Democratic senator to skip vote on Obama-era subpoenas

Democratic senator to skip vote on Obama-era subpoenas
© Bonnie Cash

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases MORE (D-Del.) said on Thursday that he will skip a vote on authorizing broad subpoenas in a GOP probe focused on the Obama administration. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to vote on Thursday on whether to give Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Wis.), who oversees the panel, broad subpoena powers to compel the testimony of more than 30 individuals as well as documents from several agencies. 

But Carper, a member of the panel, called the subpoenas "political stunts."

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"This Committee is spending its time trying to score political points and help a President in an election year. ... History will remember what we choose to prioritize right now, and it will not judge these actions of our chairman kindly," Carper said in a statement. 

Carper said he will skip the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meeting, where Johnson will force the subpoena authorization vote, and instead attend an Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing related to the coronavirus.

"I will not be attending Chairman Johnson’s politically-motivated proceedings today. Instead, I will be attending our EPW hearing and working in a productive, bipartisan way to advance legitimate Senate business that will actually help our constituents and our economy recover. Once again, I urge Chairman Johnson, and all my Republican colleagues, to do the same," he added. 

Carper's decision to boycott the subpoena vote is the latest sign of growing tensions as Republicans ramp up their investigations tied to the Obama administration. 

Johnson is seeking broad subpoena authority for a wide-ranging investigation that includes reviewing "Crossfire Hurricane" — the FBI's investigation into election interference and the Trump campaign — the probe of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and leaks stemming from the early days of the Trump administration. 

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Because Republicans have a majority on the committee, they are expected to be able to grant Johnson the subpoena authorization over the opposition of every Democrat on the panel. Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Argentum - All eyes on Florida as daily COVID-19 cases hit 15K Democrats see immigration reform as topping Biden agenda Graham says he will call Mueller to testify before Senate panel about Russia probe MORE (R-S.C.) will separately force a vote on Thursday in the Judiciary Committee for authorization to issue more than 50 subpoenas as part of his own investigation into the Russia probe. 

Democrats believe the investigations are attempts to find political fodder against President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE's political enemies that could inadvertently spread Russian misinformation. The votes come as the country is in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and days of protests after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest. 

Sen. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersConservative group launches ad campaign for Rep. Roger Marshall in Kansas Senate race Health care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark MORE (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Homeland Security panel, wrote in a letter to Johnson this week that the subpoena authorization "has every appearance of a partisan fishing expedition." 

"These actions divide our Committee at a time when Americans need us to be united. Pursued in this fashion, the work of the Committee will not be trusted. Politicizing a Committee investigation into the FBI and DOJ serves only to undermine all three institutions," Peters added. 

Carper, in his statement on Thursday, echoed that, saying that the committee should be focusing on the pandemic or probing "agitators infiltrating" protests.

"[Johnson] is choosing to put this Committee’s reputation at great risk by pursuing blatantly partisan investigations. It’s not only disappointing. It’s a waste of this Committee’s time and resources, and it’s irresponsible at such a critical moment. ... But instead, this Committee is spending its time trying to score political points and help a President in an election year," he added.