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Republicans subpoena James Comey and others over claims of 'abuse' of spying powers

Senate Republicans on Wednesday voted to authorize subpoenas for several Obama administration intelligence officials, including former FBI director James Comey, as part of its broader probe into the origins of the Russia investigation.

The Senate Homeland Security committee voted to subpoena many names familiar to those who have been following the slew of investigations, including former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, along with Comey and two former FBI agents who the repeated target of President Donald Trump’s wrath.

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is a close ally of the president and leading the investigation

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is a close ally of the president and leading the investigation

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is a close ally of the president and leading the investigation, which Trump has pushed for and encouraged. 

The subpoenas were approved along party lines and are part of the panel’s ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ probe.

Additionally, the panel is seeking information on the Justice Department inspector general’s review of the origins of the Russia probe and the ‘unmasking’ of officials affiliated with the 2016 Trump campaign.

‘Crossfire Hurricane’ was the government’s code name for its counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Former FBI director James Comey

former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

Former FBI Director James Comey (left) and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (right) were among those former Obama administration officials subpoenaed by Senate Republicans as part of their look into the origins of the Russia probe

President Donald Trump

Former President Barack Obama

President Donald Trump has repeatedly charged former President Barack Obama with ‘spying’ on his campaign

Trump has repeatedly charged former President Barack Obama with ‘spying’ on his campaign and used the existence of ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ to argue there was a ‘deep state’ working against his chances to become president.

Earlier this summer the committee authorized subpoenas for the majority of the individuals that were named on Wednesday. This vote was the final go ahead, leaving decisions on timing and scheduling to Johnson. 

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INTERNAL PROBE 

John Durham, a U.S. Attorney, is heading a criminal inquiry into the Russia investigation for the Justice Department at the request of Attorney General Bill Barr.

Democrats have charged the probes are politically motivated and aimed at helping Trump’s re-election chances.

The Senate panel wants to speak to witnesses and obtain documents related to Durham’s probe. 

OBAMA OFFICIALS SUBPOENAED BY SENATE 

former CIA Director John Brennan

former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper

former FBI Director James Comey

Sidney Blumenthal 

former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough

former FBI counsel Lisa Page 

former FBI agent Joe Pientka 

former ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power

former FBI director of counterintelligence Bill Priestap

former White House national security adviser Susan Rice

former FBI agent Peter Strzok  

former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmit

James Baker

former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe 

DOJ official Bruce Ohr

FBI case agent Steven Somma 

former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Teftt

former deputy assistant attorney general Tashina Gauhar

Stefan Halper

Durham’s investigation came about after a report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found ‘significant inaccuracies and omissions’ in the FBI’s application to a court to obtain permission to monitor Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. 

Horowitz report found that the decision the FBI made to investigate the campaign had not motivated by political bias. 

Durham, meanwhile, is completing a separate report into how the FBI’s Russia investigation.

It’s unclear when that report will be released. His work has been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.  

OPERATION CROSSFIRE HURRICANE 

Comey, as FBI director, authorized Operation Crossfire Hurricane, which was the agency’s counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian officials trying to interfere in the president election.

It was a joint investigation by the FBI, the CIA and the National Security Agency.

It was sparked by information that George Papadopoulos, an adviser to Trump’s campaign, claimed the Russians had damaging material on Hillary Clinton.

It would ultimately obtain surveillance warrants on Page, and intelligence gathered during it would be used by FBI agents to question former Trump national security advisor Mike Flynn at the White House during his short tenure. Flynn would later plead guilty to lying about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. 

It was eventually taken over by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose investigation cleared the Trump campaign of any collusion but came to no conclusion as to whether President Trump tried to hamper the special counsel’s probe. 

UNMASKING 

Richard Grenell, in one of his last acts as acting director of national intelligence, declassified more documents tied to the origins of the Russia investigation into Trump.  

Democrats have accused Grenell of using his position to play politics and only release documents that fuel Trump’s beliefs and benefit his administration. 

Grenell declassified several documents during his short tenure at DNI that fueled the ‘Obamagate’ conspiracy theory, including an email from Susan Rice, who served as Barack Obama’s national security adviser, revealing her concerns about her successor in that position, Michael Flynn. 

Rice sent to herself the email on President Trump’s Inauguration Day, documenting a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting with President Obama and others, during which Obama offered guidance on how law enforcement needed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.

Former FBI legal counsel Lisa Page

Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok

Former FBI legal counsel Lisa Page and former FBI Agent Peter Strzok were among those subpoenaed by Senate Republicans

former national security adviser Susan Rice

former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power

Former national security adviser Susan Rice and former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power were also subpoenaed in relation to the ‘unmasking’ investigation

The declassified email revealed that then-FBI Director James Comey suggested to Obama that the National Security Council might not want to pass ‘sensitive information related to Russia’ to Flynn, due to the fact that he had been ‘speaking frequently’ with then-Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Grenell also declassified documents that showed which Obama administration officials asked to have Flynn ‘unmasked,’  which is when an anonymous name in an intelligence report is revealed. That list included Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. 

Unmasking is a common practice used by officials to help them understand intelligence reports better. It is not illegal. 

The latest round of documents Grenell declassified also is believed to include transcripts of calls Flynn had with Russian officials.  

Flynn’s calls with Kislyak got picked up by U.S. intelligence intercepts during the transition process, and became part of the Russia probe.

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