Trump Jr. subpoena spotlights GOP split over Russia probes

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpComedians post fake Army recruitment posters featuring Trump Jr. Trump Jr., Ivanka garner support in hypothetical 2024 poll FWS: There's 'no basis' to investigate Trump Jr.'s Mongolian hunting trip 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 BurrMarsha Blackburn shares what book she's reading during Trump Senate trial GOP senator provides fidget spinners to Senate colleagues at lunch Juan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump MORE (R-N.C.) and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerDemocrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense Commerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill 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 GrahamSchiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Democrats' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump Democrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment MORE (R-S.C.), is now plotting an investigation into the handling of the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders to Clinton: 'This is not the kind of rhetoric that we need' Sekulow vows Bidens, Ukraine will be part of Trump impeachment defense Elizabeth Warren: More 'Hillary' than Hillary 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 ComeyCNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group NYT: Justice investigating alleged Comey leak of years-old classified info Bernie-Hillary echoes seen in Biden-Sanders primary fight MORE.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGraham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial Social security emerges as latest flash point in Biden-Sanders tussle Trump to sign USMCA next Wednesday 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 CornynNadler gets under GOP's skin Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Democrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public 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 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 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 RubioCommerce Department withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon pushback: reports  Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter 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 JohnsonGraham vows Biden, Ukraine probe after impeachment trial GOP warns of 'drawn out' executive privilege battle over Bolton testimony  Senate Republicans confident they'll win fight on witnesses MORE (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who have requested a briefing from Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham Barr DOJ says surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Page lacked evidence Senators press DHS over visa approval for Pensacola naval base shooter Democrats sharpen case on second day of arguments 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 PompeoPompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map Huawei endangers Western values The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge 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 DurbinDemocrats feel political momentum swinging to them on impeachment GOP senator calls for public health emergency over new coronavirus Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum 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.”