Senate Homeland Security Committee authorizes subpoenas to Obama officials in Russia probe, unmasking review

The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday voted to authorize subpoenas to the FBI and other agencies for records and testimony from Obama-era officials related to the bureau’s original Russia investigation and the Justice Department inspector general’s review of that probe.

The committee voted 8-6 to give Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the authority to send subpoenas as part of the panel’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe and the process of “unmasking.”

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The committee authorized subpoenas to the FBI for the production of all records related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation—the bureau’s internal code name for the Russia probe, which began in July 2016.

The subpoenas would cover all records made available to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz for his review of the Russia probe and alleged misconduct surrounding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant approvals to surveil members of the Trump campaign.

The committee also authorized subpoenas to the State Department for the production of records related to meetings or communications between State Department officials or employees with ex-British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who compiled the now-infamous anti-Trump dossier which served as much of the basis for the FISA warrant applications to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The subpoenas would cover documents from June 2016 through January 2017.

The committee also authorized subpoenas to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for the production of all records related to the process of “unmasking” U.S. persons or entities affiliated “formally or informally” with the Trump campaign, the Trump transition team or the Trump administration from June 2015 through January 2017.

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Johnson is now able to issue subpoenas to a number of officials, including former FBI Counsel James Baker, former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, Joe Pientka, former White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former FBI director of counterintelligence Bill Priestap, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, Sidney Blumenthal, and a number of other Obama-era officials.

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The subpoena authorization comes after Johnson, R-Wis., and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, last month made public a list of Obama officials who purportedly requested to “unmask” the identity of Michael Flynn, who at the time was President Trump’s incoming national security adviser.

Unmasking occurs after U.S. citizens' conversations are incidentally picked up in conversations with foreign officials who are being monitored by the intelligence community. The U.S. citizens' identities are supposed to be protected if their participation is incidental and no wrongdoing is suspected. However, officials can determine the U.S. citizens' names through a process that is supposed to safeguard their rights.

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The Homeland Security Committee’s subpoena authorization came as the Senate Judiciary Committee also approved a slew of subpoenas for documents and testimony from Obama Administration officials involved in the Russia investigation as part of the panel’s review of the origins of that probe.