The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday voted to authorize subpoenas for former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, and other Obama administration officials as part of its broad review into the origins of the Russia investigation.
The committee on Wednesday held a business meeting to authorize committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to issue notices for taking depositions, subpoenas, for records, and subpoenas for testimony to individuals relating to the panel’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, the Justice Department inspector general’s review of that investigation, and the “unmasking” of U.S. persons affiliated with the 2016 Trump campaign, transition team and the Trump administration.
The committee voted 8-6 to authorize the subpoenas.
The committee also authorized subpoenas for 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 Clinesmith – who pleaded guilty to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham's review of the investigation into links between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign – among others.
The committee further authorized subpoenas for “the production of all records” related to the FBI’s original Russia investigation and the Department of Justice Inspector General’s probe, as well as the process of “unmasking” for 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; and Stefan Halper.
The committee, earlier this summer, authorized subpoenas for the majority of the individuals that were named. But on Wednesday, after a back-and-forth between Johnson and the top Democrat on the panel, the committee gave the final go ahead, leaving authority on timing and scheduling of depositions and issuance of subpoenas up to the chairman.
Halper, a Cambridge University professor who reportedly is deeply connected with British and American intelligence agencies, has been widely reported as a confidential source for the FBI during the bureau’s original investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Last year, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz was reviewing Halper’s work during the Russia probe, as well as his work with the FBI prior to the start of that investigation.
During the 2016 campaign, Halper contacted several members of the Trump campaign, including former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and former aide Carter Page. Page also was the subject of several Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants during the campaign
The committee also authorized a subpoena for James Baker, the director of the Office of Net Assessment at the Defense Department. That office awarded government contracts to Halper, including one in September 2015.
Last month, Johnson issued the panel’s first subpoena as part of the committee’s Russia review to the FBI, demanding that the bureau produce “all records related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”
"This includes, but is not limited to, all records provided or made available to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice for its review," the subpoena states, referring to Horowitz's review of abuses related to the FISA warrants.
The subpoena also demands "all records related to requests" to the General Services Administration or the Office of the Inspector General for the GSA for "presidential transition records from November 2016 through December 2017."
In June, the committee voted to give Johnson authority to send subpoenas as part of the panel’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe and the process of “unmasking.”
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 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.
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.
Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee, in June, 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.