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

Greg Nash

Sen. Ron Johnson (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. 

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 Comey, former national security advisor Susan Rice and former director of national intelligence James Clapper.

“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.

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 Peters (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 Biden, 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 Graham (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 Rosenstein 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.

Tags Crossfire Hurricane Donald Trump Federal Bureau of Investigations Gary Peters Intelligence agencies James Clapper James Comey Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Rod Rosenstein Ron Johnson Russia probe Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections Special Counsel investigation unmasking US-Russia relations

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