Trump Jr. subpoena spotlights GOP split over Russia probes

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpPETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties 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 BurrHoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Trump casts uncertainty over top intelligence role Trump withdraws Ratcliffe as Intelligence pick MORE (R-N.C.) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces 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 GrahamGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads Cindy McCain says no one in Republican Party carries 'voice of reason' after husband's death Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week MORE (R-S.C.), is now plotting an investigation into the handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Polls flash warning signs for Trump Polls suggest Sanders may be underestimated 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 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 Comey3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 Barr predicts progressive prosecutors will lead to 'more crime, more victims' James Comey shows our criminal justice system works as intended MORE.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation 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 hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges 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 MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China 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 JohnsonGOP senator: Gun control debate 'hasn't changed much at all' back home GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation FBI Agents Association calls on Congress to make 'domestic terrorism' a federal crime MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who have requested a briefing from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrProsecutors are mainly to blame for the criminal justice crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall 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 PompeoChina threatens to sanction US firms over sales of F-16s to Taiwan Trump moves forward with billion F-16 sale to Taiwan Trump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week 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 push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions To combat domestic terrorism, Congress must equip law enforcement to fight rise in white supremacist attacks 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.”