Trump Jr. subpoena spotlights GOP split over Russia probes

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump Jr. slams Republican committee chairman: 'Too weak to stand up to the Democrats' #TrumpTantrum spreads on Twitter after impromptu press conference Trump family members will join state visit to UK MORE is putting a spotlight on a split within the GOP conference between it and another key panel investigating the 2016 election — the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Intelligence Committee has long been seen as the last bipartisan investigation into the 2016 election on Capitol Hill. Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Trump Jr. slams Republican committee chairman: 'Too weak to stand up to the Democrats' MORE (R-N.C.) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks MORE (Va.), have worked closely together and generally avoided partisan fights.

News of the Trump Jr. subpoena provoked GOP criticism of Burr, with Warner coming to his defense.

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The Judiciary Committee has been seen as a more partisan panel, and its chairman, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Climate change is a GOP issue, too New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE (R-S.C.), is now plotting an investigation into the handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton slams Trump for spreading 'sexist trash' about Pelosi Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign DNC boss says candidates to be involved in debate lottery MORE’s email probe and GOP concerns that the Obama-era FBI “spied” on Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump and his allies have accused the issue of being “swept under the rug.”

Graham, who took over the Judiciary Committee in January, distanced himself from the Trump Jr. subpoena, the first known instance of a subpoena directed toward one of the president’s children.

“I’m not his lawyer, so it’s up to him, but if I were his lawyer I’d be reluctant to put him back in this circus,” Graham told reporters.

Graham avoided any criticism of Burr but said of the investigation into Trump’s campaign, “For me, it’s over.”

The two panels engaged in a turf battle in the early days of the Trump administration, and have since traveled down different paths, with wildly different scopes of interest.

They initially locked horns over competing requests to hear from key figures such as former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyFive takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump orders intel agencies to cooperate with Barr probe into 'spying' on 2016 campaign Attorney General Barr puts former intel bosses on notice MORE.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump-Pelosi fight threatens drug pricing talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package MORE (R-Iowa), the Judiciary chairman from 2015 through 2018, kvetched at the time that his requests were being “stonewalled” after Comey declined to appear before his panel but testified publicly before Burr’s committee.

“We’ve each got a piece of this, but they’re all distinct,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Texas), who is one of two senators who serve on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees.

Asked about the tension between the two panels during the previous Congress, he added, “I think there’s less now.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee is 28 months into its investigation of Russia’s election interference. Senators predict their report will go even further than special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' MORE in detailing Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential race.

“The primary goal of our endeavor is to look at how the intelligence community performed facing the threat from Russia, describe what the threat from Russia was and continues to be, and outline suggestions for how to posture against it and protect us in the future. That's our focus,” said Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump GOP senators work to get Trump on board with new disaster aid package MORE (R-Fla.), a member of the panel.

Meanwhile, Graham is laying the groundwork for “investigating the investigators,” including the origins of the Obama-era FBI’s decision to open an investigation into the Trump campaign, the so-called Steele dossier and whether the FBI under Comey mishandled the Clinton investigation.

He’s being joined in his plans by Grassley and Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonFrustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' Barr throws curveball into Senate GOP 'spying' probe Bipartisan group of senators introduce legislation designed to strengthen cybersecurity of voting systems MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who have requested a briefing from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrPelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Five takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Trump declassification move unnerves Democrats MORE after he told lawmakers he was reviewing “spying” on the Trump campaign.

Grassley, during his time as Judiciary Committee chairman, sent a flurry of letters during the previous Congress pressing for information on the Steele dossier and Clinton’s email server after an effort to have a bipartisan investigation derailed amid differences with Democrats on the panel.  

Graham sent new letters on Friday requesting Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: 1,500 troops heading to Mideast to counter Iran | Trump cites Iran tensions to push through Saudi arms sale | Senate confirms Army, Navy chiefs before weeklong recess Senators say Trump using loophole to push through Saudi arms sale Trump to send 1,500 troops to Middle East to counter Iran MORE make a department employee, who allegedly spoke with former MI6 agent and dossier author Christopher Steele, available for an interview.

Both Graham and Burr vote with Trump more than 90 percent of the time, according to tracking by FiveThirtyEight. But in some ways, the two chairmen are opposites.

Burr is known for eschewing the press. He dodged reporters around the Capitol on Thursday, including escaping up a set of senators-only stairs after one pack followed him outside.

During the 2016 election, his campaign received in-state criticism for being cagey about his schedule.

Graham embraces the media. He frequently speaks with reporters as he walks from the Capitol basement to his office, stopping to give sound bites to TV cameras along the way.

Burr has said he won’t run for reelection in 2022, giving him more political freedom as he pursues his investigation. He’s also made a public point of avoiding meetings with Trump during the probe, stretching back to July 2017 when reporters noticed he was skipping a health care meeting at the White House.

Graham, by comparison, is up for reelection in 2020 and has aligned himself closely with the White House, including having Vice President Pence help kick off his campaign.

He dismissed a question earlier this year about whether his close ties to Trump made him too conflicted, telling a reporter, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

But Graham’s plans are rankling Democrats, who complain he is chasing conspiracy theories with his plan to relitigate Obama-era scandals.

Warner, speaking at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, argued that even conservative members of the Senate Intelligence Committee aren’t leading the charge to “investigate the investigators” because they’ve “seen the evidence.”

“I think it's curious that the folks who are yelling the loudest about the origins of this investigation are generally folks who have the least information on this investigation,” he said.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are clamoring for Graham to bring Mueller before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Graham has asked Mueller if he wants to testify about any “misrepresentations” of a phone call he had with Barr but indicated otherwise that he’s ready to move on from the Russia probe.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk Threat of impeachment takes oxygen out of 2019 agenda Senate Democrats request watchdog, Red Cross probe DHS detention facilities MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Burr’s willingness to subpoena Trump Jr. underscored the differences between the two panels.

“It’s a sharp contrast here,” Durbin said, referring to the Judiciary and Intelligence committees. “I don’t understand Senator Graham’s position. Clearly Bob Mueller’s testimony would clarify a lot of things brought up in the Barr hearing. And I think that Lindsey’s making a big mistake.”