Senate Republicans approve subpoenas for ex-Obama officials on Russia probe origins

WASHINGTON – The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday authorized the issuing of nearly three dozen subpoenas of Obama administration officials as part of Senate Republicans' investigation into the origins of the FBI and special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

The Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, met to consider more than 50 additional subpoenas, but postponed action until next week.

Republicans on the panels are looking into flaws in FISA application process, the “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials, including ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign more broadly — actions that President Donald Trump has collectively dubbed “Obamagate” and dismissed as a "hoax" and a "witch hunt."

“There are times when extraordinary situations require action whether or not we all agree,” Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said. “The conduct we know that occurred during the transition should concern everyone and absolutely warrants further investigation.”

Democrats are decrying the investigation as election-year politics meant to rewrite the narrative of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which concluded that while the Trump campaign did not conspire with the Russians, it had numerous contacts with Russians and, in some cases, welcomed their assistance.

“I’m disappointed that our committee is once again meeting to discuss a partisan investigation,” said Homeland Security ranking Democrat Gary Peters of Michigan. “I’m concerned about the timing of this investigation that did not become a priority until we entered into an election year.”

Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a statement that he refused to attend the meeting out of frustration that the committee is “trying to score political points and help a president in an election year.”

While 35 subpoenas were authorized by the Homeland Security Committee along party lines, Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah expressed reservations. Romney said he continues “to be concerned that this is politically motivated.”

The Homeland Security and Judiciary committees are considering issuing subpoenas for former CIA Director John Brennan, ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former Obama chief of staff Dennis McDonough, former national security adviser Susan Rice and ex-FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

The Judiciary panel is also considering subpoenas for current FBI Director Christopher Wray and former Justice Department officials, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Judiciary member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Democrats on the panel to consider how they would feel if the situation were reversed and the Trump administration were looking into the former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign.

"Pause for a second and imagine how you would feel if Donald J Trump was doing exactly what Barack Obama and Joe Biden did," Cruz said. "So right now, are you guys copacetic with Trump putting wiretaps on the Joe Biden presidential campaign? Everything cool if Trump has the FBI send in agents wearing wires to the Joe Biden campaign? That's all good?"

On Wednesday, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified before the Judiciary Committee as part of its probe. He said in hindsight he would not have approved a FISA warrant for Trump campaign official Carter Page, but continued to defend the Mueller probe.