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Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Hackers love a bad transition The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump campaign files for Wis. recount l Secretaries of state fume at Trump allegations l Biden angered over transition delay MORE’s (R-S.C.) plans to force a vote next week on a wide-ranging subpoena as part of his probe into the Russia investigation is reviving long-simmering frustrations on the Judiciary Committee. 

Graham has set a vote for June 4 on a subpoena that would let him compel documents and interviews with dozens of officials as he plans to ramp up his months-long probe into "Crossfire Hurricane," the name for the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. 

Included in the subpoena, which is likely to be approved along party lines, are some of President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE’s biggest political targets. Democrats view it as Graham’s latest breach of the panel’s bipartisan history that underscores his shift from Trump critic to ally.

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“I’m sure Sen. Graham has been disappointed in some of the things I’ve said and done, but I am waiting for the return of the Lindsey Graham that I worked with for so many years. In the closing, I hope closing, hours of the Trump administration, he has been such a Trump loyalist that he just doesn’t sound like the senator that I worked with over all those years,” Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Ending Trump's transactional arrogance on our public lands President is wild card as shutdown fears grow MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the panel, told The Hill. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinVoting machine company denies Trump claims about software issues Top Latino group calls for Padilla as Harris's Senate replacement Pressure grows on California governor to name Harris replacement MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, called Graham’s subpoena maneuver an “end run” around the committee rules to give himself “unbridled authority to go after Obama-era officials in order to bolster the president’s conspiracy theories and denigrate the president’s political rival, Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE.” 

The subpoena vote comes in what is shaping up to be a blockbuster committee meeting. In addition to the subpoena, senators will also vote on Justin Walker’s nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court, which is viewed as the second most powerful court in the country behind the Supreme Court. 

It is the latest partisan fight that has buffeted the panel in the wake of Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughCOVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Defusing the judicial confirmation process The magnificent moderation of Susan Collins MORE’s Supreme Court nomination, where Graham captured headlines, and conservative fervor, when he tore into Democrats for their questioning of Trump’s pick. 

Since then the partisan battles have only grown, including a steady stream of controversial judicial picks, William BarrBill BarrMerrick Garland on list to be Biden's attorney general: report DOJ dropping charges against ex-Mexican defense minister DOJ watchdog finds Louisiana inmates with coronavirus were not isolated for a week MORE’s attorney general nomination and Graham’s immigration bill last year, when Democrats believed he broke committee rules.

“We had a very difficult, very divisive confirmation hearing on the Foreign Relations Committee,” Sen. Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Biden decides on pick for secretary of State Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions MORE (D-Del.), who is a member of both committees, told The Hill. “On the floor ... several of us were talking about how Foreign Relations has long been this kind of island of bipartisanship, and we were talking about just how distressing it is to have it feel more like Judiciary.” 

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Under committee rules, Graham can issue a subpoena as either part of a deal with Feinstein or with a majority vote from the GOP-controlled committee. A Graham spokesman specified that the vote will be on one broad subpoena that will specifically name dozens of people, instead of giving Graham authority to issue multiple subpoenas without additional votes. 

“This is exactly what Sen. Leahy did ... investigating torture allegations. It’s exactly the same document he used. It was a partisan vote,” Graham said. “If you got a problem with this template, you need to talk to him.”  

Asked if he was worried about setting a precedent, Graham added that Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Senate releases spending bills, setting up negotiations for December deal MORE (D-Vt.), a past chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has “already done it.”

Graham has struck bipartisan deals with Democrats on immigration and legislation to protect then-special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE from being fired. Democrats say the subpoena fight will be rough for the committee, but they aren’t closing the door to working with him altogether. 

“I will commend him for being my co-sponsor for the DREAM Act. ... But there have been precious few opportunities in this stage of the Trump administration for us to do anything constructive in the area of immigration and many other issues as well. I hope that after the election that changes,” Durbin said. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) predicted that the subpoena vote was “likely to be a very contentious meeting” but noted that the committee was able to do bipartisan work after the Kavanaugh confirmation battle. 

He said differences “have become more vehement and sometimes vitriolic” but that after Kavanaugh’s confirmation he was still able to work with Graham.

Asked about Graham’s subpoena plan, he added: “I think it’s a complete distraction from the work we should be doing to address the health and economic crisis” caused by the coronavirus. 

Coons noted that he recently introduced legislation with Graham on wildlife trafficking and wet markets, but he also said hearings on controversial circuit court nominees were “sharply partisan” and that it’s “not a healthy committee.”

“I’ve been able to find a way to legislate with Chairman Graham on other issues, on other committees. [But] I do think this will be very difficult for the Judiciary Committee,” he said. 

Republicans have faced growing calls from Trump to dig into the Obama administration, though Graham has denied that his investigation is in response to pressure from the president, who recently urged him to call former President Obama to testify. 

“I’ve been planning this for weeks. We’ve already interviewed the people,” Graham said. “We’ve been planning this for a long time.”

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Senate Republicans are ramping up their probes tied to the Obama administration. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued its first subpoena last week as part of its investigation into Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden's son. 

Sens. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonLoeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (R-Wis.) and Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyLoeffler to continue to self-isolate after conflicting COVID-19 test results Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection More GOP governors embrace mask mandates, but holdouts remain MORE (R-Iowa) are also months into a wide-ranging investigation that touches on the investigation into former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, something Graham says he will also probe. 

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, noted that the GOP questions about the Obama administration have been percolating before Biden was the party’s presumptive presidential nominee and the coronavirus. 

“I think they’ll go with the investigation leads. ... My view right now is I’d stay focused on the agenda we have and I think talk about how we’re going to help people recover from the pandemic and get the economy back on track. I think that’s got to be the center focus,” he said. 

But Graham’s investigation has the backing of powerful figures including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop aide: Biden expected to visit Georgia in push to boost Ossoff, Warnock Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' MORE (R-Ky.), who has said Graham will have “ball control” on the issue. Graham garnered praise for the probe during an online Trump campaign event with Lara TrumpLara Lea TrumpNorth Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid Lara Trump mulling 2022 Senate run in North Carolina: report Obama to campaign for Biden in Orlando on Tuesday MORE, the president’s daughter-in-law. 

“Senate Republicans are taking steps to issue new subpoenas to a wide variety of Obama administration officials. ... The American people deserve answers about how such abuses could happen, and we intend to get those answers,” McConnell said.

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Republican senators have signaled that they will line up behind him to support the subpoena. Because Republicans hold a 12-10 panel majority, he will need the support of every GOP senator because a tie would result in the subpoena request failing. 

“The Senate is a large body with many committees designed to do many things at once, so the Judiciary Committee is doing its job,” said Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Rush Limbaugh lauds Hawley: 'This guy is the real deal' Trump told advisers he could announce 2024 bid shortly after certification of Biden win: report MORE (R-Mo.), a member of the panel. 

“What we see with the FBI and with DOJ and the FISA Court is hugely significant, I mean it's hugely significant to the structure of our government, to any presidential administration going forward, whether it’s this administration or future ones,” he added. “So I think it's vital the Judiciary perform its oversight role.”