GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests

GOP chairman to seek subpoena power in investigation of Russia probe, 'unmasking' requests
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold Johnson CIA found Putin 'probably directing' campaign against Biden: report This week: Supreme Court fight over Ginsburg's seat upends Congress's agenda GOP set to release controversial Biden report MORE (R-Wis.) will force a vote next week on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to decide whether he has the authority to issue subpoenas as part of his investigation into the FBI's probe of 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign. 

Johnson, who chairs the panel, announced the committee vote for June 4. 

The committee will vote on a "motion to authorize the Chairman to issue subpoenas for records and testimony to U.S. Government agencies and to individuals relating to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Crossfire Hurricane Investigation, the DOJ Inspector General's review of that investigation, and the 'unmasking' of U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump campaign, transition teams, and Trump Administration," according to the announcement of the vote. 

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A spokesman for Johnson said next week's vote would not be on individual subpoenas, but on giving the GOP senator subpoena issuing authority. 

Johnson's office released details on Thursday night of the subpoena authority the GOP senator is requesting, including wanting the power to subpoena dozens of individuals including former FBI director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDemocrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate Book: FBI sex crimes investigator helped trigger October 2016 public probe of Clinton emails Trump jabs at FBI director over testimony on Russia, antifa MORE, former national security advisor Susan Rice and former director of national intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperOn China, Biden is no Nixon — and no Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Speculation over Biden's running mate announcement Trump slams former intelligence officials to explain 'reluctance to embrace' agencies MORE.

"I am asking for this authority to ensure the committee has the ability to quickly and efficiently seek compulsory process should it become necessary," Johnson said, adding that he was scheduling the vote on the authorization "with the hope that subpoenas won’t be necessary."

Johnson is also requesting authorization to subpoena the FBI and State Department for documents related to the FBI's investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump campaign, as well as the Justice Department Office of Inspector General for documents related to its review of surveillance warrant applications tied to former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Johnson is also requesting the authority to subpoena documents from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence related to attempts to "unmask" individuals tied to the Trump campaign, transition team or White House through January 2017.

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Johnson said earlier this month that he would investigate the probe into former national security advisor Michael Flynn, telling reporters that he had "suspected for quite some time that there was a concerted effort to sabotage this administration." Flynn was fired 2017 for misleading Vice President Pence about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

“Why were there people all over the place unmasking conversations that Michael Flynn was involved in? What other unmaskings occurred during that same time?” Johnson asked.

Under current committee rules, a subpoena can be issued either by an agreement with Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersBiden's six best bets in 2016 Trump states GOP set to release controversial Biden report Democrats fear Russia interference could spoil bid to retake Senate MORE (Mich.), the panel's top Democrat, or by a majority vote. An aide for Peters told The Hill on Thursday afternoon that Johnson had not yet informed the committee who he was seeking to subpoena. 

Republicans are ramping up their investigations tied to the Obama administration as Trump prepares to face off against former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in November. 

Johnson's committee voted along party lines last week to issue a subpoena for Blue Star Strategies, a firm with ties to Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings, as part of his investigation into Hunter Biden. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report The Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Senate GOP sees early Supreme Court vote as political booster shot MORE (R-S.C.), will also hold a vote next Thursday on issuing subpoenas for dozens of officials — including former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former national security adviser Susan Rice — as part of Graham's probe into "Crossfire Hurricane," the name of the FBI's investigation. 

The subpoena votes have sparked frustration with Democrats, who view the investigations as an attempt to go after Trump's political enemies and hunt for fodder against Biden ahead of November. 

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinDOJ kept investigators from completing probe of Trump ties to Russia: report Five takeaways from final Senate Intel Russia report FBI officials hid copies of Russia probe documents fearing Trump interference: book MORE will also testify before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, marking Graham's first public hearing as part of his investigation. 

--Updated at 8:04 p.m.