Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell defended the Justice Department’s authority to conduct sensitive leak investigations when needed and warned against investigations by the Senate Judiciary Committee that could become “a partisan circus.” He said the ongoing investigation by the Inspector General of the Justice Department is sufficient.
But Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a second-order member of the GOP leadership, disagreed, saying, “Obviously, this warrants further review and investigation.”
“Some of the allegations that have been made, I think it needs to be looked at, yes,” Thune said. “The information data that was grabbed from Hill and others. That’s something we need to know. How did they get that information? I think the committees will work through it.”
The South Dakota Republican is influential in his convention, but is not a member of the equally divided Senate Judiciary Committee and therefore will not have a say in whether the committee votes to issue a summons. Democrats would need at least one Republican to vote with them or they would not be able to issue subpoenas.
Top Democrats want Trump’s former attorney generals, William Barr, and Jeff Sessions to be summoned if they do not agree to testify before the Judiciary Committee, their department secured targeting of Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Eric Swellwell, members of the committee, with their colleagues and family members.
“We are all interested in what happened and hope it will shed light on this,” Thune said of the Judiciary Committee on the issue. “I suspect they will be and the question is whether they are going to issue a summons, that is something that the committee has to decide what they are looking at. Obviously, this warrants further review and investigation. , and I’m glad they’re doing that.”
Thune said he had not discussed the issue with McConnell, who had previously gone to the Senate floor to blast Democrats, whom he called a “victim in the making” of going after Barr, whom he “honoured.” and served with integrity”. “
“Here are the facts: The Justice Department has the authority to investigate criminal conduct by members of Congress and their employees,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Essentially, such an investigation is subject to strict procedural safeguards. And the Department’s Inspector General is fully equipped to determine whether those procedures were followed in this case. I believe that the current investigation is truthful. There is a partisan circus here in the Congress.”
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, sided with McConnell’s view.
“It’s a court proceeding and the judges are going to decide whether it’s fair or not,” he said. “So we don’t have too much of a role to play.”
Asked if he was concerned about the abuse of power, Cornyn said, “I move the court.”
Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who is chairman of the Senate Republican campaign committee but is not a member of the judiciary, told CNN he could not comment because he did not know the details of the case.
“I haven’t seen any details,” Scott said. “I’ll have to see them. I’ve heard the reports.”
Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, said that until he learned more about what happened, he did not yet know whether the Justice Department’s action was appropriate.
“I don’t know yet. I don’t have enough information to know. But it’s something we want to take seriously, because the DOJ has that power, and it may be fair, but you know There are very rare circumstances you want to do this, and it needs to be appropriate. I don’t know if it was or not,” he said.
Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina who is a member of the Judiciary Committee, said it was “an interesting question” when asked whether Barr and Sessions should be subpoenaed.
“It will ultimately be a decision between the chairman and the ranking member. But there are some interesting questions. But I will defer to bringing them before our committee,” he said.
When asked whether she would support subpoenaing Barr and Sessions, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee and a member of the Judiciary Committee, replied, “I’m not going to talk about that today,” because she’s a ran on the floor of the Senate for Vote.
CNN reached out to the office of Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska and a member of the Judiciary Committee, to see if he supports Barr and Sessions’ subpoenas, but his staff did not respond.
CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.