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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 TrumpMeghan McCain: Democrats 'should give a little credit' to Trump for COVID-19 vaccine Trump testing czar warns lockdowns may be on table if people don't get vaccinated Overnight Health Care: CDC details Massachusetts outbreak that sparked mask update | White House says national vaccine mandate 'not under consideration at this time' 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 GrahamGraham, Cuellar press Biden to name border czar Trump takes two punches from GOP The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection MORE (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinNearly 140 Democrats urge EPA to 'promptly' allow California to set its own vehicle pollution standards Biden signs bill to bolster crime victims fund Stripping opportunity from DC's children 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 KavanaughOn The Money: Biden asks Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration | Economic growth rose to 6.5 percent annual rate in second quarter Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration An obscure Supreme Court ruling is a cautionary tale of federal power 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 DurbinDick DurbinInmates grapple with uncertainty over Biden prison plan Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Biden backs effort to include immigration in budget package 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 ClintonClintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote 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 JohnsonTrump urged DOJ officials to call election corrupt 'and leave the rest to me' Chuck Todd is dead wrong: Liberal bias defines modern journalism Grassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa 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 to produce 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff' Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear An August ultimatum: No recess until redistricting reform is done Meghan McCain on Pelosi, McCarthy fight: 'I think they're all bad' 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 RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week 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 McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden sets new vaccine mandate as COVID-19 cases surge Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Trump takes two punches from GOP 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 PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill 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!”