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Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Defense: Biden sends message with Syria airstrike | US intel points to Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi killing | Pentagon launches civilian-led sexual assault commission Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents John Boehner tells Cruz to 'go f--- yourself' in unscripted audiobook asides: report 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 TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 DurbinPartisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo Democrats ask FBI for plans to address domestic extremism following Capitol attack MORE (D-Ill.), a member of the panel, told The Hill. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill What exactly are uber-woke educators teaching our kids? 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 BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' 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 KavanaughMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Jan. 6 case for ending the Senate filibuster Laurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election 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 BarrMajority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case Justice Department renews investigation into George Floyd's death: report 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 don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill 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 LeahyPress: The big loser: The Republican Party Senate acquits Trump in 57-43 vote Trump lawyer irked after senators laugh at him 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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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 JohnsonGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Partisan headwinds threaten Capitol riot commission Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director MORE (R-Wis.) and Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGrassley to vote against Tanden nomination Grassley says he'll decide this fall whether to run in 2022 Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation 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 ThuneAfter vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents Cruz hires Trump campaign press aide as communications director 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 McConnellThe bizarre back story of the filibuster The Bible's wisdom about addressing our political tribalism Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' 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 TrumpWhy Congress must invoke the 14th Amendment now Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Graham: Lara Trump is biggest winner of impeachment trial 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 HawleySunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Texas attorney general hits links with Trump before CPAC appearance The Memo: CPAC fires starting gun on 2024 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.”