Democrats, who are already eyeing potential spinoffs from Mueller’s findings and questions they view as left unanswered by the special counsel.

Mueller, according to a four-page letter Attorney General William Barr sent to lawmakers, did not find that the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.

The letter also says that Mueller made no conclusion as to whether Trump obstructed justice in the investigation into Russia’s election interference, but that Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates House Judiciary to vote to authorize subpoenas for Trump officials, immigration documents MORE, after reviewing Mueller’s findings, determined that they would not pursue an obstruction of justice charge — a decision Democrats are expected to litigate in Congress for the foreseeable future.

Though Graham wants Barr to testify publicly before the Judiciary Committee, Senate Republicans signaled that they are ready to turn the page.

“I sincerely hope that now at last our friends on the left will be able to put aside their fixation on permanently relitigating their loss in 2016,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat Democrats should say about guns This week: House Dems voting to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller MORE (R-Ky.) said from the Senate floor. “Actually join in the productive work that the rest of us have been proudly engaged in for the past two years and counting.”

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand Lawyer: Flynn will keep cooperating after co-conspirator revelations Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act exposes Silicon Valley's hollow diversity slogans MORE (R-Ky.), an ally of Trump’s, added in a tweet: “Time to investigate the Obama officials who concocted and spread the Russian conspiracy hoax!”