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 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 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 TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: 'Hard to see how either could help' 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 GrahamLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown George Conway group drops ad seeking to remind GOP senators of their 'sworn oaths' ahead of impeachment trial House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't 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 GrassleyTrump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report Senate begins preparations for Trump trial Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate opens Trump impeachment trial Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Pelosi set to send impeachment articles to the Senate next week 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 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 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 DurbinSunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Durbin says he hopes enough GOP senators know that 'history will find you' Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial 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 ClintonNYT editorial board endorses Warren, Klobuchar for Democratic nomination for president Sanders v. Warren is just for insiders Alan Dershowitz: Argument president cannot be impeached for abusing power a 'strong one' 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 JohnsonHillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked Congress struggles on rules for cyber warfare with Iran Senators set for briefing on cyber threats from Iran 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 McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials 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 RosensteinRosenstein says he authorized release of Strzok-Page texts Journalist alleging Obama administration spied on her seeks to reopen case Rosenstein on his time in Trump administration: 'We got all the big issues right' 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 McConnellDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public George Conway group drops ad seeking to remind GOP senators of their 'sworn oaths' ahead of impeachment trial GOP senator 'open' to impeachment witnesses 'within the scope' of articles 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 PaulMitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate GOP threatens to weaponize impeachment witnesses amid standoff Paul predicts no Republicans will vote to convict Trump 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!”