“We are going to vote on this authorization with the hope that subpoenas won’t be necessary,” Johnson said in a statement. “In some cases, we are already working with the agencies and individuals identified to obtain the information we need to do our work, and inclusion on the list should in no way be interpreted to suggest they have been noncompliant.”
The effort is the latest in a series of new investigations Senate Republicans are pursuing amid encouragement from Trump himself. The Senate Judiciary Committee recently launched a sweeping probe into the origins of the 2016-era investigations that ensnared Trump and his associates for years, and Johnson’s committee is already investigating claims pushed by the president and his allies about former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
The investigations have drawn intense scrutiny from Democrats, who argue that Senate Republicans are abusing congressional oversight authority to boost the president’s political fortunes. Republicans say the probes are legitimate, pointing to a Justice Department watchdog report that found widespread abuses of the surveillance courts as it pertained to a former Trump campaign adviser.
If next week’s vote is successful, Johnson will have the authority to subpoena the Justice Department’s inspector general for all documents related to that report. It would also give him the power to compel documents from the State Department related to officials’ communications with Christopher Steele, a former British spy who produced a dossier about Trump that contained unverified allegations.
“We have a great tradition in this country of peaceful and cooperative transitions of power, and the American people deserve to know if any wrongdoing occurred to corrupt the process and sabotage the new administration,” Johnson said.
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to testify before the Judiciary Committee next Wednesday as part of that panel’s inquiry. The following day, the committee will vote to authorize Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to issue a slew of subpoenas to former Obama administration officials who were involved in the investigations that targeted Trump and members of his team.
Johnson has recently placed a greater emphasis on the unmasking issue in light of the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.
Earlier this month, Johnson released a declassified list of former Obama administration officials who might have been involved in efforts that “unmasked” Flynn’s identity in intelligence reports. Joe Biden’s name was on the list, in addition to other senior White House and administration officials.
Johnson’s subpoena authority would allow him to seek additional documents from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence relating to the unmasking of Americans “affiliated, formally or informally, with the Trump campaign, Trump transition, or Trump administration from June 2015 through January 2017.”