Trump Jr. subpoena spotlights GOP split over Russia probes

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpMelania Trump's 'Be Best' hashtag trends after president goes after Greta Thunberg Trump Jr. blasts Time for choosing 'marketing gimmick' Greta Thunberg as Person of the Year White House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' 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 BurrGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties North Carolina congressman says he won't seek reelection after redistricting Senate passes bipartisan bill to permanently fund historically black colleges MORE (R-N.C.) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings, inflaming tensions Watchdog report finds FBI not motivated by political bias in Trump probe Ex-Rep. Scott Taylor to seek old Virginia seat 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 GrahamSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Graham: People should be fired over surveillance report findings GOP, Trump campaign rip CNN for coverage of Horowitz hearing MORE (R-S.C.), is now plotting an investigation into the handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Wisconsin: poll Clinton tweets impeachment website, encourages voters to 'see the evidence for themselves' 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 ComeyHuckabee teases Hannity appearance, says he'll explain why Trump is eligible for third term Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill Horowitz offers troubling picture of FBI's Trump campaign probe MORE.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Horowitz did not find evidence Obama asked for probe of Trump Live coverage: DOJ inspector general testifies on Capitol Hill 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 CornynOn The Money: Lawmakers strike spending deal | US, China reach limited trade deal ahead of tariff deadline | Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst over new NAFTA Senate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Lighthizer fails to quell GOP angst on trade deal 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 MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts 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 RubioWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform Tom Hanks weighs in on primary: 'Anybody can become president' GOP senator blocks bill aimed at preventing Russia election meddling 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 JohnsonHillicon Valley: Twitter to start verifying 2020 primary candidates | FTC reportedly weighs injunction over Facebook apps | Bill would give DHS cyber unit subpoena powers | FCC moves to designate 988 as suicide-prevention hotline Senate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Senate bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena powers MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who have requested a briefing from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrHolder rips into William Barr: 'He is unfit to lead the Justice Department' Five takeaways on Horowitz's testimony on Capitol Hill Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? 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 PompeoSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Conservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Pompeo: 'No mistake' Trump warned Russian diplomat about election tampering 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 DurbinSenators zero in on shadowy court at center of IG report Senate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — House passes sweeping Pelosi bill to lower drug prices | Senate confirms Trump FDA pick | Trump officials approve Medicaid work requirements in South Carolina 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.”